So, Andrew Little has landed himself a show pony in Jacinda Ardern, to jazz up the image of his dour leadership.

Little is obviously demonstrating that element of ruthlessness that every political leader needs to develop if they are to have any hope of securing the prime ministership for themselves.

Little has sharpened his image.

Along with Grant Robertson, he has been on a mission - particularly in Auckland - to strengthen connections with business and influential media outside the parliamentary Press Gallery.


He stared down the feminists by recruiting talkshow host Willie Jackson and the longtime police union boss Greg O'Connor as candidates for the September 23 election. Jackson brings with him the urban Maori vote and O'Connor appeals to a Wellington cross-section of voters.

And despite public comments, he would have been in on the rumble to nudge Annette King out.

So far so good when it comes to Labour's renewal.

But it was orchestrated with little thought for the role King could have gone on to play in a Labour-led Administration.

Instead, the rumblers are now turning their attention from King to him.

But it's simply not credible for media to now talk about Ardern taking out her boss - even if her poll ratings do move quickly to surpass his. But that will become the story.

The Labour MP is a shoo-in for the deputy leadership after Annette King took herself out of play and said she would stand down at the election.

King has seen plenty of political rumbles in her time.

When the Press Gallery - virtually in unison - called time on her as Labour deputy leader, she would have known it wouldn't be long before her colleagues came out of the media cover and joined in the undermining.

This is a demoralising situation for any political leader - which, of course, King has been as she basically baby-sat Little through his neophyte days in the leadership and exerted discipline on a fractious caucus.

Like John Key, she wasn't going to wait around for the inevitable coup.

But her skills are not easily replicated.

Ardern should ask to be blooded with some tough portfolios so she can be taken seriously as a leader in waiting, rather than a political celebrity,

It's notable that in her Herald Focus interview yesterday, she engaged her interviewer with ease.

But to be brutally frank, portfolios like Children and Small Business carry little political risk, though they do provide plenty of photo opportunities.

It is easy to engage when you do not have to confront major political issues.

The portfolios that King held in Cabinet: Employment, Immigration, Health and Transport, Justice and Police, were weighty and testing.

It is true that Ardern also holds Justice.

But if Little wants to make real headway - and also Ardern - she should take on weightier responsibilities.

That might risk turning off other ambitious Auckland colleagues who may have wanted a say in the leadership but instead fell under the caucus whip which King herself helped to create.

But it can't be good for Ardern to be seen as expecting a ride into the leadership - and potentially the prime ministership - without doing some hard yards.

In the fatuous reporting of Ardern's Mt Albert victory, it is relevant to point out that she won 10,000 votes, half what her predecessor David Shearer scored in 2014 and against no opposition.

She was basically gifted the seat.

And in truth, Ardern was a two-time loser when she faced real competition in the Auckland Central electorate and failed to defeat the wonkish National MP Nikki Kaye in both the 2011 and 2014 elections.

From a business perspective, King's demise is salient.

She may be tribal Labour but she is not from the Left-leaning part of the spectrum.

King was a Rogernome during the David Lange Government when Sir Roger Douglas had to deal with a major economic crisis.

King identified with the mission.

She entered Cabinet in the fag end of the fourth Labour Government and when tossed out in the 1990 election, went onto serve as CEO of the Palmerston North Enterprise Board for three years.

The point of traversing this is that with King's departure, Labour loses another real-world caucus member.

MPs with business experience such as David Parker are now in a minority.

MPs like Stuart Nash and Kelvin Davis have been bullied into silence.

There will be only three former Cabinet ministers left in the Labour caucus at election time: Parker, Ruth Dyson and Trevor Mallard.

And there are none in the Greens caucus.

This is where Little has been short-sighted.

Institutional experience counts when it comes to running a decent Government - just ask Donald Trump, who is still struggling to get his Administration in place.

Trump has made all sorts of pratfalls since his inauguration, many of them due to his inexperienced executive office. But his Cabinet nominees are not show ponies.

It would have made sense to have retained some credible former ministers in Parliament so (if Labour does get to form a Government) they could add weight around the Cabinet table and show the ropes while others are blooded.

King's talents will be recognised.

If not by Labour, then by National if Bill English gets to form the next Government.

It was National which appointed Michael Cullen to chair prime SOEs and also shoehorned former Labour leadership aspirant Shane Jones into an ambassadorship.

It's not difficult to see King in a similar role.