7 weeks out from election, NZ Labour changes leader

By Leith van Onselen

With the General Election scheduled for 23 September, the opposition Labour Party has done the unthinkable and replaced its leader. Interest.co.nz has documented this morning’s mayhem:

8am: Good morning. Labour Party leader Andrew Little will face his caucus just after 10am on the third floor of Parliament Buildings. Little cancelled all media appearances Tuesday morning. Newshub has reported Little will face a vote of no confidence during caucus. If any new leadership emerges, Fairfax was told Jacinda Ardern as leader and Kelvin Davis as deputy is the most likely ticket.

0820: RNZ’s political editor Jane Patterson reports one of Labour’s more centrist MPs, Stuart Nash, has turned up at Parliament this morning saying he didn’t know what was going on. Stuart Nash was reported as saying yesterday as saying he backed Little 100% – it’s certainly less equivocal now. Paterson said there won’t necessarily be a challenge to Little – that the decision is more likely in his hands on whether to stand down. Housing spokesman Phil Twyford – a dark horse leadership contender if Ardern doesn’t get the job – was a bit less clear, saying he backed the leader of the Labour Party, NZ Herald reports.

0840: RNZ is reporting Andrew Little told one of its Parliamentary reporters at Wellington airport that he was not going to resign as leader at caucus, nor call for a confidence vote in himself. Little did say, though, that he expects the matter of poor polling to come up in caucus.

0925: Ardern, arriving at Parliament, reported as saying Andrew Little has had her full support the entire time. Other MPs making comments like ‘it’ll be an interesting caucus’. Well, they always are after polls like these.

1005: Andrew Little is stepping aside as Leader.

1007: Little believes Jacinda Ardern will be nominated the next leader. He backs her.

1009: Little: “It was my choice. It was my judgement.”

1013: Little says a new leader will be a “fresh face” and a “fresh voice” for the party.

1015: Statement from Little:

Today I have announced that I will step down as leader of the Labour Party…

The Labour team of MPs and staff have worked incredibly hard during my leadership, however recent poll results have been disappointing.

As leader, I must take responsibility for these results. I do take responsibility and believe that Labour must have an opportunity to perform better under new leadership through to the election…

1051: Sounds like it will be Ardern, with a press conference earmarked for midday. At 2pm the new leader will lead Labour into the House for Question Time – Parliamentary business doesn’t stop for leadership changes…

1113: Just in from Labour:

Jacinda Ardern, MP for Mt Albert, has been elected unopposed as the new Leader of the Labour Party.

Kelvin Davis, MP for Te Tai Tokerau, was elected to the position of Deputy Leader, also unopposed…

1137: Prime Minister Bill English has told Newsroom Labour is in disarray, but he has cautioned against complacency among his supporters…

I know nothing about Jacinda Ardern, so can’t comment on her ability. But changing Labour’s leadership seven weeks out from the election is a bad look and seems very risky.

It’s hard to see how voters could take the party seriously and vote them into office.

This is a shame because Labour’s policies around housing are excellent, as is their commitment to moderate New Zealand’s mass immigration intake.

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  1. Any NZ bro’s able to comment?

    She is quite young (and attractive)! May be a boon for nabbing the millennials and bringing some fresh leadership


    Also positive:
    President of the International Union of Socialist Youth.

    Even more impressive:
    Ardern was raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) but left the church in 2005 because it conflicted with her political views.

  2. Little was on the nose. He was Mr 8% in prefer PM stakes. Any change would have to improve that.
    Ardern has only been on the scene for about 6 months. Talk about a fresh face (lots of teeth however).

  3. A wake up call to all those ALP duds that they merely have to fill the political vacuum and blue swaps with red.

    ALP on notice.

  4. What were the polls like?

    edit, found one in PonziFax:

    47% for National and 24% for Labour.

    lol, Kiwis still love self-flagellation!

  5. drsmithyMEMBER

    Has NZ adopted the same “presidential” political marketing that we have in Oz, so that people think (or act as if) they’re voting for an individual to be PM ?

  6. kiwikarynMEMBER

    I think they are resigned to losing the election, the replacement of Little is designed to stem the flow of votes to the Greens Party. Adern stands for much of the same things as the Greens have been campaigning on. If she ends up in Government, it will only be because they do a deal with Winston and NZ First. And who knows, maybe Winnie will be the PM.
    (note: 2 years ago Adern said she didnt want the leadership position because she wanted to start a family, and being Leader of the Party or PM would prevent that. She is 37 years old now, time is ticking. Someone should tell her she cant really have it all)

  7. My sense is Adern will be the next New Zealand Prime Minister …

    Audrey Young: English v Ardern will electrify campaign – NZ Herald


    Jacinda Ardern has what the billboard promises: a fresh approach.

    She also has what they don’t promise – magnetism.

    When people turn on their screens to watch Bill English debate the Labour leader over the next two months, they will turn up the sound.

    Bill English vs Andrew Little was a turn-off and a gift for the likes of Winston Peters and Metiria Turei who can drum a headline with a new bottom line. … read more via hyperlink above …

  8. I think that voters will move toward NZ First (Winstern Peters) and the Greens because they will see labor as unstable and their new leaders as an unknown. I think NZ Firsts plan was to steel votes from Labor then close to election time target National.