Impressive start for Ardern – what now?

Jacinda Ardern has surprised many people with how well she started her leadership of Labour.

Politics can change very quickly these days. On Monday Labour under Andrew Little’s leadership was widely seen as a cot case, slipping in the polls and looking like sub-20% could be on the cards.

But on Tuesday he stepped down, and despite always claiming she had no interest in being leader Ardern was ready to go, and Kelvin Davis was also ready and willing as deputy, with no sign of dissent in the Labour ranks.

Ardern stepped up in her first media conference and wowed journalists, something Little had never been able to do. Suddenly news reports were bursting with admiration and praise. Having media willing to promote your case is critical in modern politics.

Over the next two days Ardern kept milking the media, and they kept giving her the cream of coverage.

Ardern did a live blog stint on Stuff on Thursday and was fairly vague and waffly about policy positions, but no one seemed to care.

Labour had a attention seeking push on Friday disrupted by the growing negative coverage of Metiria Turei, who two to three weeks previous had benefit from media overdrive (showing how quickly political worms can turn).

Revelations and growing concerns about Turei were dragging the greens down and this threatened to drag Labour down. But the new Labour team handled this ruthlessly.

First Kelvin Davis distanced Labour from the Greens on Turei’s benefit indiscretions saying “the Greens have made their bed and now they have to lie in it”.

Then Labour postponed a scheduled media conference and told Turei to sort her shit out first or Ardern would do it for her – and made it clear there could be no chance of a ministerial role in a Labour led government for Turei.

Turei, who had been visibly shaken by the way her beneficiary campaign had turned sour, dutifully complied and said she wouldn’t seek a role – but she remained partially defiant by saying she wouldn’t resign as co-leader.

This put the Greens in a weak position that may be difficult to overcome if Turei remains. And this puts Labour in potentially a stronger position if they can benefit from people disillusioned with Turei and the Greens.

An hour later Ardern stepped up in her delayed media conference and grabbed generally positive coverage again, contrasting with the plight of the Greens.

She announced Labour’s new campaign slogan, ‘Let’s do this’, which is ok without being brilliant but pretty much no slogan is original and great these days.

She also signalled a major policy announcement on transport on Sunday, guaranteeing a continuation of the media spotlight.

Ardern will no doubt drip feed new policies for a while to milk the coverage.

Greens have been left in her dust, Winston is fuming because the media have found another favourite, and National and Bill English have been left bewildered and sidelined.

Ardern has started much better than any of her predecessors, Goff, Shearer, Cunliffe and Little, ever were, she has a willing media at her disposal, and National has been left floundering with little time to sort out a new strategy.

Ardern has also recruited respected adviser Mike Munro, who was former prime minister Helen Clark’s chief press secretary and a former press gallery political editor.

Of course Ardern could trip up and turn the tide of enthusiasm and hope for a real alternative.

She has to work out how to package and promote key Labour policies, and she has to know them well and not resort to warm and fuzzy platitudes.

Labour’ still has a largely lacklustre caucus, albeit now with hope that their jobs will be secured thanks to Ardern’s efforts and abilities.

They still have to find a way of convincing voters that a resurgent Labour can form a credible government with the ailing Greens, and also probably with NZ First – this is one of their biggest challenges.

But for the moment Ardern has taken over the spotlight and Labour has finally got momentum in their favour.

Most voters don’t really care about a lack of substance or a lack of experience, as shown by the election of Trump in the US and Macron in France – but in any case Ardern is at least as experienced as anyone who has never been leader before. She has worked for governments in the past, including for Helen Clark.

Only time will tell how much support Labour can get back, and whether the numbers with other parties give them a shot at forming a government this year.

But even a creditable recovery will be a win for Ardern. Labour were down to polling at close to half of what National were.

If that can be closed significantly then Ardern could run a properly functioning Opposition, something that has been lacking for the last nine years.

If Labour manage 30% or more they will get some fresh talent in their caucus, and there are some promising names on their list.

And if National get back in government for a fourth term but having to deal with Winston Peters, and the still look too stale and male, then Labour will be in the box seat for a win in 2020 with the potential for Ardern to reign  for a decade or so.

But the last week has seen such a change in the political landscape that Labour success this election can’t be ruled out.

If Ardern continues as she started and especially if Turei remains as co-leader then it’s likely Labour will attract support back off them.

