The words "future leader" have been the kiss of death for many a politician. Not so in Andrew Little's case. That tag did him no harm through the years. To the contrary, his ascendancy to the leadership of the Labour Party - he is the fifth MP to hold the job in the past six years - had almost seemed preordained.

What could cause Little real and lasting harm is the uncomfortable truth that when the big moment arrived, it was the bulk votes of the handful of trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party which were the difference between him being leader and being an also-ran.

National will relentlessly push the notion that the trade unions installed one of their own as leader, both to try and marginalise Little as an unreformed, old-school leftie, and also to claim the unions choose Labour prime ministers, not the voters.

Little's win by the narrowest of margins - he secured 50.52 per cent against Grant Robertson's 49.48 per cent in the preference vote-style ballot - immediately raised questions at his post-victory press conference about whether he has a mandate for change, more so given Robertson was the preferred choice of both the caucus and the wider party membership.


Little's reply to that charge was refreshingly direct. He simply brushed that notion aside.The rules were the rules. He had won. He had a mandate.

He is right. But the narrowness of his victory does not give him carte blanche. Nevertheless, observing him during his press conference was almost like watching the natural order of things reasserting itself following the banishment of havoc-creating evil spirits.

Little's victory is not quite catharsis for Labour. But it is a relief. There is nothing artificial about the way he fronts the world. They do not come more solid Labour than Andrew Little.

But he knows first impressions count. And they can be hard to change. That was David Cunliffe's fate. Just as hesitation when fronting was the killer for David Shearer. Little is not going to allow himself to be pigeon-holed by Labour's opponents as a weak leader before he has had the chance to prove himself. He is promising "strong leadership" with the emphasis on "strong". He will almost certainly deliver that.

His victory has come at a price, however. David Parker's surprise announcement that he is no longer interested in remaining finance spokesman or deputy leader has thrown the proverbial cat among the caucus pigeons.

Beyond David Clark, a junior MP with no front-bench experience, there are no obvious candidates for the crucial finance post - unless David Cunliffe enters the equation.

He is willing to serve. But the overwhelming majority of the caucus would rather see the former leader served up for sacrifice. Those MPs would be ropeable if Little's first allocation of shadow portfolios was not so much a reshuffle as a new rendition of the Resurrection Shuffle.