The response to Andrew Little's election as Labour Party leader has been rather negative. The criticisms and concerns about Little have been evident not just among the commentariat and media, but also from cartoonists and in social media - for amusing evidence see my blog posts, Images of Andrew Little Labour leader and Top tweets about Andrew Little Labour leader.

Personality crisis?

Andrew Little's personality and personal attributes are seen as somewhat lacking. His many detractors - both inside and out of the Labour Party - view him as a rather "grey man". They suggest that a supposedly boring politician like Little could never become Prime Minister.

But is Little really that unelectable? Is Labour really as doomed as some commentators suggest? In fact, there are actually quite a few commentators finding aspects of Little's character impressive and praiseworthy.

The Herald's John Armstrong has been the most complimentary: "In a contest in which the four contenders were much of a muchness, Little's strengths stood out, however. They were also apparent in his no-nonsense handling of his first press conference as leader. He is decisive without being divisive. He is a team player but implicitly understands the captain's responsibilities. He can be funny. He knows how to use humour without sounding too clever. He is not showy. Or arrogant. He does not claim to have a mortgage on what is right and wrong. He will be a strong leader without being abrasive. The public should warm to him" - see: Andrew Little's first job - drown out Winston Peters.

In another column, New leader will not be soft target for National, Armstrong also awards Little points for his authenticity: "There is nothing artificial about the way he fronts the world. They do not come more solid Labour than Andrew Little." Armstrong also says: "He is promising 'strong leadership', with the emphasis on 'strong'. He will almost certainly deliver that."

It's Little's supposed directness that also earns him praise from Audrey Young, who says his "shoot-from-the-lip style" is a "strength, and it could be his weakness" - see: Bam! Straight-shooter Andrew Little aims from the lip. She points out that he "has a dry sense of humour and referred facetiously yesterday to his 'bubbly personality' having helped him win the contest", and that "there was none of the hesitation of David Shearer, none of the embroidered prose of David Cunliffe".

Little's first press conference also impressed Tim Watkin: "For me, that was a strong first press conference; he had a no-nonsense air about him that will go down well with New Zealanders. He's never going to be charismatic, so he has to be stubbornly decent and dependable and real to win over voters" - see: Andrew's the leader - a big opportunity or a Little problem?.

Little's personal strengths have also been vouched for today by Patrick Gower, who has known him for 15 years and said this about him on TV3 this morning: "He is a straight-shooter, he speaks really directly, there won't be any of this flowery language or hesitation or showmanship that we've seen from previous Labour leaders. The reality is he's a hard bugger, and he's going to need all of it to really crack some heads in that Labour Party and to take on John Key" - watch: Gower: Little's victory "the great union ripoff".

Elaborating more on Little's personal strength compared to his rival candidates, the NBR's Rob Hosking says that he was the party's best choice: "He is not overly cerebral, like David Parker, or so utterly consumed by political gamesmanship there is little room for substance, like the man who came within a whisker of the leadership, Grant Robertson... Nor is Mr Little a niche player, like Nanaia Mahuta - who, however, looks like being his deputy. But he is not forever trying on new masks, like his predecessor David Cunliffe" - see: Labour leadership: Little's prospects (paywalled).

Criticisms of how Andrew Little won

Perhaps the most stinging criticism of Little today has been Gower's opinion piece, Unions rip off Labour leadership, in which the new Labour leader's victory is essentially pronounced as illegitimate. It's as if suddenly - after many decades absence - the unions have re-emerged as the "bogeymen" of New Zealand politics.

The union backing for Little is also the focus of Andrew Geddis' blog post, Worst. Result. Ever. Here's his main point: "I think that the sight of the Labour Party leader being chosen almost purely because of lopsided support amongst the union organisations is a terrible, terrible one for it. Especially when you break down what that 'support' actually means in practice. It's not that 75 per cent of the individual members of all the affiliated unions think Little is a better leader than Grant. It's instead that 75 per cent of those people that each union allowed to decide the issue plumped for Little ahead of Grant. People who, in the case of (say) the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, basically were told by their leaders that they should vote for the guy who used to be their boss. And so Little is going to come into this role without the backing of a majority of either the MPs he has to lead, or the individual party members who are meant to do the work for the party, but rather because of the union hierarchies' blessing."

Such criticisms could dog Little and Labour for some time according to John Armstrong: "What could cause Little real and lasting harm is the uncomfortable truth that when the big moment arrived, it was the bulk votes of the handful of trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party which were the difference between him being leader and being an also-ran" - see: New leader will not be soft target for National. He suggests that National will relentlessly focus on Little's union support to discredit Labour.

The fact that Little won with such a paper-thin majority has certainly reduced his mandate. But of course it has to be remembered that Little won under a preferential voting system, yet much of the commentary appears to be made under first-past-the-post thinking.

Little's political direction?

It's been difficult to assess the direction that Little is going to take Labour in. Some suggest that he will shift the party more towards the centre. But as Gordon Campbell says today, this seems somewhat contradictory, as Little "has already been depicted by commentators as being simultaneously (a) the creature of the trade unions and (b) the most centrist of the four candidates, which would be an interesting trick to see someone try in a game of Twister" - see: On Andrew Little's victory.