They could also stem the rise of NZ First by giving voters a credible alternative, especially if Winston remains grumpy about a young female leader stealing his thunder and his political oxygen.

And Labour now has the real potential to win back support that has until now largely stayed with National because there has been no one better to support.

Last week there was virtually no chance of me voting for Labour. Now they are high on my list of contenders. from what I’ve seen there may be quite a few floating voters who now see real choice rather than the least worst option of the past.

This election has been blown wide open, in part thanks to Little’s withdrawal, and in part due to how well Ardern has taken over. Plus the media, who are a major factor and who seem to love Ardern and love the interest she has injected into what looked like being a drab campaign.

Ardern has begun her leadership far more impressively than many imagined was possible, and the Labour horse was not dead, just in need of a decent jockey.

It’s the jockey that wears the colours, and it’s the jockey who receives the prize if they win the race.

The election race may or may not be in the final turn yet, there could well be more twists to come, but one thing is certain, Labour now have a real chance of coming from behind and surprising the pundits.

45 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  August 5, 2017

    Ardern has also recruited respected adviser Mike Munro, who was former prime minister Helen Clark’s chief press secretary and a former press gallery political editor.

    Aha ! That explains a lot. I went to skool with Mike, he was in all my classes. Finally they’ve got someone who really know his onions as their Comms & PR guru.

    Shame about the slogan, but could be worse, I suppose. Certainly has been worse – steadily worse.

    Wonder if they’ll focus on say half a dozen big hit policies like me & Le Blazeur have been saying. Jacinda seems to be saying even policy is up for another look. And Kelvo is tellng Hone “its all on bro, you can stuff yaw ‘deal’!”

    Despite any barracking from the cheap seats here, this one looks like it really IS a “Game Changer”! Bomber ought to be pleased – is he still miffed? God he’s useless.

  2. Ray

     /  August 5, 2017

    It seems Bomber isn’t a fan, though expect that to change as he desperately tries to climb on the Labour bus, “desperate ” because he so needs a win to prove what a great political pundit he is or rather self describes himself to be.

  3. lurcher1948

     /  August 5, 2017

    2 ticks…
    Labour Greg O’Connor
    Party vote NZF

    • Gezza

       /  August 5, 2017

      Nah bro. Not NZF. He’s a tosser, that bloke. Really. He’ll be a disaster in government. Don’t do it Lurch. I’m beggin ya, mate. Have another think. If ya struggling with alternatives just ask me for advice! When have I ever put ya crook! I luv ya dogs, remember!

      Reminds me – what’s NZF’s policy on retention of the Maori seats – General or Maori Electorate referendum? I’m totally confused on that now. Where’s he at with that one? Has he said? I might have missed it in all the other excitement.

      • Gezza

         /  August 5, 2017

        FMD. That question’s been hanging here for hours now. Nobody’s answered it yet. Because nobody fkn knows! Do they ?? 😠

        And this beggar gets away with that ! Constantly ! 🙄

        Because a few oldstas still remember where their Gold Card is, even though they can’t remember where they just parked their bloody car ! And in any given sizeable population there’s always a few absolute dinglebunnies ! 😕

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  August 5, 2017

    Next poll is critical. I just hope it is not the random Morgan one.

    • Roy Morgan are polling I think this week and next, to be published mid-month. That will be too soon to get a decent picture.

      • Gezza

         /  August 5, 2017

        Why polling companies & media orgs don’t instigate or step up poltical polling to weekly or even more often around election time is a puzzle to me.

  5. Corky

     /  August 5, 2017

    Labours election slogan may well have been ” ain’t karma a bitch.” For nearly a decade Labour have lived under the yoke of John Keys charisma. Now National will have the same yoke wrapped around their own necks.

    To make matters worse, Cindy’s honeymoon period may last right up till election night. All she need do is deliver half decent policies and put up a reasonable display against Billy English.

    Nothing spectacular is needed. Just a competent display.

    And what when the polls show Cindy has Labour back up around 30 percent? What’s that saying..”success breeds success.” Talk about a roll.

    That roll can only come to an end with Cindy becoming PM. Nationals only chance of survival is to lose this election. A tired fourth term National government having to watch Cindy grow in her role as Leader of the Opposition will be a disaster. Conversely, a fresh faced charismatic Cindy as PM will quickly revert to a perception of a shallow bimbo unfit for office as the inevitable economic slide begins under Labour and her leadership.

