Herald Editor to Jacinda: Do as Paula Bennett does

The Labour Party must be glad that its MPs – not its entire membership – gets to elect its deputy leader.

The political logic of elevating Jacinda Ardern after her election in Mt Albert last weekend was quickly apparent to her leader and his nomination is likely to be accepted when the caucus meets on Tuesday.

She will face none of the doubts that surrounded Andrew Little when he was chosen by a majority of party members and affiliated unions but not Labour MPs.

Among those who did not vote for Little that day was Ardern, who was running on a ticket with Grant Robertson. Had it been left to the MPs, he would have been leader and Ardern probably deputy leader more than two years ago.

It probably will not matter that Little has been leader for two years and that Ardern and Robertson have been in Parliament for longer than Little. They will be untried candidates for the country’s most powerful positions when we come to the election.

Ardern’s promotion will ask more of her than she has shown the public so far. She will not be elected deputy to be a loyal caucus go-between for the leader.

He will need her out front with him, balancing his image, enlivening his somewhat wooden presentations, using her social skills in situations where she appears more at ease than him.

But she must show she has substance too. That does not mean talking social policy jargon. It means dealing with problems and presenting solutions in the light of real life experience, as National’s deputy Paula Bennett does. Theirs will be an interesting contest.

Paula Bennett has been the Minister of Announcements, so from that point of view, Ardern won’t have to overreach to copy her “success”. ¬† But it is amazing the Herald sees Bennett as a template for Ardern to aim for.

Head to head, it would certainly be good for Jacinda to get some sparring in.  Bennett is a scrapper and Jacinda has yet to show that kind of tenacity.

But it’s probably better if Ardern doesn’t try to stamp her mark on anything this side of the election to ensure the splashback of the next loss will mostly be sheeted home to Little.

She’s just there to…

…smile and wave.

 


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