It could be that Little will recast Labour as being less concerned with identity politics and socially liberalism, and more about working class concerns. This is a point made in today's Herald editorial: "Little's priorities appear to lie in employment law and other union concerns. He may steer the party away from the social and sexual 'identity' politics of recent years" - see: Daring policies will be axed under Little.

Rob Hosking backs this approach up, saying, "Little will be able to reach parts of the Labour support base which have deserted it: particularly aspirational young men who want do make something of their lives and do not want to just exist being patronised by Wellington-based bureaucrats and political apparatchiks. He is, in short, the best suited of the four candidates to build up from that desperately low 25 per cent of the vote Labour got at the last election" - see: Labour leadership: Little's prospects (paywalled).

And today's Press newspaper also calls for a Focus on essentials. The editorial says "Little spoke after his election of wanting to get the party back to basics, to address the things, such as jobs and what they earn, that New Zealanders care about."

But could Little just keep Labour in the status quo? That's the view of John Minto, who draws some lessons from his observations of Little's time in the union movement: "He won't get into unseemly rows in the party, the caucus or in public because his personality is conflict averse. I've never heard him raise his voice and never heard stories of him thumping the table during wage negotiations on behalf of low-wage workers. His personal style is thoroughly inoffensive and this is what Labour thinks it needs at the moment" - see: Lack of policy ambition is Andrew Little's main problem.

Others on the left have similarly pessimistic views on Little's leaderships - see Stephen Keys' Congratulations Andrew Little - now where's the vision?, No Right Turn's Meh, and Martyn Bradbury's And the new Labour Leader is ZZZZZZZ.

Nonetheless, it's not just the left that are warning about Little and Labour being too centrist and pragmatic. See, for example, today's Dominion Post: editorial, Huge test for rookie leader, which warns of the dangers becoming to bland and unprincipled.

Unity and Little's reshuffling challenge

Uniting the caucus is widely seen as Andrew Little's first challenge. Much of this will occur via the selection of various MPs for crucial positions in the caucus - see Vernon Small's Now the hard part begins for Andrew Little. He says that Little has to reach out "to team Robertson and David Parker - which, in terms of ability and experience, is very much the caucus A team". The big problem will be in filling the finance role: 'In terms of experience Cunliffe may be a logical choice for the finance role, but that risks reopening some deep wounds'.

Claire Trevett reports that Little has apparently ruled out having Cunliffe in finance or Nanaia Mahuta as his deputy - see: Little picks team amid minefield. She says, "There was a chance of caucus revolt if Mr Little tried to put Ms Mahuta in as deputy," and it is more likely that Robertson or Jacinda Ardern will be approached to fill that position. Meanwhile "Stuart Nash or David Clark are both options for finance".

According to Gordon Campbell, Little should utilise Robertson and Ardern: "The Gracinda duo... have an obvious role to play in conveying the Labour message to younger voters, and if Robertson won't take the deputy role, it should be offered to Ardern. David Cunliffe has become such a polarizing figure that his next role should probably be vis a vis the equally likeable Steven Joyce, not Bill English. Little himself should take the Finance shadow portfolio" - see: On Andrew Little's victory.

Despite Robertson stating he would not run for leadership again, Gower says "Gracinda may be back this term, but in a slightly different form" - watch: Gower: Little's victory "the great union ripoff" . According to Gower, "I think there will be a switcheroo - Jacinda as the leader, Robertson as the deputy. He's probably seen the writing on the wall that it has to be her if they have another go. If Little fails, they have to be the next option - there will be a lot of talk about Little getting three years, but if he stays down below 24 per cent in the polls, I'm not so sure that they will let him see it out."

In fact, one Robertson supporter has blogged to suggest that it would be wrong to rule him out from challenging for the leadership again: "Grant has ruled out running again, but I think we can take that with a grain of salt. He is careerist to the bone. I doubt he can walk away from a shot at becoming PM so easily. It's a simple matter of 'the situation has changed/I have been approached by people across the country/some men have greatness forced upon them'. It's very easy to imagine caucus rolling Little a year from now, while there is still time to change leaders before the election" - see Fundamentally useless' Biblical struggle ahead for Little.

Big party change

Bigger changes might well be needed to turn things around for Labour. No doubt there will be some forced retirements of MPs - see Eileen Goodwin's Caucus rejuvenation likely. And surely Little will retain chief of staff Matt McCarten as his right-hand "hatchet man" to achieve that rejuvenation and deal with dissenting voices.

But there's a danger of too much clampdown occurring in Labour in order to achieve unity according to Josie Pagani - see her blog post, How Andrew Little needs to begin. But as well as calling for more ideological tolerance, Pagani says there needs to be major change in the party organisation.

Such a call will be supported by Brian Rudman who says today that Labour needs to look at back office. He says that "taking the party organisation by the scruff of the neck and giving it a good shake might be a good start to ensuring his longevity".

But is any of this really likely? Matthew Hooton worries for the future of Labour, and calls on people to join the party - see: Who Will Save Labour Now?.