    And of course Billy needs to remember with Andy gone; Metiria sidelined and Barclay finished, the next cab off the the rank for a certificate of competency check by the media is of course the PM.

    Unbelievable. This time last week National and Winston had their feet up deciding how coalition talks would proceed.

    What coalition talks?

    • Zedd

       /  August 5, 2017

      who is Cindy ? :/

      oh… you mean JACINDA Ardern

  6. adamsmith1922

     /  August 5, 2017

    Pete, I found your analysis very interesting.

    it is relevant to note that the media are totally compliant and fawning all over Ardern. Consequently little of what she says and does gets little substantive analysis. They are treating her appointment as the Second Coming

    Given the rapidity with which Munro was signed up and a number of other factors such as Clark and Cullen calling on her behalf this has strong indicators of an orchestrated coup. I am left wondering just who is actually leading Labour, Ardern or Clark.

    If so then this calls into question the veracity of many of Ardern’s recent statements. Such as when she said she only wanted to be Minister for Children.

    Furthermore I suggest she has not been ruthless at all. She has nudged Turei out of any claim to a Ministerial post, but has not demanded that she go entirely, nor has she condemned Turei. She is still happy to entertain having the Greens in coalition and seems content, for now, to keep their welfare policy.

    We have yet to see anything of real substance re policy, nor how it will be paid for. In the past Ardern has not seemed very good at handing numerical detail nor of economics.

    So for this observer the jury is well and truly out. At present we have a lot of fluff and nothing else.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  August 5, 2017

      Well said. The media will fluff her and puff her as hard as they can. Only the polls will reflect reality. This coup was certainly well planned and hidden, probably with some assistance from the media.

    • Gezza

       /  August 5, 2017

      Fuxake! Every Party Leader I can think of had no leadership aspirations right up to the time when they stuck the knife in. Jacinda doesn’t need to do anything about Metz. Mike Munro will have told her already – “Just let that one roll & stay right out of it, it’s gonna sort itself out very nicely, by the look of things!”

    • But it is very successful fluff, at this stage, for which national appears to have no response. Time is running out.

      • adamsmith1922

         /  August 5, 2017

        indeed, after all the froth on capuccino takes time to collapse, but will this frothy confection of the media stay up long enough?

      • David

         /  August 5, 2017

        “But it is very successful fluff, at this stage, for which national appears to have no response. Time is running out.”

        What response do they need really? Labour hasn’t changed in any significant way, the deck chairs have just been rearranged and the knives will come out again sooner rather than later.

  7. PDB

     /  August 5, 2017

    I’m surprised you have brought into the MSM hype that continues even today PG. A couple of ‘soft’ MSM conferences and a very mild reshuffle of the deckchairs has hardly changed economic reality.

    Ardern as Labour leader doesn’t change;

    *The great state the economy is in under a National govt.
    *The fact she was no 2 in Little’s Labour disaster and did nothing to help the party & seemly has ben given a free pass.
    *The lack of talent throughout Labour.
    *Labour being tied to the poisonous Green party all of whom support Turei and her benefit fraud.
    *Labour being tied to the unions post-election.
    *Labour’s out of touch & expensive policies.
    *Labour not ruling out other policies from other likely partners like the Green’s damaging ‘more money, no obligations’ benefit proposal.

    PG: “Revelations and growing concerns about Turei were dragging the greens down and this threatened to drag Labour down. But the new Labour team handled this ruthlessly.”

    Again pure MSM spin – the Greens said they had no direct dealings with Ardern and Turei giving up a ministerial position she has never had (a position no Green MP has ever had) in some hypothetical future govt is a nonsense. Turei was later asked if she still saw herself in a ministerial role sometime in the future and she said yes – so her ‘punishment’ sounds only temporary anyway an attempt to appease the public.

    Ardern failed her only real test of the last few days in not demanding Turei quit her job – considering other past MP’s have quit for far less. Not only that but Turei remains the Green’s leader and Ardern seems happy enough to still enter a post-election govt with her in this role. Ardern needed to draw a line in the sand and say she wouldn’t work with Turei in her govt – ever.

    If Ardern does get a Labour-led govt across the line it will be a success and show of muscle from the MSM who failed miserably to tighten up previous elections with such non-stories as ‘dirty politics’ and the ‘teapot scandal’.

    • I haven’t bought into the media hype, I have observed it. It is a reality. It can win elections more than a record and experience.

      Trump. Macron. Neither were elected for their records or experience. Neither had well established parties or administrations.

