Labour MP Andrew Little is sitting in a bar in Island Bay, his home suburb on Wellington's South coast.
National's Chris Finlayson wrote about Island Bay in his recent campaign diary for the Spectator: "
The New Zealand union movement's spiritual home is in the mining towns of the South Island, but most of its well-paid administrators choose to live in Island Bay."
Little is a former union administrator and laughs at this obvious dig at him.
"I think the well-paid union administrators moved here well before the well-heeled doyennes of commerce and industry moved here," he replies.
Little says that once the compulsory tithe to the Labour Party coffers is taken out of his $148,000 MPs' salary, he ends up on about the same as his former EPMU job.
The EPMU has endorsed Little but at the time of the interview, many of his endorsements were from right-wing bloggers and National figures. They are all anathema to the Labour members who will be voting. "You're doomed," I say.
He laughs again and says optimistically of this situation: "It confirms something I do know, that I can reach across the ideological divide."
Somehow Little went from being described as the underdog to tipped as frontrunner within a matter of days. The difference could well have been David Cunliffe's endorsement of Little, although he was already picking up momentum before then.
The interview is prior to Cunliffe's decision to withdraw, but it had been signalled and it later transpired Cunliffe had talked to Little about the decision he had to make.
Little says he had a "professional relationship" with Cunliffe. But it would have been "a struggle" for caucus to function had Cunliffe stayed as leader. "I think it would be very difficult. No question about that."
Little has only been in Parliament for one term. Beyond being sued for defamation by Judith Collins, and a startling display of the Gangnam Style dance (see video below) and some fiery speeches in Parliament he has largely stayed out of the limelight.
"It was largely deliberate. I was not courting publicity or seeking to be flash about it. I had a deliberate thing of taking time to get to know how the place works, find my place in it, learn my role and procedural things."
He says he spent that time soldering relationships with other Labour MPs as well "without fear or favour." He hasn't got the baggage of former loyalties that his rivals have. While most MPs pinned their flags noisily to the poles of their favourite contenders in last year's leadership run-off, Little kept his to himself. He won't reveal it now either.
His biggest negative is that same short tenure. He hasn't got much Parliamentary experience and some worry how he will cope up against John Key in the bear pit of Question Time. Little has not even served on the front bench yet - although he was just off it at 11 for the past year.
The difference between David Shearer and Little is that Little knows the party intimately and had more experience in high profile political roles before becoming an MP, including his 12 years heading the EPMU and then as Labour president. He is at ease in front of the cameras.
His fired-up speeches in Parliament earned him the "Angry Andrew" nickname from National. He says he is not short-tempered. "I control my emotions well." Rather Parliament is a bit of show. "I can muster a loud voice in Parliament and it pisses them off. It is intended to derail them, and sometimes it does."
He can also come across as a bit dour to those who don't know him. He suggests that is a legacy from his union days when he was high-profile, but usually in relation to worker disputes. "You can't treat those lightly."
He admits people are often surprised when he reveals a sense of humour.
"I guess I'm not an extrovert in the sense that I meet someone new and it's all hugs and kisses and flouncing around. I do like to get to know people. I take time because I like good quality friendships and then I get to a point where I do relax more and people see the funnier side to me."
There is already chatter on the right about whether Little will be beholden to the union movement, which gets 20 per cent of the vote for Labour's leadership. Little is clearly aware of that. He shows a rather more pragmatic edge, pointing out a significant portion of the workforce is now self-employed and independent contractors and future policy should address those rather than 'business as usual.'
He is at pains to talk about his relationship with the business community - an area Labour has struggled with. Asked about David Parker, he says he believes Parker should be a senior front bencher. "A critical issue in putting together a front bench is the confidence of the business community."
The former lawyer attributes his union days for teaching him to deal with conflict and helping him build an understanding of business.
He says he has had a good response from the business community, including invitations to speak.
"I think my reputation with business is that I'm a straight shooter, I am a person of my word. I don't say one thing to them and another to their workforce, or whoever else. I had a strong view as union secretary that to do my job, in any one business you need to understand the business, the industry it is in, and the wider economy it is operating in."
He says part of Key's genius is his skill at communicating - getting on commercial radio and talking to people who would not otherwise listen to politicians in a language they understand.
He adds the predictable swipe, saying he suspects Key gets most of his lines from focus groups. But the reply shows Little has already been studying and analysing which aspects of Key's trade might work for himself. Already there are signs Little is adopting the same practice he used as a union head: you have to understand your enemy to beat them.