How ‘electable’ is Jacinda Ardern?

There have been many claims and assertions by media about how Jacinda Ardern will enhance Labour’s election chances.

Media either:

  • precipitated the retirement announcement of Annette King and the promotion of Jacinda Ardern as King’s replacement as Labour’s deputy leader
  • executed the promotion of Ardern (and demotion of King) as tools of either camp Ardern or camp Labour.

Either way (some) media were willing political activists rather than journalists. This isn’t good for democracy in New Zealand.

And this quickly escalated into promoting Ardern as leader of Labour – see Media coup of Labour leadership.

Tim Murphy is “Reporter, Editor – . ‘If you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither’ – Russian proverb”. Yesterday he tweeted, and I responded:

I presume Murphy had his opinion hat on when he tweeted that, and not his reporter or editor hats.I note that ‘facile’ means “ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial”.

How ‘electable’ is Ardern? The future is unknown, but the past doesn’t back up Murphy’s facile assertion.

  • She lost the safe National electorate, Waikato, by about 13,000 votes but got into Parliament via a remarkably high list placement (20) for a new candidate.
  • She moved to Auckland Central in 2011 and lost what had been a long time Labour seat up until 2008 to Nikki Kay by 717 votes, despite what looks like thousands of Green party votes shifting to her in the electorate vote.
  • In 2014 she lost in Auckland Central again to Kaye, this time by 600 votes. She was also helped substantially by Green tactical voting.
  • She stood as Grant Robertson’s deputy in Labour’s leadership contest in October 2014. They lost.
  • She moved to Mt Albert, one of Labour’s safest seats, for the 2017 by-election and won easily but with no National opponent and with favourable media coverage, and she got about half the voles David Shearer had got in the 2014 election and several thousand fewer than Shearer got in the 2009 by-election.

So apart from being gifted high list placings and being gifted a safe Labour electorate last month Ardern doesn’t have a record of electability.

Ardern is likely to win again easily in Mt Albert in this year’s general election but that is not due to her particular electability – Andrew Little could also probably win a safe Labour seat like that easily if he chose to stand.

But Ardern is now being promoted as enhancing the electability of Labour. Under MMP the party vote is all important.

How has she helped Labour in the past? Not a lot by the look of party voting in Auckland Central:

  • 2008 – Labour 34.55%, Greens 15.47%
  • 2011 – Labour 25.11%, Greens 22.79%
  • 2014 – Labour 21.67%, Greens 22.17%

Greens had the same candidate in all three of those elections, Denise Roche.

Look at the number of party votes for Labour in Auckland Central:

  • 2008 (Tizard) 12,166
  • 2011 (Ardern) 8,590
  • 2014 (Ardern) 6,101

So Labour’s party vote has halved since Ardern stood in Auckland Central.

Her history of enhancing Labour’s electability doesn’t look good.

Of course things are different now. Ardern is in her ninth year in Parliament, under her fifth leader. She has worked on her public profile. Perhaps she can enhance Andrew Little’s electability. That appears to be the plan, and what media have taken to promoting.

One thing that Ardern has succeeded at is getting media on her side. They (quite a few journalists) are giving her a lot of help. Like Murphy.

As many have pointed out, this promotion of Ardern without any history of electoral success to support it, has risks for Labour.

The voters may not share the same enthusiasm as some journalists for Ardern’s as yet unfulfilled potential (although the media promotion of Ardern as a celebrity politician is likely to have some effect).

Deputy leaders are generally virtually ignored in elections – all the attention is given to the leaders. Of course the media are indicating that this may change with Ardern because they seem to have given up on Little already.

Another problem is also apparent – if Ardern continues to be promoted as Labour’s next leader this could get chaotic in an election campaign.

Would Labour bow to media pressure and dump Little before the election? That is more likely to be disastrous rather than strategic genius.

If Ardern is made more popular than Little this could get very awkward for Labour and  could reduce the party’s electability. Voters may choose to wait until Little’s Labour loses, expecting that that will result in his dumping in favour of Ardern.

Of course the media may not care about how unelectable Labour might become.

Their obsession with personalities and with celebrity politics, and their drive to put news website clicks ahead of fair and sensible democratic processes may dominate their coverage of Ardern and Labour this election.

