New Labour leader Andrew Little is a straight shooter.

It is his strength, and it could be his weakness. Subtlety has never been a strong suit.

His shoot-from-the-lip style was on display yesterday in response to the question: "How are you going to beat John Key in 2017?"

"What we won't be doing is what he has done now for so long, which is give the appearance of a happy-go-lucky chappy but run the vilest, nastiest smear machine we have ever seen in New Zealand politics. We will be calling him out on that."

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There was none of the hesitation of David Shearer, none of the embroidered prose of David Cunliffe.

Watch: Little wins Labour's leadership

Andrew Little, who emerged the winner after a tight battle that went into a third round of voting, said it was an "immense privilege" to have been chosen.

As a backbencher for only three years in the opposition Labour Party, Mr Little had not had a large amount of public exposure as an MP before the leadership contest, apart from the oft-repeated Gangnam Style dance he did in Parliament one night at the goading of National MP Mike Sabin.

But he did not need to raise his profile in the party.

He had it from being national secretary of Labour's largest affiliated union, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, and the union's lawyer before that.

He has been a leadership prospect for some years. Former Prime Minister Helen Clark recognised it in 2007 and tried to persuade Mr Little to stand in 2008, by which time he would have held the union job for eight years.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
18 Nov, 2014 1:52pm
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She even had a seat in mind for him - Rimutaka, where former Labour minister Paul Swain was retiring.

But Mr Little believed the time was not right for him with a young son, or for the union.

Still union head, he took over the party presidency from Mike Williams after Labour's defeat in 2008 when Phil Goff became leader.

Mr Little had another opportunity to get into Parliament, in the Mana byelection, but it would not have been seen as good form for the party president to win a selection in a seat that is now established as a Pacific Island seat.

He was elected in 2011 and in 2014 on the list, having stood unsuccessfully in New Plymouth where he was born and raised.

Such was the drubbing Labour received in the September election, Mr Little was the last MP in on the list.

In a caucus riven by factions - which tend to emerge only at leadership time - Mr Little assiduously steered clear of camps - the pro-Grant Robertson camp and the anti-David Cunliffe camp.

Mr Little said yesterday he was of the left. But the policy changes he promoted during the leadership campaign - dropping the capital gains tax and the policy to increase the pension age - have been aimed at regaining the centre.

In one of Labour's biggest divisions, economic development versus environmentalism, Mr Little is firmly in the development camp.

As leader of an engineering union, he defended the much derided Think Big policies of the Muldoon Government because of the the pride in heavy engineering they brought to Taranaki.

Andrew Little

• Aged 49.
• Lives in Island Bay with his wife, Leigh, his son, Cam, Buddy the cat and Harry the dog.
• Fourth of five children and has a twin sister.
• Parents arrived in New Zealand in 1962. His father was in the British military and retrained as a teacher, and his mother was a secretary. Both were National Party stalwarts.
• Has a dry sense of humour and referred facetiously yesterday to his "bubbly personality" having helped him win the contest.