The dynamic duo of Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern - now termed 'Gracinda' on social media - could well be the Labour Party's best bet for recovering from its 2014 electoral nadir. The two are probably the most dynamic of the leadership candidates on offer, and have real talent. There will be a strong temptation among the membership to choose their 'new generation' message. But there are also some major problems with putting 'Camp Robertson' in charge of Labour. While they might have more style than their counterparts, some commentators are pointing to their lack of substance as being a worry for the party's future.

Labour has a greyness problem at the moment (summed up in my last column, Are Labour's 'pale, male, stale' days done?) and Robertson and Ardern are well placed to insert some colour and competence into the leadership. There should be no doubt that Grant Robertson is an extremely able campaigner and operator. Among the various candidates for leader, he's definitely the 'smartest in the room' when it comes to political strategy and playing the parliamentary political 'game'. He has the lobbying background and skills, the media-savvy, and the strong ability to form alliances amongst disparate political factions. He's also one of the most ambitious politicians around. If he became leader - which he's clearly extremely hungry for - he will also be absolutely driven to achieve his lifelong ambition of becoming prime minister. The necessary electoral rebuild of Labour will be well served by these qualities.

So although other candidates like Andrew Little appear to be ahead of Robertson in this race, Robertson's abilities to turn this situation around shouldn't be underestimated.

Robertson's deliberate blandness

Part of Robertson's political strength is his strong pragmatism and sense of which way the wind is blowing. In this way, he's possibly more like John Key than any other politician around. But this can be easily parodied, as seen in Toby Manhire's brilliantly funny column, Labour in safe and bloody hands. Here's Robertson according to Manhire: "I often reflect unschemingly on these ideas of an evening, while drinking rugby and playing beer. The Labour Party needs a leader who can embody this new generation, but who has also been around the traps for as long as anyone can remember. New but old. Insider and outsider. Bad supermarkets, good beer and rugby. Reconnect, rebuild, refocus, relax, revert, resuscitate, rerebuild, rerugby and rebeer."

There is also come concern about the extent to which Robertson takes his cautious pragmatism. The must-read item of the day is Phil Quin's blog post, Robertson's 'safety-first' leadership pitch fraught with risk. Quin - who has been a longtime Labour Party activist - complains that Robertson only ever seems to make vacuous statements: "It's impossible to disagree with anything Grant Robertson says. That's a problem." Pointing to Robertson's latest statement of his values for leadership, Quin seeks to find something tangible amongst it all: "The answer is nothing; nothing, that is, beyond the lukewarm fuzzies you get by placing inoffensive words in a pleasing formation. You could rewrite the phrase 'government blah blah communities blah blah' without sacrificing an ounce of substance or impact. There is nothing especially egregious about this one anodyne phrase out of hundreds like it, but it's a decent example of a much broader problem - with political communication generally, and with Grant Robertson's bid for the Labour leadership in particular."

Quin says that Robertson's "knack for pleasant-sounding but hollow eloquence" is partly down to his background as a diplomat and argues that, by contrast, politics needs greater conflict and clarity, which is a problem for him: "Robertson's muddled pandering on the gay question, as well as pretty much everything else, points to a deeper weakness: it is not an aversion to the opposite sex that calls into doubt his ability to lead Labour out of the wilderness, but a chronic and debilitating aversion to risk."

Another left-wing blogger - and Wellington policy analyst - also finds fault in Robertson's deliberate blandness, saying that this 'lack of substance is alarming' - see Fundamentally Useless' Give us some substance, Grant. The blogger says he wants Robertson to win the leadership, but complains that his approach is "candy floss politics. Lots of colour, little meaning". Jacinda Ardern is also heavily criticised in the blog post as having achieved little in her political career.

Chris Trotter has also questioned whether Robertson and Ardern are bold enough to save Labour at the moment - see the TV3 article (and 4-minute interview), Trotter: Labour could learn from Don Brash. He says that Robertson "is very much in that cautious, incremental mode that Helen Clark made so successful in terms of her own career". But this lack of boldness might not be, Trotter says, what Labour needs right now.

But Ardern is proclaiming that they will indeed be bold - see Radio NZ's Labour needs bold ideas says Ardern. And to counter the "beltway" tag, see Stacey Kirk's Jacinda Ardern bites back at 'Beltway babies' branding.

Gracinda's strategic alliances

Some have called the inclusion of Jacinda Ardern as Robertson's running mate a "strategic masterstroke". But could Ardern end up being leader herself, if not prime minister? That's the prediction posed today by Rachel Smalley, who writes: "Ardern is Labour's best hope for the future and could be the MP who one day leads Labour back into government." Ardern's positives are lauded: "She is popular both outside of the party and within. She exudes a warmth and an intelligence, and it appears she is in politics for the policy and not for the power."

There will be further interesting manoeuvres from Robertson, especially with his ability to forge stratetic alliances. After all, as Claire Trevett has pointed out, "Robertson is regarded as the effective head of the ABC (Anyone But Cunliffe) faction" - see Factions and females - F words dog Labour. And for years he has cultivated support on the right of Labour's caucus, as well as strong friendships with the likes of Trevor Mallard and Annette King.

Of course the election of David Shearer as Labour leader in 2011 was in large part due to the ABCs and Grant Robertson. And further machinations can be expected over the next month. It will be interesting to see which political figures endorse Robertson for leader. Michael Cullen has already done so, as has Darien Fenton. As Trevett points out regarding the latter, "She is a prominent union figure and Camp Robertson clearly hopes her endorsement will ensure rival Andrew Little does not get the clean sweep he is hoping for among the unions."

But surely Robertson will be less keen on public endorsements from the likes of Mallard, Cosgrove or Goff. On the other hand, others in the so-called Wellington beltway are coming forward with enthusiasm for Robertson. For example, former VUWSA President Fleur Fitzsimmons has penned on The Standard, A paean about Grant Robertson. Other endorsements are published by Robertson on his new website.

Finally, in terms of the 'Gracinda' Twitter tag, the orginator seems to have been Philip Matthews (@secondzeit), who tweeted yesterday: "Team Gracinda. Team Ardertson." Patrick Gower (@patrickgowernz) has picked up on this, tweeting:
Grant & Jacinda - 'Gracinda'. Political 'twofer'/2-for-1 deal. Buy Grant, get Jacinda free! #Gracinda". For a lot of diverse opinions and analysis on the leadership combo, see my blog post, Top tweets about #Gracinda.