Perception of competence

I think a lot of people are having difficulty warming to Andrew Little. He struggles with media, and I have seen him operating in person and he didn’t give great vibes there either.

Brian Edwards has posted Thoughts on Andrew Little

There seems to be general agreement among commentators that Little’s image has improved, that he is ‘coming across’ better. But is it better enough?

Coming across’, particularly on television, is a different matter. And Little does not come across either in interviews or straight to camera.

This is not easy to define. The closest I can come is that, however reasonable, articulate or clever Little may be, there seems to be a lack of engagement between him and his interviewer, him and his television audience.

It can be argued that John Key did Little and Labour a favour by stepping down. Bill English is no orator. But he has a dry, no-nonsense, Southern man quality about him that is endearing. And a wry sense of humour. More importantly, he looks and sounds honest. It would be very foolish indeed to discount his chances of winning the September election.

If Little is to reduce the chances of that happening he must learn to engage with his interviewers and with the hugely important viewer at home.

I agree. And, I don’t know how others see him in person, but he has a problem there too.

But in comments the question of charisma versus competence comes up.

John Northcott:

It’s sad that charisma is the most important quality needed to get elected – witness Donald Trump and John Key. All we know when someone is elected is that they are good at being elected.
If only voters would look at policy.


“It’s sad that charisma is the most important quality needed to get elected”.

It’s not. it helps, but the perception of competence is the primary requirement.

Perhaps it’s a mix of both – how competence is presented by political leaders.


As Edwards says, English can hardly be called charismatic but many see him has competent and knowledgeable.

Little seems to struggle with all three.

And Labour continues to sgtruggle as  well, going by this from @MatthewHootonNZ

@AndrewLittleMP’s @nzlabour is 28% (-2%) in latest @umr_nz poll, just 1% behind @jeremycorbyn’s @UKLabour in latest @YouGov poll. #nzpol


  1. Gezza

     /  May 6, 2017

    Brian’s post is not really telling anyone – except core die-hard Labour voters – what is not already patently obvious, & has probably already been said at least a thousand times in all media platforms & blogs.

    I did find this observation interesting though. Nails it I think.

    • Gezza

       /  May 6, 2017

      Whoops. This quote:

      “The contact lenses which Little, I assume, acquired on advice, may be a factor but my impression is that he tends to talk at rather than to his interviewers and, through them, to us. This may reflect his trade union background where rah rah declaiming to one’s audience is the expected norm.”

      • Conspiratoor

         /  May 6, 2017

        True Dat G. Andy has base level comms skills only. He needs to move beyond flapping his jaw and simulate the art of listening, then to understanding and finally empathy. The latter a very powerful technique with women. Of course all this advice is akin to putting lipstick on a pig since Andy has no message of hope for kiwi battlers …and therein lies the real problem

  2. Corky

     /  May 6, 2017

    I said it at the time, I will say it again.. Andy needs to put his glasses back on. That’s where it must start. He has unusual eyes that swallow the attention of those he is speaking to. Along with that he must smile more.

    Next he needs to learn body language.. just the basics. Then he needs to learn techniques that bypass peoples conscious minds and embeds his messages straight into their subconscious mind.

    It’s all about perception…by way of manipulation.

    • Any examples of politicians who use these ‘techniques’ to good effect Corky?

      • Corky

         /  May 6, 2017

        Only one that I can sense….John Key. You must remember the techs I talk of go beyond media training. They can rightfully be called unethical brain washing.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  May 6, 2017

    At 28% in FPP Corbyn will be annihilated but with MMP Little may survive or even be dragged into government by others.

    Let’s hope at that margin sense will prevail.

  4. Kevin

     /  May 6, 2017

    “There seems to be general agreement among commentators that Little’s image has improved, that he is ‘coming across’ better. But is it better enough?”

    See. Making Jacinda deputy was a smart move by Andy!

    • Corky

       /  May 6, 2017

      But at what price down the track?

