Last week I wrote that Andrew Little’s decision to make public that he had thought about resigning was catastrophic for Labour as it showed weakness, which is something voters do not want to see in a future leader, the day after I wrote that piece Andrew Little resigned and Jacinda Adern took over as leader of the NZ Labour Party.
I think it is fairly obvious that if Little had stayed leader catastrophe awaited Labour at the upcoming election, however with Adern at the helm we might be up for a more interesting run.
As embarrassing as Labour’s poll results have been over the last few weeks, hovering around the mid 20s, there was still a mathematical chance that they could join forces with NZ First and the Greens to form a government. This means if under Adern’s leadership if Labour can achieve a small bump in the polls the chances are greater still that a left wing bloc, Labour led government could be a reality in the upcoming election.
If we have learned nothing else from the recent US election, we should now know that the media can play a significant part in helping put politicians names into the heads of voters leading up to the elections. Whilst not the sole reason for his election, it cannot be questioned that the free $5 billion dollars of media exposure given to Donald Trump helped to get him into the Whitehouse. Whilst the US numbers are unfathomable to a NZ audience, the principle is the same.
Here is Stuff’s front page two days after Adern took the leadership. On that front page there are 9 mentions of her name and stories related to her. Bill English, our Prime Minister, is not to be seen anywhere and whilst the immensity of her coverage has declined, I still would suggest that there are many more ‘Jacinda Adern’ stories hitting our headlines currently that any other party or politician. This is nothing but good news for Labour.
So the question is can her new leadership give Labour that bump, can they hold that bump, and what does it mean for the Greens?
Long story short it is bad news for the Greens, because there is a sector of the voting public that saw no vision and leadership in the raft of dowdy, white, middle class men that Labour had tried since Helen Clark left office who have moved to the Greens. Some of these people will now see youth(ish), vitality and energy in Adern and come back. National had John Key who people ‘wanted to have a beer with‘ and on many levels Jacinda Adern has a similar vibe, she’s fun and friendly and has a good sense of humour and people will be drawn to her. She, along with Simon Bridges, were my political panel for a year in 2012 for a radio show I was doing and I can attest to her skills as being likeable and engaging. I already hear many of you sighing and saying that those are not reasons to vote for someone…and I actually agree…but it would seem that the population en masse will look at someone and some will make a decision based on who the person is, rather than the policies they stand for. Adern has this advantage over Bill English in spades. I have always been of the belief that we tend to vote for the leader…not the party. People voted for John Key more so than for the National Party…people will want to vote for Jacinda Adern irrelevant of the party she belongs to.
So will Labour see a bump. The answer is ‘Yes’
Voters get energised by a party who has disappointed for a long time making a dramatic changes that resonate with those voters. The last time we saw this was probably in 2004 when Don Brash made his now infamous ‘Orewa Speech’. National was languishing in the polls in the mid to high 20s. Brash made the speech, which resonated with the National voter, and within two weeks they were in the mid 40s, ten points clear of Labour. Yes they went on to lose that election, but if that bump had of happened 6 weeks out from the 2005 election rather than 20 months out there may have been a very different result. The change by Labour is not policy, it’s personnel, but the effect will be the same, it is dramatic and has shaken up this cycle significantly…”this is not the way politics is supposed to be done, changing a leader 7 weeks out from an election is madness!” Labour will see a bump from this change, and with only six weeks to go the question is will that bump be enough to change the polls significantly, will it be enough to offset any potential Green demise, and if so will it carry them to the election? I think the bump will definately be significant so the remaining question is will it carry Labour through only time will tell.
Jacinda Adern has re-energised this election cycle. For many political tragics like me who love to keep their eye on the American debacle and have largely been ignoring what’s happening in NZ this year, and now tuned in…as is the rest of the country.