      Media both reflects and it forms public opinion. Public opinion decides elections.

      National can drone on about their past record as much as they like, but at election time voters look at what they want in the future. That is based on often shallow perceptions. That’s how things work. That’s what National have to try and deal with, and so far they are failing.

      • adamsmith1922

         /  August 5, 2017

        Pete, unfortunately you are broadly correct.
        We need only to look at Trump and increasingly Macron to see what happens when hype overtakes reality.
        trump is the Emperor with no clothes and Macron talks about himself as Jupiter and is given to grandiose posturing but has yet to deliver anything of substance.

      • PDB

         /  August 5, 2017

        I just expect a bit better from you PG – criticism of the unrelenting MSM hype would be a start. Fair enough to say Ardern has made a difference, but the jury is a long way out on her ability – especially as the campaign drags on and the pressure and tiredness starts to build. It is a marathon not a sprint.

        Macron? A good example of hype over substance

        http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/emmanuel-macron-approval-rating-unpopular-vote-share-housing-support-job-reform-a7876861.html

        “Emmanuel Macron’s honeymoon with voters has ended after just three months in office, according to new polls of the French public.
        The French president’s approval ratings have already gone negative, with those approving of his record slipping seven points, to 36 per cent.
        Those disapproving of Mr Macron’s record rose to 49 per cent, up seven, a net negative score of -13 points.”

    • Blazer

       /  August 5, 2017

      ‘Let’s do..this’…PDB.

      • I see some problems with this slogan. The first is that it is a really tired, hackneyed ‘call to arms’ that has been spouted incessantly by every Third-rate actor on every Third-rate American TV cop show since about 1946. The second is that it does not actually mean anything; it is just an emotive noise. The third is that it does not speak to the floating voters: “Let US do this” is addressing the Labour faithful. It is presumptuous in the extreme to see the floating voters as part of the Labour Party’s “US”. The floating voters are “THEM”, and they will not “do this” just because some vacuous slogan tells them to.

        The slogan she discarded so quickly may not have been as ‘punchy’, but it did actually say something, and it did speak to the floating voters. With rational, well-structured policies that convincingly promise “A Fresh Approach”, and a more dynamic leader than Andrew Little, it would probably have been quite successful. As it is, we have a young woman with a big smile and a corny, infantile slogan, a determination to pursue “relentless positivity”, and an apparently strong wish to become pregnant.

        I can see why the Media fawn over her, but ordinary folk who just want a government that will run the country efficiently? I think they will be looking for rather more substance than we have seen so far.

        • Blazer

           /  August 5, 2017

          Have you analysed National s effort. …delivering…..?

  8. sorethumb

     /  August 5, 2017

    Greens have been left in her dust, Winston is fuming because the media have found another favourite, and National and Bill English have been left bewildered and sidelined.
    ……….
    And all wrong. The public may end up voting on who gets the most attention whether relevant or not. The Fourth Estate has evolved but has become an institution with goals and values of it’s own.

    • adamsmith1922

       /  August 5, 2017

      Yes the media have goals, but no values that I can recognise or understand.

    • PDB

       /  August 5, 2017

      The stuff comments to the never-ending ‘positive Labour’ stories is interesting in that they are largely negative when normally they are pro-left generally……the Greens being tied to Labour’s bandwagon the major sticking point.

  9. “Last week there was virtually no chance of me voting for Labour. Now they are high on my list of contenders.”
    And therein lies the (scary) problem with an apparently huge number of voters. Just one face change and you’re considering embracing all the hangers on and policies.
    As much as media and commentators like to push the idea, the election is not a presidential race. It’s not all about one person. It’s about the team, the policies, the potential coilition partners. It’s about past performance, experience and decisions. It’s about what might be.
    For all those reasons my own party vote is up for grabs, some would say I’m a swinging undecided. So despite the importance and influence of the top dog, there is no way I’ll be making my decision based on charisma and looks. And while the media have their own agenda to push, and I am interested in the results of ongoing polls, my decision will be made on a whole lot more than a smile and a promise and who’s getting air time.

    • Blazer

       /  August 5, 2017

      The lesson. ..’Team Key’.

    • “Just one face change”

      But this week has been more than that. Two faces have changed positions at Labour, which has put a very different face on the Labour party.

      That compares to National’s old guard. A significant contrast.