There were already signs last year that some media and pundits were writing off Labour’s chances under Little’s leadership.

This seems to be a factor in the media moves towards celebrity politics. Ardern may benefit, but democracy will suffer – especially if the end result is Labour crashing this election.

Ardern may remain ‘electable’ in the safe Mt Albert electorate, but Labour are at real risk here.

Politics and government dominated by one party is not good for democracy, nor is it good for the country – and it won’t be good for political media either, because the likely result is further loss of public interest in politics.

Ardern’s ambitions

Prior to and since Jacinda Ardern’s easy win in the Mt Albert by-election there have been a number of suggestions that she should replace Annette King as Labour’s deputy leader.

From NZ Herald Labour’s Jacinda Ardern new MP for Mt Albert

There had been speculation that a strong byelection showing could lead to some within Labour questioning whether Ardern should be elevated to the deputy leader position, currently held by Annette King.

“There is no vacancy,” Little said when asked about that speculation. “I’m not planning on any changes.”

It would appear that King is not planning on any changes at this stage. She is stepping down from her electorate to become a list only MP with no sign of her not contesting September’s election.

So what now for Ardern? She has achieved one of her ambitions, to become an electorate MP, in her fourth attempt in her third electorate.

“I’m absolutely clear about my ­ambition to be Minister of Children.” That, she says, is where she can make a difference.

And what about leader of the Labour party? No, she says.

Life, kids and being Jacinda

She keeps saying that. A deputy leader has to stand in for the leader, so why would she want to be deputy?

She doesn’t want to be Prime Minister. No, really, she doesn’t want to be Prime Minister.

The politics of life: The truth about Jacinda Ardern

Deputies have to stand in for Prime Ministers. Some of them are waiting for their turn at the top job.

Ardern will be busy setting herself up in a safe electorate. Her career as a celebrity MP looks assured for as long as she wants it.

She doesn’t appear to have the driving ambition to be a leader. Minister of Children and cover of Woman’s Weekly seems to be a self imposed limit, at this stage.

However ambitions can change.

But actually being an MP? “No!” On a school trip to Parliament, she left her classmates drinking orange juice in John Luxton’s office to ask his private secretary what she should study to become a private secretary.

“MPs? There were only 120 of those. No way was I going to become one of those.”

I suspect she will be happy to sit out this election in a safe seat, and perhaps do a few more ‘celebrity’ profile things. She appears to be working on a long term plan.


‘Secret ballot’ by social media drip feed

It seems quite odd to me that what I thought was supposed to be selection of a Prime Minister and a deputy Prime Minister by secret ballot next Monday have instead been a procession of pronouncements through the week by social media.

I guess National MPs can do their selecting and their voting however they like, but does anyone know if they have ever selected their leaders so publicly before?

Who remembers how John Key’s selection as National leader and leader of the opposition in 2007?

This is all the National Party constitution says about leadership selection:


81.The Parliamentary Section of the Party shall consist of the members of the Party elected to the House of Representatives. Should at any time a member of the Parliamentary Section cease to be a member of the Party he or she shall cease to be a member of the Parliamentary Section. Leader

82.  (a) The Parliamentary Section shall appoint its Leader as soon as practicable after each General Election.

(b) If at any time the leadership of the Parliamentary Section falls vacant, the Parliamentary Section shall appoint a Leader to fill such vacancy. Notwithstanding Rule 82 (a), the Parliamentary Section may at any time between General Elections confirm or change its Leader.

(c) The Leader of the Parliamentary Section shall, upon receiving the approval of the Board, become the Leader of the Party. The Board shall consider such approval as soon as practicable after the appointment by the Parliamentary Section of its Leader.

Maybe the secret ballot idea is incorrect and the National caucus just selects it’s leaders however they feel like at the time.

From the Herald:

If no clear winner between Bennett and Bridges is found by Monday – when a caucus vote will be held – it is understood both candidates will give speeches to the party before a private ballot takes place.

Who next for Prime Minister?

If things go according to John Key’s suggested time frame then the National Party caucus will choose a new Prime Minister within a week. Breathtaking. This is a very tight timeframe for all MPs other than Bill English to consider their near future ambitions and to decice whether they are willing to hand over their time and their privacy to the country.

