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A Twist in Time Puts Ardern In Top Job Without Kerfuffle

A Twist in Time Puts Ardern In Top Job Without Kerfuffle

INSIGHTS ABOUT THE NEWS - It’s funny how fate works. Had Andrew Little resigned three months before the general election on Sept 23 - about a month earlier than he did - the Labour constitution outlines the process of electing a new Labour leader. It would have involved not only the party caucus, but also branch and union representatives. It could have been drawn-out and harmed the party.

Instead, things changed within 24 hours. Because it was less than three months to the election, only the caucus voted on Tuesday morning. The result was a smooth transition with Jacinda Ardern voted leader and Kelvin Davis her deputy.

As reported in today's edition of Trans Tasman Political Alert, "the Govt now has a real battle on its hands. Ardern’s sudden accession to the Labour leadership has transformed the political landscape. She may be the youngest Labour leader yet, but she generates excitement.

Her caucus elected her unanimously, even though those who saw themselves as future leaders were among them. She presents brilliantly on television, where Little so singularly handicapped himself out of the race.

Yet she is virtually untested in a serious leadership role. She could not win Auckland Central (a previous Labour seat) in 2011 or 2014. Will she project a halo effect into those electorates where Labour voters have drifted off to the Greens or NZ First?

The party she leads has traumatised itself as a result of, as one critic put it, strategic ineptitude, policy torpor and organisational decay. She has little time to revitalise the team behind her or reshape the policy she inherits from Little. It’s possible she may duplicate the “Corbyn effect,” but then UK Labour still finished second.

She is handicapped, too, by running in tandem with the Greens who have muscled into Labour territory on social justice. And the electorate could be wary of how Winston Peters might have to be brought into a coalition to form a Govt. Some commentators are convinced Peters as the most experienced (and a former deputy PM) would demand the top job.

Meanwhile, National, which appeared to be coasting towards a fourth term, has been galvanised by the change. It must shed any complacency in its ranks, rally its support base, and and some new way of underlining the importance of stability for the country.

Ministers have been wheeling out policy announcements like that on the ending of decile-related education funding this week, but some authorities believe if it is to avoid being stigmatised as “tired” after nine years in Govt, it has to present fresh and compelling ideas to guarantee a fourth term."

Another time factor which will influence Arden’s path forward will be how quickly she can come up with credible new policies to raise Labour’s vote.


ENDS


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