I've done a complete 180 on Jacinda Ardern.

Not long ago I would've told you she wasn't up to the job of Labour Party leader. Then she became leader, stepped up for her first press conference, and blew me away.

It's not that I was wrong about Ardern. In fact, I still hold the same concerns about her abilities. It's more that I overlooked something almost more important. She's believable.

When Ardern says she cares about New Zealanders, I find myself believing that she really does. I didn't believe Andrew Little when he said it and I'm not sure I believe Bill English when he says it.

Advertisement

It's called Jacindamania.

The media love her. The thousands watching her Facebook videos love her. The people giving her their money love her.

Labour claims that after she took leadership, $250,000 in donations poured in overnight. That's incredible. I didn't believe it, so called the party general secretary and demanded proof.

I've now been to Labour HQ in Wellington and seen the figures for myself. Five dollar donations. Five thousand dollar donations. They poured in. By the time I looked more than 3500 New Zealanders had donated and - while I wasn't allowed to look at the BIG donations in the bank account - it seemed to check out.

Jacindamania is going to get her a long way. But, she's going to need a lot more than that to become Prime Minister.

Here are the five things Ardern needs to do to win this election.

Win back workers
Blue collar workers have begun leaving Labour. They left for Winston and the National Party.

They left because Labour got distracted by man bans, gender rules, ethnicity and sexuality. For workers trying to feed their families those debates are a luxury.

The good news for Labour is that those workers are probably about ready to come back. They hear the economy is doing brilliantly but they don't feel it. Their wages aren't going up, rents are getting more expensive, schools are begging for funding, hospitals are begging for funding.

They want a party that admits it's tough out there and has a plan to help.

Be a boss
Ardern needs to put her foot down with the Labour Party. By that, I mean the activists and the unions.

They've hijacked the party. They are much of the reason that Labour is sitting at 24 per cent in the polls. They are responsible for distractions like the man ban.

Ardern needs to control what Labour says and does.

The signs are good. She's already reshuffled her team (albeit in the smallest possible way), announced she'll change the campaign slogan and promised to review policies

Take a risk
Ardern's got years left in her. She can afford to take a risk.

Little played it safe. His campaign slogan was safe. His policies were safe. He did that because he wasn't popular personally.

But a new leader means a new narrative. What was "Loose with Cash" under Little can become "Looking after New Zealanders" under Ardern.

And there is a mood for change. The reason National sits as high as it does in the polls is partly a vote of confidence in the party and partly because there is no clear alternative.

So Ardern needs to give voters an alternative.

She needs bold policies that promise to shake things up.

Don't trust Winston or the Greens
They're both trying to take Labour's voters. They're trying to drown out Labour by stealing the headlines just like Metiria Turei did with her benefit fraud admission.

Labour's been so focused on attacking National, it's forgotten to defend itself from raids on its flanks.

Winston's stealing Labour's blue collar workers. The Greens are stealing Labour's radicals.

Everyone's played friendly thus far, but if either of these parties lose voters back to Labour because of Ardern, watch them turn on each other.

Prove you're ready for Government
This is the biggest challenge. Seven weeks is not a long time to prove much.

Ardern has weaknesses. She's inexperienced in leadership. In opposition, she never managed to land a blow on National. She's introduced the idea that she might not be up to handling the job if she has babies. And she's seen - as one Labour MP described her - as "a flake".

Labour has weaknesses. They're too long to list. But top of that list is "disarray" and nothing says that more than changing the leader seven weeks out from an election.

If Ardern and her team can prove that none of that is worth worrying about and that they can handle the country's credit cards, they'll be away laughing.

And if Jacindamania keeps on the way it has, this may become Ardern's election to lose.