A UMR poll done from 27 September to 14 Octoberasked about preferences for a Key replacement:

  • Bill English 21%
  • Steven Joyce 16%
  • Paula Bennett 11%
  • Judith Collins 6%

Others mentioned as possibilities are Amy Adams (she seems to have preferred to work hard out of the public eye) and Simon Bridges (too soon for him). Jonathan Coleman has also been mentioned.

Key has  said he will support English if his current deputy decides to put himself in the reckoning. English appears to be the only one who knew about Key’s intentions well ion advance.

One thing is certain – politics and the country will continue on next year without Key as leader, and those who rise to fill gaps will take over the media and Opposition heat.

Labour will be rubbing their hands together, thinking that Key gone straight after their Mt Roskill by-election success will give them a better chance in next year’s election. It will – but how much remains to be seen. Key’s resignation won’t fix Labour’s problems and it’s hard to see them getting a 10-20% boost.

When an English-Little contest was suggested on Twitter journalists lamented the lack of excitement. This is one problem with our media, the Prime Ministers and Parliament are supposed to be running the country with a minimum of fuss, intervention and disruption.

They are not supposed to be click bait entertainers.

Added – poll number cruncher with a leftish viewpoint, Swordfish (from a Standard comment):

Here’s my March 2016 overview of public opinion on a post-Key successor (Polls over the last 5 years)

Corbyn re-elected

I don’t think this is much of a surprise, but Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected leader of the UK Labour Party.

Guardian: Jeremy Corbyn sweeps to victory increasing his mandate as Labour leader

Jeremy Corbyn has won a decisive victory in his second leadership contest, beating Owen Smith by a bigger margin than he had when he saw off three opponents in 2015 and thereby strengthening his grip on the party. Unlike a year ago, he won easily amongst party members (as well as among registered supporters and affiliated supporters), confirming that the nature of the party membership has shifted quite considerably since the 2015 general election. In a speech which conveyed notably more confidence and authority than the one he delivered after his victory last year, he appealed for unity, saying it was time to wipe the slate clean. He also used a phrase, “more in common”, coined by Jo Cox, the Labour MP killed in the summer who had been one of his critics. He said:

Elections are passionate and partisan affairs things are often said in the heat of the debate on all sides that we later regret.

But always remember in our party, we have much more in common than that which divides us.

As far as I’m concerned the slate is wiped clean from today.

We are proud as a party that we’re not afraid to discuss openly, to debate and disagree that is essential for a party that wants to change people’s lives for the better that isn’t prepared to accept things as they are

Corbyn has said that “lots of MPs” are now willing to support him ahead of compromise talks which may thrash out a deal that could lead to shadow ministers who resigned because they had lost confidence in Corbyn agreeing to work for him again. Around 60 shadow ministers resigned over the summer; a few have indicated publicly that they would be willing to return to the front bench, but many are still resisting. The party’s national executive committee is meeting this evening to discuss the impasse. Corbyn wants the dissidents to return to the front bench so he can run an effective opposition in parliament. His critics want him to agree to shadow cabinet elections. As the Herald’s Kate Devlin reports, MPs are under pressure not to go back until Corbyn has compromised.

The Labour caucus has got Corbyn whether they like it or not. They either have to do the best with him as leader as they can, or really they should resign or split and form another party.

What next for Jeremy Corbyn?

Shadow cabinet elections

Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, has proposed to the party’s governing body, the national executive committee, that MPs elect colleagues to positions in the shadow cabinet, as they did until 2011. The issue is top of the agenda for an NEC meeting that will take place in the hours after Saturday’s leadership result.

Watson has said such a system would allow former frontbenchers to return alongside Jeremy Corbyn with dignity. Corbyn, however, fears it would mean the shadow cabinet does not reflect his political views. He is also concerned that critics would fill the three shadow cabinet positions on the NEC.

Corbyn has proposed that the shadow cabinet be selected on a tripartite basis: a third elected by members, a third by MPs and a third appointed by the leader.

