COMMENT:

There's a bookshop in Wellington's Victoria St that on a few occasions each year is packed out with people clinking wine glasses. It causes a lot of curiosity from those standing on the bus stop outside waiting to take them home at the end of the day and last night was no exception.

Around 6pm the Prime Minister came sauntering along the street flanked by her security detail, she'd walked from Parliament, and the rubberneckers went wild. She was there to launch Stardust and Substance, the story of last year's election.

It's fair to say that this time last year Ardern must have thought she was an outside chance of becoming Prime Minister, given her newness to the Labour's leadership and National's consistently high opinion poll rating.

Advertisement

READ MORE:
Stardust and substance: New book reveals how Jacinda Ardern led Labour into government

But Jacindamania had taken a firm hold.

Labour's dismal poll rating just over a month earlier made the pragmatic Andrew Little realise that, as much as he'd have liked to have been the Prime Minister, it just wasn't going to happen.

He first raised his concerns with Ardern, who within weeks of becoming his deputy was out polling him, on her 37th birthday. She urged him to stick with it, he'd brought stability to the party, she argued, not seen since Helen Clark resigned on election night nine years earlier.

But things just got worse, the party's slide continued with Winston Peters last week confirming Labour had slipped to 20 per cent with New Zealand First on 19.

Peters' long held ambition of leading one of the major parties in Parliament was dashed on August 1 when Ardern's cellphone rang on her way into Parliament from Wellington airport. Little was standing down as leader.

It was a job she said she hadn't aspired to but there was no one else. It was Labour's last chance to pull it off and this woman, who was never a leading light or player in opposition, was thrust into the election campaign as the country's potential leader and the crowd went wild.

It was a case of everyone getting to know her, including those of us who've worked within the system for decades.

Advertisement

Less than two months after stepping up, Winston Peters walked into the Beehive theatre and declared Ardern had won the prize. Bill English, who had a quiet and justifiable expectation that he'd finally get to claim the crown that eluded him 15 years earlier, was crestfallen.

In the days following the announcement I asked Ardern if she had to pinch herself and even though she wasn't about to admit it, her lightning flash to the Beehive's ninth floor gave her little time for reflection.

There must be times since then that she'd feel like punching herself given the expectations of the job and having to live life in a fishbowl.

All credit to Ardern that she hasn't lost the ability to be nice.