Andrew Little smashed it.

He has two years to win over the public before the next election.

His speech to the Labour conference this year needed to win over the members, who afterall, did not support him in the leadership contest a year ago.

Job done, as they say.


It was one of the best speeches by a Labour leader in recent years, in both content, delivery and production.

That is saying something because there have been a hell of a lot of leaders and a lot of speeches.

The fact that Little's water glass ended up smashed on the floor couldn't count against him.

It could have been the result of over-exuberance and energy - although it actually wasn't.

It occurred in one of the quieter moments of his speech when he talked about New Zealanders losing hope about achieving "the kiwi dream."

Little has been working on the speech for several months.

It needed to set out who he is, what his values are, how he came by them, and how they relate to his leadership role in the party and plans for Government.

It needed to show a bit of light and shade; it needed to criticise but not relentlessly.

It succeeded in showing a fuller picture of Andrew Little the person and give a clearer idea of what sort of Prime Minister he would be.


There was no grand entrance. He was introduced by his twin sister, Val, who filled in the backstory of the New Plymouth family.

The star of the backstory, however, was the portrait drawn of his eccentric late father, a rabid Tory who used to shout at the TV when Labour MPs or unionists appeared and who forced his son to deliver pamphlets for the National Party.

"I'm still working out if that was a breach of a United Nations convention," Little said.

Little received a standing ovation well before the end of his speech when he said: "I'm committing our party to a new principle: we will not tolerate poverty in New Zealand in the 21st century."

The speech was high on rhetoric and low on detail but that is no surprise.

It will not be the speech he delivers in the 2017 election campaign.

The messages about intolerance to poverty which dominated the 2014 campaign will almost certainly take a back-seat to more aspirational messages in 2017.

But the party faithful needed to know it was still of the utmost importance.