Make no mistake: Labour's change in deputy leadership was brutal.

Just a week ago the indefatigable Annette King was playing the age card. Talk of replacing her was "ageist"; speculation the result of a "media vendetta".

But Parliament's mighty lioness was reduced to a victim. I found it sad.

I knew she was toast on Monday when rising star Jacinda Ardern declared herself happy doing "whatever's best for the party". That was the knife plunging in.


It's up there with Winston Peters declaring he was happy just being "MP for Tauranga" with everyone in on his play for a much mightier role.

Then Labour Leader Andrew Little said no, he wasn't thinking about a change in deputy because "there is no vacancy".

Kapow! No ringing endorsement for his Deputy. And it just happened that his rising star was ready to step up if only there was a vacancy and she was asked.

King was gone Wednesday and Ardern swiftly anointed. The caucus vote this Tuesday is a formality. It was brilliantly deft.

The big mistake in politics is to underestimate opponents. Clearly, I underestimated Little and Ardern.

The best coups are bloodless and the second-best appear bloodless. Little and Ardern achieved a coup that appeared bloodless and in that one stroke presented a new leadership team, with youth and glamour on its side and Auckland in its sights. They are a force to be reckoned with. And they did it on the back of nothing much.

Ardern's win last week in Mt Albert was reported as a landslide and proof of her vote-pulling power, despite David Shearer, the previous MP, pulling twice the votes.

That her win was a "landslide" proves her ability. The next best thing to being a winner is to appear a winner.


The attacks claiming she has done nothing much in Parliament these past years are misguided. John Key did nothing much. It was only in stepping up to the role of leader and then Prime Minister that he did things and shone.

Along the way, a sitting National MP was knifed in Helensville, leader Don Brash was dispatched - apparently bloodlessly - and Helen Clark killed off by Key working with her to put through Parliament the highly controversial "anti-smacking" law.

A politician's best work is done away from public view.

Ardern was 3 when King was first elected. By her second term, King was a minister. It took Ardern three terms just to win an electorate. And within a week she's Deputy. That's impressive.

King is wonderful. She has achieved much in her very full life and has, rightly, won huge respect and admiration. But there comes a time to give the kids the keys. That time is now.

She can look back with pride and forward with excited anticipation. The manner of her dispatching suggests these kids can thrill.

The old Labour jalopy just got some grunt.