Jacinda Ardern received some very good advice from Helen Clark by text from Europe this week: "Ignore the sexist attack and get on with the job." Clark knew, as Hillary Clinton did not, that gender politics doesn't work.
Labour's new leader, deputy leader and finance spokesman do not need to campaign as a woman, Maori or gay. It doesn't need to be said to voters of the same identity and to labour the point can be counterproductive. A woman campaigning for high office serves her gender much better if everything she says and does carries the unspoken assumption that it is perfectly natural for a woman to be in contention, which it is.
It did not seem quite so natural for a 37-year-old woman to be stepping into contention this week but that was on account of her age, not her gender. And it was in the context of her age, not her gender alone, that she was asked about starting a family.
It is a pity, I think, that she choose to spin that question into a gender issue. She had to concede she has previously talked openly about fitting family plans into her career. At that time she was not then contemplating leading the Labour Party quite so soon, if ever. But it was perfectly natural that she would be asked about that on a breakfast television interview the morning after she was pitched into the leadership.
Prime Ministers share quite a bit of their private life these days, we want to know them well. I'd love to see a young Prime Minister have a baby in office. And if she decided not to have children now, that would be fine too. I have never heard a woman criticised for that decision.
I don't know if a pregnant Prime Minister would be a world first but it would certainly be a charming point of pride for our democracy. If she had to take a few months out for the birth her deputy, Kelvin Davis, would step in easily. Before the age of air travel New Zealand Prime Ministers used to leave the country for months on end to attend to international affairs.
Politicians and public servants can take parental leave with plenty of colleagues to cover for them. It is not the same for a small business. I think it was unwise of Ardern to turn the personal question into an issue of women's employment rights generally. Like her, most of us have not run a small business and have no idea how expensive it can be to employ someone, quite apart from the wages.
I think employers should have the right to ask whether a job applicant might need parental leave in the foreseeable future, and I don't think much is gained by making that question illegal. Employers will wonder anyway and make a guess, which may be unfair to young women who are not planning families.
Labour's liberal supporters will be appalled that I have said this, but if they want the party to win more than 33 per cent or so of the vote they will need to think about it. The United States has given us a reminder some deep-seated unspoken differences separate the political class from a significant mass of public opinion.
Jacinda Ardern looks like the best thing that has happened for Labour since Clark retired. Her sudden promotion could be good not just for Labour but for National and for the country's stable government.
For Labour she promises a relentlessly cheerful face. Opposition leaders are mainly seen criticising Government decisions and poor Andrew Little never managed to do it without looking and sounding gloomy.
For National, she offers the ideal antidote to voter complacency. The young non-voters are unlikely to be all Labour-leaners. Many may not have bothered to vote because they saw no risk to an economy performing so well.
For the country, she offers the prospect of a better alternative government than a three-party coalition in which Labour would be weak. As Little said last weekend, a government like that would not be credible.
It was a wonderful thing that he did. A big thing. Not many people would pass up a chance to be Prime Minister not matter how remote the prospect had become for him, even before the Greens sucked several points out of Labour's support with Metiria Turei's admissions last week. (He might now wish he had waited a week).
Labour's stocks were so low the media were breathing some life into Winston Peters again, carefully ignoring the fact they pronounced him "kingmaker" for the last election too. That is how desperate we can become to make a race of an election that looks like a foregone conclusion.
Thankfully for all concerned, we have a contest now.