Mark Sainsbury: Andrew Little was a victim of his honesty

OPINION: So it's bye bye Andrew Little. The former Labour leader's taken the hit, taken the blame for why his party has done so poorly.

And some of that is fair: he never really connected with the electorate, didn't have that x-factor, was imposed on his caucus, and then the greatest of all political crimes: he was too honest.

It seems ridiculous to lose your job because you told the truth. But Andrew Little's fate was sealed on Sunday when he admitted to floating the idea with senior colleagues that he should stand down amidst weak poll results.

Fatal! Weakness!

As I said on RadioLIVE's Morning Talk on Monday, you can't unsay those words and they would have continued to define the campaign. How could we trust the man who questioned his own ability to lead the party, with running the country?

That's the narrative Labour feared. Little compounded it by questioning the legitimacy of a Labour-Greens-NZ First coalition on the basis of those poll numbers, and that alone was career-ending.

So the die was cast and today shouldn't have been a surprise, except it's such a radical step less than two months out from the election.

Remember, this Labour caucus didn't want Little. He was foisted on them as leader under the party rules, which take account of membership voting and the union affiliates, and it was the unions who naturally enough backed him.

He couldn't be replaced under Labour rules except by another vote involving members, MPs and unions unless it happened within two months of the election.

Today's vote got inside that by a week.

So out goes Andrew and in comes the shiny new thing. Jacinda Ardern has consistently professed to have no great enthusiasm for the job. That changed today - she had to stand up or bugger off.

And what will happen to Kelvin Davis? He's standing for a Māori seat and as such is not on the Labour list, such was the policy for all of its Māori seat candidates.

But Labour's constitution specifically says the leader and deputy are number one and two on the list. So will there be one rule for Kelvin another for the other Māori MPs?

And what this will do for Labour? Will it clarify who they are; what they stand for?

Politics in this country has for the last few decades has been all about occupying the middle ground, the centre. Nestle in there and force your opponents either out to the left or the right, but Kiwis are centrists and you hog that ground for yourselves.

I remember David Lange once telling me after they won the 1987 election that Labour was now the party of the centre. So for years parties have gone for the centre to the point you wonder what they do indeed stand for.

I want to see if the new Labour ticket is more than just about appearance. I want to see what it brings to us, the voters, and what it offers that can differentiate it from the Greens or National.

And finally, some thoughts for Andrew Little. The word is he may well have been able to survive but it would still have been death by 1000 cuts and I believe he decided, "stuff this".

The past week would have been bruising, crushing and painful for him and his family especially when you realise that what was part of his undoing was simply stating the truth.

Get out while you still have your soul, Andrew Little.

Mark Sainsbury hosts Morning Talk from 9am-midday on RadioLIVE.

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