      • Kevin

         /  May 6, 2017

        Well that’s just it. It’s been a strategy that’s kept him in as leader but after the election, who knows? The best from a strategy point of view but also most ruthless thing Andy could do would be to throw Jacinda under the bus to save his own skin. The right thing of course would be for Andy to resign.

    • Gezza

       /  May 6, 2017

      Andrew basically continually lectures viewers. It maybe basically wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t just keep repeating the same phrases in answer to any questions, and if he actually knew more about his lecture topics.

      I don’t know how many times I have heard: “what ordinary hard-working New Zealanders want to know is … “, followed by whatever it is he wants to impart that the polls say they don’t want to know. It’s irritating to be told what it is you want to hear, or what are *really saying*. Gets many people backs up from the outset.

  5. Blazer

     /  May 6, 2017

    typical Edwards assessment…..translation….’I am available for media training….Andrew’.

    • Corky

       /  May 6, 2017

      You have to make a buck when you see a chance to make a buck, Blazer. It’s called capitalism, and Edwards is a practitioner. Er, something wrong with that summation, but it will have to wait. My tribe is calling me from the café. They’ll all have their I-pads out, writing sweet nothings.

      What a great country we live in, er, Blazer.

    • Gezza

       /  May 6, 2017

      I think BE realises Andrew is most likely impervious to media training.

      • Blazer

         /  May 6, 2017

        maybe he could offer some to …stonewall Billy…he needs it.

        • Gezza

           /  May 6, 2017

          Might be another tough ask for any PR/media practitioner. Bill & Andy have both had charisma bypasses at some early point in their careers which I suspect are largely irreversible. Both are certain to have had media presentation training, possibly both by more than one practitioner. I think the fundamentals are probably universally known to the Industry.

          The election is going to boil down to which non-charismatic leader looks the most likely to lead a stable government. NZ does not appear to in a position where sufficient numbers of people are ready for a massive change. There is no messianic figure, or no sharp reality tv star, who has come forward to grasp the nettle & carry the country to greatness.

  6. Little always looks answer ready. This defensiveness appears insincere. This prickliness contrasts with his former adversary Key, who came across as focused but friendly and engaging. It also contrasts more significantly with English, who might seem a tad boring and wry, but he sure as eggs seems sincere and honest, and always listens intently to an interviewer. The Party recognised this and got smile as wide as the ocean Jacinda to counter this gruffness.

    My instinct tells me that Little is a nice guy. I got a glimpse when he was on Matinee Idle a few years ago. It’s a great pity that his non political essence doesn’t get a chance to shine due to his delivery and demeanour.

  7. Little is just not comfortable in the role right now – and that projects through his defensiveness and body language. He knows he is being lined up Gracinda and their mates.

    I will say this though, he MIGHT develop over a few years into the Leadership role, MIGHT. Helen Clark did. And Helen was very awkward to start with when made Labour leader.

    So for Labour the answer is probably to stick with Andrew Little through to 2020 regardless of the 2017 result as longs as its not a complete vote collapse.

    He is smart, he has lead before in Union roles. He needs to learn winning an election is not about command and control leadership which is the union style. Its not endless confrontation – which is Union style.

    Its about projecting a trust me I know what I am doing persona and then BACKING that up with well thought through & executed actions.

    At the moment he is desperate for traction and latches on to way too many issues. And his desperation comes through…

    • Blazer

       /  May 6, 2017

      pretty good summation there ..dave…especially the too many issues point.

      • Gotta agree … I don’t think its a matter of competence per se … but lack of media persona and unified or ‘integrated’ policy platform …

        The latter sheets back to ideology though … and unfortunately Labour’s core ideology is incompatible with being managers-on-behalf of the neoliberal ‘globalised’ FIIRE economy

  8. Blazer

     /  May 6, 2017

    simple clear messages are what resonate…’enough homelessness,enough inequality….not enough…houses.

  1. Perception of competence – NZ Conservative Coalition