Many MPs are dismayed at the prospect. They say it would be expensive to ballot members and impractical because shadow ministers would have differing mandates. They also say the policy does not represent a compromise with MPs, because Corbyn’s acolytes would dominate the shadow cabinet.

There were discussions on the subject during Tuesday’s NEC meeting, but a decision has been delayed and may well be kicked into the long grass given Corbyn’s new mandate.

Sounds very messy still.


Theresa May: PM by Wednesday

The Conservative leadership contest has ended with Angela Leadsom pulling out, leaving Theresa May as the only contender. And (since Missy’s recent heads up) it has been announced that May will be Conservative party leader and UK Prime Minister by Wednesday.

BBC: May to become UK leader by Wednesday

PM-in-waiting Theresa May promises ‘a better Britain’

Theresa May promised to build a “better Britain” and to make the UK’s EU exit a “success” after she was announced as the new Tory leader and soon-to-be PM.

Speaking outside Parliament, Mrs May said she was “honoured and humbled” to succeed David Cameron, after her only rival in the race withdrew on Monday.

Mr Cameron will tender his resignation to the Queen after PMQs on Wednesday.

It follows another day of dramatic developments in the political world, when Andrea Leadsom unexpectedly quit the two-way Conservative leadership contest, saying she did not have the support to build “a strong and stable government”.

Her decision left Mrs May – the front runner – as the only candidate to take over leading the party and to therefore become prime minister.

“I am honoured and humbled to have been chosen by the Conservative Party to become its leader,” Mrs May told the gathered media.

She said her leadership bid had been based on the need for “strong, proven leadership”, the ability to unite both party and country and a “positive vision” for Britain’s future.

“A vision of a country that works not for the privileged few but that works for every one of us because we’re going to give people more control over their lives and that’s how, together, we will build a better Britain.”

And in a message perhaps designed to reassure Brexit-supporting colleagues, Mrs May – who campaigned to stay in the EU, said: “Brexit means Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it.”

This is good for David Cameron, who was a lame duck Prime Minister. It means he can hand over power sooner and more seamlessly.

It is good for the Conservative Party. Any leadership contest reveals splits and differences in a party but with all the other contenders pulling out it has minimised internal acrimony.

It is good for the UK. The Government can get on with governing through a very challenging time for the country.

And it’s good for democracy with May making it clear that the referendum result will be respected.

And Missy has provided some details:

Quick update from the UK – and it was all happening today, though only two things did happen.
Conservative Leadership:

Andrea Leadsom withdrew from the race at approximately 12noon, as such it left it open for Theresa May to become the next PM. David Cameron has confirmed that he will lead his last cabinet meeting tomorrow, and have his final PMQs on Wednesday before going to Buckingham Palace to formally resign. Theresa May will be PM by Wednesday Night. The Queen will return to London from her holiday in Scotland tomorrow to accept David Cameron’s resignation, and formally appoint Theresa May as PM.

More from Missy in the next post.

Lineup of Little lambasting

Andrew Little and Labour have had an awful week, and that’s after Roy Morgan polling ended on Sunday and Labour ended up on 28% – see RM poll – National down.

Little made some mistakes ranging from minor to serious, and made a mess of dealing with them. From Below the beltway: The week in politics:


Andrew Little: The Labour leader spent the week on the back foot after he and his finance spokesman were caught out musing aloud about bailing out farmers, strong-arming the banks over interest rates and curtailing the importation of ethnic chefs.

One of his biggest problems is that Little has lost the political journalists, and according to one of them he’s losing some of his caucus. Tracy Watkins in Is Andrew Little getting angry about all the wrong things?:

So why isn’t angry working for Little? Labour is stuck in the poll doldrums and looking increasingly adrift as a frustrated Little clutches at a grab bag of soundbites and tries to give them a unifying theme.

If the short unvarnished version of that theme seems to be sticking up for the little guy, or sticking it to the man, the long version seems to have been lost in translation.

Because it’s all looking increasingly desperate and on the hoof.

It’s not just the punters who are confused. Little’s MPs are less and less inclined to hide their bafflement at what’s coming out of the third floor leader’s office or – more to the point – what’s coming out of the leader’s mouth.

