Rachel Smalley: Ardern's test starts now

Author
Rachel Smalley,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Mar 2017, 6:52AM
Jacinda Ardern with Labour leader Andrew Little (NZH)
Jacinda Ardern with Labour leader Andrew Little (NZH)

Rachel Smalley: Ardern's test starts now

Author
Rachel Smalley,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Mar 2017, 6:52AM

Jacinda Ardern. Will she be Labour's new deputy leader? She has to be, doesn't she?

She would bring a freshness, an energy, and a likability to the leadership - and she would bring experience too. Yes, she's young compared with some of the politicians lurking in the corridors of power, but she's been around the traps for a while now.

We talked about this in the newsroom this morning. We talked about whether or not Ardern has credibility. Does she?

And what does credibility mean? Is it personal or political or a mixture of both?

"She's untested," one of my colleagues said.

That's true. But then John Key was untested as a prime minister, and after Bill English suggested that Ardern was untested. She shot back with a quick "Well, Bill English has been tested as a prime minister before and that didn't work out too well for him, did it?"

Nice.

Everyone is untested until they get a shot. And that shot comes now for Ardern.

What I do think Ardern has that is rare in politics, is authenticity. What you see is what you get.

David Shearer had it too when he came to the leadership, but he had some poor advice. He was told to roll out the party line at every media opportunity, and he lost his way. It wasn't him. He lost his realness, if you like. And, well, the rest is history.

Ardern, though, has it in spades. She just needs to hang on to it.

And while I think she already has political credibility, she does need to develop that further. She comes across well in the media as a spokesperson for justice, and a spokesperson for children. But sadly, she's attractive. I say sadly because that can work against a woman. God only knows why, but there are still some among us who believe beauty and intelligence don't go together.

Remember, for example, when she appeared on the cover of next magazine? She was described as the country's prime minister in waiting. And in a tv panel, former rugby league coach Graham Lowe agreed saying she was - quote - "A pretty little thing".

And columnists went on to analyse her. She was labelled 'vapid' by one. 'Pretty vacant' by another.

Remember too, when she and Nikki Kaye battled it out in 2011 in the Auckland central electorate?

That was dubbed 'the battle of the babes'.

Never mind the politics. Lets focus on the aesthetics.

Ardern can't fight that. She can't change old minds and an old way of thinking. She's been in politics for some time now, and has worked as a senior policy adviser in London. She's got the goods. She's got the intelligence and the leadership potential. All she can do now is prove herself in the role. Prove to the country that she is a leader.

It's true. She is untested. But that test starts now.