Comment by Mark Dye
What do they say about insanity? Something about doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results? The Labour Party under Andrew Little was broken. He tried, his caucus tried, everyone involved in the Labour party tried to get the public to consider Little as a Prime Minister.
It didn't work.
And, let's be honest, they gave it a good nudge. Nudging for nearly three years is more than a decent effort. If something isn't working, what do you do? You change up your attack. Try something different.
That's what Labour did on Tuesday. Does it mean Labour is now problem-free and will cruise to victory on September 23? No. Not at all. But following Little's announcement he would step down as Labour leader, and Ardern's acceptance to step up, the possibility of a Labour-led Government come the end of September has increased significantly.
For Labour to become a real threat to National, they need to tighten things up on a number of fronts; mainly who they are and for what they stand, how they are communicating that vision, and in my humble opinion, there needs to be some policy tweaks - are power subsidies for millionaires really necessary?
All this is possible now Little has gone. A new leader is the perfect excuse to scrap what hasn't gone down well with the electorate, and focus on what has.
It amuses me to no end various commentators suggesting "Little should've persisted" until the election. Why on earth would you do that? The writing is and has been on the wall for a while. The latest string of polls suggesting Labour garnering support in the lower to mid 20s was just the final straw.
To be fair though, most of these commentators enjoy their Weet-Bix with the bluest of blue top milk. So an ineffective Labour leader that wasn't connecting with the voting public is no doubt exactly what the doctor ordered -
especially when the leader of their side has similar "connection" issues. Walk run anyone?
Is Ardern ready? Probably not. But when in life are you actually ever fully prepared for anything? Unfortunately, life doesn't seem to work like that. It's a bugger really. But does that mean she can't be an effective leader of the Labour party?
Potentially an effective leader of New Zealand? Not at all. Leadership is as much about leading as it is about knowing when to listen and take direction from people that given a particular situation know more about the situation than you do. Do you think Sir John Key or Helen Clark knew absolutely everything about everything and were prepared for the lot on day one in office? Please.
If you listen to the electorate and read into the polls there is undoubtedly a mood for change. A recent Herald ZB Kantar TNS Survey found 17 per cent of voters were still undecided. That is no small amount. The problem is, until now the alternative that has been on offer hasn't been appetising (even in the slightest) to the vast majority of the country, and so you have 17 per cent unsure which way they will fall.
Labour changing things up now creates more of an opportunity for some of those 17 per cent to land their side of the fence. To be fair, it could also repel some to the other side. But if the feedback I witnessed in the four hours of talkback Kerre and I did on the subject on Tuesday is anything to go by, this is a step in the right direction.
No more Little, and Ardern in his place has people excited. I know this will upset the policy wonks amongst us, but the populace like warm and personable. As a wonk myself, I hope an approachable demeanour is not the only reason a person chooses to vote for a particular party, but it certainly warms them to it. Time and time again we heard that this is why people liked Key. Ardern has this. Little never did. Or at least it never translated.
And so it's game on. Old and worn vs young fresh and new. My money is still with the former, but if nothing else at least the race is going to be darn sight more interesting. And as they say, a strong opposition makes for strong government. Entertainment and better governance: if only the first of every month delivered this much.
Mark Dye and Kerre McIvor host Afternoons on Newstalk ZB from noon-4pm weekdays.