This is a dangerous time for Little. The success of his leadership so far has been in unifying a fractious and divided caucus. But the traditional fault lines are starting to reassert themselves.

Not to the point of open revolt or even to the point that Little’s leadership is yet under threat or even in question. But eyes are rolling.

When journalists’ eyes are rolling and Labour MPs’ eyes are rolling Little has two big problems – he is losing political credibility where it really matters, and he and his team don’t seem to have a clue how to deal with it nor get out of the hole they keep digging.

And there’s more. Audrey Young: Little’s shocking week a worry for the voters

If Andrew Little’s aim this week was to annoy his most important coalition partner, unsettle the markets and horrify his ethnic support base, he had a good week.

Otherwise it was a shocker.

In most respects it was as bad a week as Little has had in his 16 months as leader and not one he would want to repeat.

The problem for Little is not just getting into tangles, it is that he has difficulty extricating himself from them because of the dilemma it creates.

Little can afford to have the occasional bad week without it destabilising his leadership.

It is the effect on the voter that he needs to worry about more.

And the Herald editorial: Labour leader showing little credibility

Poor Andrew Little could not seem to say anything that worked for him this week.

Mr Little’s problems arise from his failure so far to strike a chord with the country.

He does not help his party’s credibility, or his own, with the sort of suggestions he made this week.

The enforced interest-rate cut in particular made no sense.

This is elementary monetary policy and if Mr Little proposes to change it, he needs to produce a comprehensive alternative prescription for economic management. In the absence of a policy so daring, his suggested jawboning of banks this week deserves the derision it received. He needs to do better.

Philip Mathews: Week in review: Andrew Little and the wok star economy

Labour leader Andrew Little had what they politely call a shocker.

So what can Little do about it? Once political ridicule sets in it’s hard to turn it around, as David Shearer found out.

Little is simply not coping well with the demands of his job. The big question for me is whether Little is up to the job or not.

And answering this depends on whether he is making natural gaffes, or whether he is conflicted between who and what he is and what his team are trying to make of him, as seemed to happen with Shearer.

I hope that Little is better than he currently seems to be and can lift himself out of the hole he has been digging deeper.

I think that Little needs to make radical changes, and the first target should be his support team. Matt McCarten would have to be a prime candidate for dumping, having already worked behind the scenes in David Cunliffe’s 2014 election embarrassment that was also a disaster for Labour and for the radical left (Mana/Internet) that McCarten had connections to.

Little has to appear as if he is a natural leader, so he has to start leading on instinct (if he’s already doing that he and Labour have a major problem).

Otherwise Labour risk a downward spiral and National and John Key will keep getting away with things they should be hammered for.

Without significant and noticeable changes Little and Labour will look like losers.

Garner on next National leader

Duncan Garner ponders on who may be National’s next leader. He rules out Judith Collins, saying her party has lost faith and trust in her (she could earn that back but it will take time, effort and care).


She’s emerged from the Collins rubble to be the frontrunner. She’s handled everything Labour has thrown at her and sent it back with interest.


The Health Minister is ambitious and is starting to get a bigger profile – and he likes the idea that he’s being spoken about as a potential leader. He will need to show more charisma and reach out more.


Depending on who you speak to in the National Party she’s either a leader in waiting or someone you wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.


He has long been discussed as a future National leader and that will probably mean it will never happen. On TV and radio he sucks the life out of the universe but he’s still very capable and knows his subject.


I got to know Muller when he was a Boy Friday in  Jim Bolger’s office in 1996. A thoroughly smart and likeable bloke, Muller bleeds blue and has been earmarked for higher office from an early age. He has genuine private sector experience and has wisely kept his head down  in his first term as an MP.

That’s about how many ex-leaders Labour has.

More details: Duncan Garner: Forget Crusher, Paula Bennett is National’s next leader



Craig won’t seek leadership – yet

The newly elected Conservative Party board (some members were in the previous board) is looking for a new party leader. Colin Craig has said he won’t seek re-election – for now.

NZ Herald reports Colin Craig won’t seek re-election:

The Conservative Party’s newly elected board confirmed today it was looking to get back on track after a disastrous year by electing a new leader.

Colin Craig says he will not be seeking re-election as leader of the Conservative Party because it would be wrong to take on the role while he is being investigated by police.

