Patrick Gower: Jacinda's on fire, National should be frightened

OPINION: Powerful, composed, eloquent - and actually quite funny.

Those are the words that sum up Jacinda Ardern's first press conference as Labour leader.

And the word that must sum up National's feelings right now - frightened.

The press conference showed many things - first and foremost, that Ardern brings energy.

She looks and acts like a leader.

She has presence.

She isn't anxious - she looks in control.

She doesn't look reluctant - she looks ready.

And importantly, Jacinda Ardern has got that valuable political ingredient - vibe. She has got serious vibe.

One of her weaknesses was supposedly that "she doesn't want it". Well, she has got it now - and looks like she really wants it.

If National aren't scared now - they should be.

Because if anyone can cause a political "youthquake", it's Jacinda.

Jacinda Ardern spoke for the first time as Labour leader on Tuesday afternoon.
Jacinda Ardern spoke for the first time as Labour leader on Tuesday afternoon. Photo credit: Getty

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll was disastrous for Labour - but it was also bad for National, who cannot get a Government together without Winston Peters. Fifty-two percent of the vote in the poll is going to 'change the Government' parties.

The change vote is there. Now there is Ardern - a fresh, 37-year-old woman running the show to chase it.

She is up against Bill English - who has spent the last 28 years in Parliament.

English is running a third-term Government and looking to set up a coalition with Peters, who got into Parliament in 1978 - that's two years before Ardern was born.

National will try and turn it into a campaign about stability versus inexperience, but Ardern could just as easily turn this into a campaign about fresh versus stale.

She may have weaknesses around the economy - but there are less than eight weeks to go. It will be hard to expose her. National will have to be very careful about the way they criticise her for fear of a backlash.

And Ardern will be out where she is best - on the campaign trail with the people and the cameras.

Politics in New Zealand is changing - and Jacinda Ardern can really turn the dial.

It might work, it might not - but the Jacinda experiment is a risk worth taking.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's political editor.