The Soap Box: Ardern's got to show she deserves Labour's top job

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 2 August 2017, 5:36AM
(NZH).
(NZH).

Jacinda Ardern was asked what her message for Winston Peters was and she said without hesitation: Single malt.

The political grandfather wasn't impressed saying he didn't have a relationship with Ardern, and before storming off, he grumbled to journalists to lift their game and to stop asking the same questions they'd asked him about the five previous Labour leaders since Helen Clark called it quits in 2008.

The policy depth of Clark and the wit of David Lange is how the long serving Trevor Mallard described Ardern.

The wit's certainly there, even if it's generally more quick than funny. The depth is another matter though but when she was asked whether she had the skills to possibly become Prime Minister in less than two months she was adamant with a firm yes, asking the questioner whether he'd like to tell her why she hasn't. That was greeted with silence.

Ardern celebrated her 37th birthday last Saturday and if she manages to pull off what would seem to be the politically impossible, she'll be pipped at the post by just days as this country's youngest-ever leader, a record claimed in 1856 by Edward Stafford who led for 16 years.

But records are obviously the last thing on the new Labour leader's mind, it's the next seven weeks that'll occupy her every waking moment, trying to pull the party back from the political abyss. It's there because Andrew Little for almost three years failed to get any cut through with the electorate and exacerbated the party's woes, and his demise, by inexplicably admitting he'd talked to his senior colleagues about resigning because of plummeting opinion polls.

Just an hour before signing his death warrant though, Little was reportedly saying publicly he had no intention of quitting and only told his deputy Ardern of his intention when she received a call from him in a taxi on her way to Parliament.

Little ended his leadership the way he conducted it, doing it his way, refusing to accept dissent and insiders would say, advice. But taking over the fractured party from David Cunliffe, he successfully for the first time since Clark, had them speaking with one voice, even if there was rumbling discontent in some quarters.

The fact that no-one else put their hand up for the leader's job, doesn't mean others don't want it. That means Ardern's got to prove her metal in the coming few months, not necessarily to win, but to show she deserves the faith the party's now put in her.

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