Patrick Gower: Ardern could capitalise on the mood for change

OPINION: Jacinda Ardern represents one thing that Bill English and National never can - change.

And if you can harness change, it is one one of the most powerful political weapons there is.

Bill English will go for "strong and stable", casting Ardern as risky.

But the reality is he is also quite boring - and she is exciting.

Yes, she could crash and burn on the campaign trail. But she will also get the most valuable political commodity - a honeymoon with the New Zealand public.

Think about it this way - Jacinda Ardern is 37. She could be Prime Minister of New Zealand in 53 days time.

She's fully aware of the task ahead. "Everyone knows that I've just accepted, with short notice, the worst job in politics," she says.

Ardern represents a new generation, a risk, and she's ready to go. "These are extraordinary circumstances.  I've been asked to take on this challenge and I have accepted."

"Extraordinary circumstances" is right. The day began with Andrew Little facing a vote of no confidence from Labour MPs.

He didn't stand and fight. Labour to his core, he put the party first and fell on his sword.

The repetitive hammer blows of poor poll results broke him. "The story around those polls was building a narrative day after day which has stopped us talking around the things that actually matter."

He was all too aware he wasn't resonating with New Zealanders - a frustration because he loved getting on with Kiwis face-to-face. "I cannot preach to 3 million voters," he said.

That's the pure brutality of politics. It is about winning. He was losing and he had to go. There will be so many regrets. "I've only had good days, don't ruin it," he told media.

Now for a new team:  A female leader with a Māori Deputy - Kelvin Davis. The first Māori deputy leader of the Labour party.

"This team is about to run the campaign of our lives," Jacinda Ardern says.

And the opportunity is there.

Under the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, National was on 45.1 percent. Labour was on 24.1 percent. But if you add in the change-the government parties Green, New Zealand First, and Gareth Morgan's The Opportunites Party - the vote for change is actually 52.1 percent.

The mood for change is strong. "We're not going to come out of this election with 24 percent," Ardern says. "There will nothing blanc-mange about this campaign." That means it won't be beige or insipid... she certainly isn't.

And she can be firey too, asking a reporter "Would you like to tell me why you don't think I can?" The question was about leading a three-way coalition involving the Greens and Winston Peters.

"I used to be the President of an international youth organisation with members from Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, I think we can do this," she said.

And changes to major policies could come: think a capital gains tax, or pushing up the retirement age to 67. Ardern says she wants to take 72 hours to "take stock of where we are".

One of the most significant changes could come in tertiary education. A big policy, that give financial assistance and helps cause a 'youth-quake' turnout of young voters.

"There's no doubt that's a plight I've really heard.  I'm youth adjacent, not quite young myself so those are concerns I've heard."

She now takes the fight to Prime Minister Bill English. Giving him this memo: "Don't be complacent."

The message to National: Jacinda is coming.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's political editor.

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