  10. David

     /  August 5, 2017

    Umm Hilary won the popular vote with almost total msm backing and pretty much no policy platform. Trump campaigned on obamacare repeal, tax reform, immigration, TPP and building the wall to keep the bad hombres out.

  11. Alan Wilkinson

     /  August 5, 2017

    The beltway is all excited but mum and dad voters will be looking at their wallets and prospects for themselves and their children. Quite a few will be new immigrants who will likely be very sceptical of media portrayals given where they’ve come from and more inclined to vote National. Old immigrants are likely to be in the Labour camp and slightly less likely to non-vote given media hype. The Ponsonby latte set will be switching back to Labour from the Greens. Winston will be worried about losing some grumpies back to Labour. He will continue to paint Labour as neo-liberals in drag. Heavens knows how all this will pan out. Greens will lose some of their core voters. The other parties will trade swinging voters around. Labour will be tempted to throw some last minute uncosted bribes at the electorate and National will attack them on that.

    • PDB

       /  August 5, 2017

      National only has to attack Labour’s joining at the hip in any future govt with the beneficiary fraud enabling Greens to make progress without even going after Ardern personally. That’s their real weakness.

  12. phantom snowflake

     /  August 5, 2017

    One possibility I haven’t seen discussed: Perhaps Ardern genuinely has no leadership aspirations, and has agreed to stay in her new role only until the election as basically a Caretaker Leader. Has she clearly and unequivocally stated that she has ambitions of being Prime Minister??

    • Corky

       /  August 5, 2017

      To late now. There’s no one else in Labour who could remotely match her appeal.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  August 5, 2017

      I’ve hardened to the view that this coup was well and deliberately planned and executed. They’ve probably been a bit surprised by the media enthusiasm and support so maybe the prospect of becoming PM was not given too much weight earlier. But given the long preparation for this and the depth of support it seems to have plus the elevation of Davis I think it goes beyond the concept of a sacrificial goat for Robertson’s ambitions.

      • It looks too slick to have at least not been prepared for as a possibility should the opportunity arise, or when the opportunity arose.

      • Gezza

         /  August 5, 2017

        That’s been my thinking since the announcement too Al.

      • PDB

         /  August 5, 2017

        Probably hatched around the time of the intern disaster which showed Little didn’t have his finger on the pulse. Little’s biggest error made right at the start of his tenure was to keep Matt McCarten on after the Cunliffe disaster.

        When the Labour MP’s did roll Little because of the recent poor polls was that really Little’s fault? Or was the issue really the Greens going after 4% of the Labour vote with Turei’s benefit fraud is OK if you have to/more money not to work speech?

        • Gezza

           /  August 5, 2017

          I suspect its been being organised for some time, Jacinda may not have even been in the loop until the last few weeks. The poor polls, poor public performance – same old hackneyed phrases about ordinary people he’s talked to – and then Metiria making a naked grab for their voters – probably that last poll, plus Metiria stomping all over him did it. The time had come. The risk of continuing with Andy & crashing in the election must’ve been assessed as higher than taking a gamble on the JACINDA & KELVIN team.

          The JK combo will pay off way bigger than Andy if they’re smart.

          • PDB

             /  August 5, 2017

            I reserve judgement for at least a month – the MSM promotion of Ardern is currently over-the-top (to the point of almost becoming counter-productive) and we have weeks to go before the big vote. Turei will continue to be a cancer on the Labour/Greens block as long as she sticks around and a grueling campaign could see Ardern struggle to keep up the ‘leadership material’ façade.

            Much has happened in one week – lots of twists and turns yet to come for all parties.

            • Blazer

               /  August 5, 2017

              Love to see Bennett under the. ..microscope.

            • Gezza

               /  August 5, 2017

              Yeah, it’s curious that so far she isn’t. The RWNJs here keep banging on & on about the left-leaning media, while the LWNJs have sometimes counter-argued that they’re often giving National, & especially gave John Key, an easy ride.

              From my perspective they’re just always sniffing for blood in the water & they don’t particularly care what colour the blood is. If they can find anything worth sensationalising without getting sued they’ll be onto it like sharks, imo.

  13. Patzcuaro

     /  August 5, 2017

    Duncan Garner’s view on how it went down seems plausible.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/95394813/duncan-garner–erasing-andy-inside-jacinda-arderns-bloodless-coup

    Politics, like life is always evolving, at any point in time you review where you are at and act accordingly. What is wrong with going to plan B if plan A is not working, that is what a good operation does.