Despite the margin of Andrew Little's victory being about as narrow as things get, Labour's new(ish) system of electing its leader has delivered the best possible result for the party.

Little's ascendancy means a relatively fresh face at the party's helm. More importantly, he represents a clean break from the party's recent troubles.
The step up from ordinary MP to the office of Leader of the Opposition is a huge one, however. It is a transition which frequently turns out to be far more difficult an exercise than the new incumbent expects. Little's relative lack of parliamentary experience - he has been an MP for only three years - may make things even tougher.

Andrew Little elected Labour leader
New leader knows his Gangnam Style

He also has to somehow neutralise the notion - one which National will hammer - that he only got the job by virtue of picking up a large majority of the votes of trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party.


In a contest in which the four contenders were much of a muchness, Little's strengths stood out, however. They were also apparent in his no-nonsense handling of his first press conference as leader.

He is decisive without being divisive. He is a team player but implicitly understands the captain's responsibilities. He can be funny. He knows how to use humour without sounding too clever. He is not showy. Or arrogant. He does not claim to have a mortgage on what is right and wrong.

He will be a strong leader without being abrasive. The public should warm to him. But that will take some time.

His biggest challenge as the voice of Labour is to drown out other Opposition leaders, namely Russel Norman and Winston Peters.

As someone who comes across - rightly or wrongly - as a bit shy, Little is going to have to "project" - that is, promote himself by thrusting himself forward at every opportunity. No Opposition leader ever died from too much media exposure, Quite the reverse. The trick is to pick the right issues and doing so without looking like you are being self-serving.

His first priority, however, is to get the party back on the straight and narrow. His trade union background makes him the person most capable of bridging the current divide between more centrist senior MPs in the parliamentary wing and those activists in the wider party who seek to tilt it more to the left.

His long experience of wheeling and dealing will allow Little to quietly work the party's back rooms to ensure everyone understands that internal debate about the party's direction stays that way - inside the party.
Having battled against the forces which have sought to curb union power, Little is a realist about the struggle facing the party and the wider labour movement. That reality has been brutally underlined by Labour's electoral disaster two months ago.

Little knows there are no miracle cures for a party picking up barely 25 per cent of the vote.


But he does have time. The political year is spent. Better to return as a new face in 2015 with the intention of becoming THE face of 2015.