He is facing a police complaint over his party’s spending during the 2014 election, though no charges have been laid.

“My feeling is that it is not right for me to put my name forward until the most serious allegations are cleared,” he said.


If he was cleared before the 2017 election, he would consider returning to the party as a candidate, “if they will have me”.

So he won’t stand for leadership now – which means he won’t be on the board – but “would consider returning to the party as a candidate”.

Who would want to be leader with him hovering in the background considering returning by the next election?

Some one will volunteer to be a placeholder for him.

Impressions of Andrew Little’s conference speech

I’ve just watched Andrew Little’s conference live through his Facebook page.

My overall impression is that it was well done. Little speaks well when given the opportunity.

The content of the speech sounded like Little could have written it all himself, rather than being a recitation of a committee of speech writers as some political speechs sound like.

There was the usual concocted clapping and cheering, but as Little go into his speech he built a good rapport with the crowd and had them listening and laughing, especially when he talked of his personal political experiences with his staunch National Party supporting father.

Little began by introducing a parade of the Labour front bench. He also praised is MPs, particularly Grant Robertson. This is smart team building.

Little sounded genuine in saying he wants to stand up against injustice.

There was some idealistic phrasing but that will always be included in major political speeches.

It sounded like be believed in the values he spoke of and promoted.

“Taking a stand because it’s the right thing to do” sounds good but that’s always hard to live up tio in the New Zealand of MMP dominated pragmatic politics.

Sure he pandered to the Labour base and the Union supporters, but he did it effectively.

“Last year the average house in Auckland made more than three times the average woerker” is a good line. And a concerning fact (presuming it’s accurate).

Having battled with cancer himself made Little’s commitment that he will “make sure Kiwi’s get the healthcare they need…” sound genuinely heartfelt – but the cost of healthcare will make that a difficult to meet challenge.

“I want to lead a Government that makes a genuine difference” sounded genuine – but not out of the ordinary, all party leaders should feel that way, all MPs should feel that way.

“If you want me tell you what my three priorities are they are jobs, jobs and jobs” got the expected applause from a Labour audience. That’s laudable and addressing jobs could boost the economy – or could weigh it down if they are unproductive jobs.

Little says Labour shouldn’t be a shirker on climate change and compares to the namby pandy Government measures – he mostly talked about his and Labour’s aims and ideals and only occassionaly blasted Government.

Policy announcement – 150,000 New Zealanders and rising are out of work, plus 90,000 under employed, plus 200,000 who can only get temporary work.

His main policy announcement – “We will use the Government buying power to create jobs at home rather than sending them overseas”.

That doesn’t sound new. Called Our Work, Our Future it is aimed at boosing local business and “won’t break the bank”.

“…commitiing our party to a new principle – we will not tolerate poverty in the twenty first century” probably got the biggest round of geneuine clapping and cheering.

“I won’t give up, ever, because I don’t give up on the things that matter most” but no indication of how it will be done or what it will cost.

Towards the end the audo quality deteriorated and became quite echoey and difficult to hear. But the presentation continued to be strong and was often applaused.

More about poverty and repeats of “the Kiwi dream”.

Little may have had a teleprompter but it didn’t show, he appeared to be speaking witrhout notes or prompts. He did that very well.

The Facebook feed showed Live 200 viewers towards the end, that’s not many.

“We have two years to change this Government”.

“Every decision my government makes will be checked against its impact on child poverty.”

He finished very strongly but the echoes made it very difficult to hear what he was saying. A lot of rallying of the troops.

“We can do this. We must do this. We will…kiwi dream” etc.

So Little can speak very well, I’ve never seen him like that before. Impressive. He needs to find a way of carrying that sort of passion and eloquence into other parts of his political presentation.

I expect his speech will have pleased and encouraged the Labour caucus and members.

It should also cause his political opponents to take notice and start to wonder how far Little can take it.

Two years is pleny of time to build – and to stuff up – but this speech from Little suggests there’s real hope for a Labour revival.

Speech text:

Labour: Andrew Little’s Speech to Labour Party Conference

The Standard: Andrew Little’s speech to the Labour 2015 conference