It has a name already: The “Jacinda effect”

Barely 48 hours ago Jacinda Ardern told RNZ that talk of her becoming Labour’s deputy leader was a “distraction”.

That job, she said, was just “not an issue”. Her leader Andrew Little was even stronger, saying repeatedly “there is no vacancy” and “don’t expect any change”.

Jacinda Ardern and Andrew LittlePerhaps the biggest risk to Labour is how the ‘Ardern glow’ bounces off her leader, Andrew Little. Photo: RNZ / Brad White
Of course, saying “there’s no vacancy” left the door open for Ardern should Annette King choose to step aside. And today she’s done just that.

King has given way to the overwhelming logic of generational change within Labour and Ardern will, I expect, walk into the deputy shoes even more seamlessly than Bill English walked into John Key’s.

It’s a move that’s both full of promise and risk for Labour. First, the promise.

Ardern is Labour’s most attractive face.

Author Tim Watkin then goes all awkward in a long paragraph trying to pretend he doesn’t mean she’s pretty… like… physically, but… you know… he doesn’t want a Twitter backlash. ?He continues ?

She has a personal brand that no other Labour MP has; not even her leader. She has those two most valuable, (almost) untrainable political virtues – likeability and authenticity.

That’s brought rare political currency. The evidence? The power of the first name. Only a handful of politicians get first-name cut-through in the minds of voters. Big Norm, Rob, Ruth, Winston… Say Jacinda and most voters will know who you mean.

That’s why her rise to the deputy’s job has seemed so compelling, especially now she has a safe electorate seat under her belt in Mt Albert and a commanding majority.

Ardern looks like a winner, and that’s a look Labour desperately needs. What’s more, she’s a 36-year-old replacing a 69-year-old, which can only help appeal to younger voters.

While it remains to be seen if she hits the political target, she is one of the few potential vote-changing weapons Labour has left in its arsenal. After two years of failing to budge the polls, this is a move Labour simply had to make.

As I said two days ago: ?If Jacinda is the answer, the question must have been pretty bad. ? And yet I was pushing for her elevation to deputy as well, and for the same reason.

The Nasty Party has only one weapon left.

Comments about Jacinda Ardern’s looks are frustrating and bring on questions about her ‘political credibility’. Photo / Brett Phibbs via NZ Herald