Audrey Young
Political editor Audrey Young blogs from Parliament

Audrey Young: President Andrew Little shines

Andrew Littlee will step down as president of the Labour party next year. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Andrew Littlee will step down as president of the Labour party next year. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Labour president Andrew Little has just delivered the best speech he has probably ever given.

It was to the party conference at the Aotea Centre in Auckland.

And it wasn't so much what he said - but how he said it.

There are many doubters in Labour's caucus that Little has what it takes to be a future leader of the party.

He has been a successful leader of the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union but that does not necessarily translate to politics.

The doubt must have been dispelled this afternoon as Little spoke with strength, passion and conviction.

It would be unfair to construe the speech in any sense as a leadership bid.

It was a president doing what every president has to do: thank the troops for what they have done, inspire them to do more and to explain why the leader they have is the best person for the party and the country.

It was way and above the best speech Andrew Little has ever given as party president but that wouldn't be hard: he has given only one before this and today's one will be his last

He is stepping down early next year to contest the New Plymouth seat.

The words Chris Carter didn't leave Little's lips in his speech but he hit back at suggestions by the MP that the New Zealand Council had been "petty."

He said it had been one of the most difficult decisions it had ever faced collectively or individually and while it was a regrettable decision it was a good one.

One of the consequences of Carter's attempts to destabilise the Goff leadership from now outside of caucus has been the subtle but unmistakable signs of preening by David Cunliffe and Shane Jones, the two main alternatives to a Goff leadership.

Andrew Little just showed that there is another option.

The conference is going extremely well. Unlike last year's where the party pretended to have moved on but was still grieving over being rejected by voters, and having to admit errors, it is now genuinely looking forward.

It has started running really interesting conferences, getting along specialists to talks to workshops and encouraging genuine debate as part of its ongoing policy review.

I sat in on a fascinating session this morning with educationist Professor John Hattie talking about "What really makes a difference to educational achievement."

I'll do a separate piece on it but it was a fascinating session not least for seeing Trevor Mallard, who was chairing it, ordering a lot of teachers to shut up and leave their questions to last.

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