This summer, Andrew Little has a chance to change the game for our party, and put us on track for a better 2016. He has an opportunity to demonstrate real leadership by helping out the Prime Minister John Key over our flag vote.

Yes, this might sound like a crazy idea, but bear with me.

Thinking back, the pivotal moment for John Key as Leader of the Opposition - the event that showed his prime ministerial mettle - was when he reached across the aisle to Helen Clark to forge a consensus on the anti-smacking legislation in 2007.

He stood out as the deal maker, standing next to Clark in the old chamber at Parliament, while she and her Government went on to wear the lions' share of the opposition to so-called "nanny state" laws.


Little needs to establish himself as a plausible future Prime Minister. Labour's policy contortions on the flag look hollow to most observers anyway, due to the fact a flag change was party policy at the 2014 election. Since their change of heart, they've gained little from what many perceive as sniping opposition.

Their sudden opposition to change doesn't ring true and they are mistaken if they believe they will ride some imaginary wave to government by barking at every passing car.

That's because people vote for hope, optimism and the promise of something better.

While the flag decision may seem symbolic for most people, not affecting their daily lives in any way, Key's support for change is certainly an optimistic embrace of New Zealand's modern identity. After seven years in office, he gives off the impression that he is positive about our future.

The next month or so gives Andrew Little the chance to show that he, too, is ready for government by locking arms with Key and helping him to victory on the flag.

Little's intervention may be decisive and that in itself would show that he can deliver, even from opposition.

I'm unapologetically in favour of a new flag, and there's no way I want to pass up the chance to redefine New Zealand's national identity.

Positive change is hard to achieve, and opposing it is always easy. If Little is to succeed he needs to lead, demonstrating statesmanlike qualities, and do something that has a lasting impact for our country.


If Labour is to be elected in 2017 it will presumably be on a programme of progressive reform in the social sector as well as sharing economic returns more fairly.

For most New Zealanders to switch on to Labour, Little is going to have to do something bold to capture their imagination. That's the only way he will effectively be able to sell Labour to an electorate that doesn't seem interested in giving the party a vote much above 30 per cent.

Moreover, if the polls don't change for Little in 2016, they are unlikely to budge much for him in 2017 unless he does something different.

He cannot afford to tolerate a "new normal" in our country which appears to be Labour polling in the early thirties and National in the late forties.

For Labour to bend this curve, he needs to be ambitious, hopeful and, most of all, he needs to present an agenda of positive change - and that doesn't mean targeting certain ethnic groups based on their surname.

One of the key symbols of New Zealand nationhood is a worthwhile place for him to start, showing the kind of leadership New Zealanders are waiting to see.

Nick Leggett is Mayor of Porirua City and a member of the NZ Labour Party