Opinion: Little to reject Jacinda as Labour deputy?

Andrew Little and Jacinda Ardern at the Silver Scroll Awards in Auckland (Twitter/Jacinda Ardern)
Andrew Little and Jacinda Ardern at the Silver Scroll Awards in Auckland (Twitter/Jacinda Ardern)

Many will think rejecting Jacinda Ardern as Labour's deputy leader is nuts, but Andrew Little is prepared to do it.

Promoting Ardern to deputy seems like such a no-brainer. She is young, popular and represents Labour's future.

I said so myself this week.

But the word I'm getting from inside Labour is that Little may be leaning towards keeping Annette King on in the deputy's role when it comes free in November's reshuffle.

That's because King is doing such a damn good job.

As Little's lieutenant, I'm told she has played a crucial role in bringing stability to Labour's Caucus which looks more stable than it ever has in my time here in Parliament.

King has a unique skillset in that she is an unusual cross between a mafioso boss and your favourite auntie and you never quite know what one you've dealt with until after she's finished with you.

King is ruthless has done me over real good a few times (including revealing off-the-record comments about my peach pyjamas on television) but for some reason I go back for more - it is no surprise she used to be dental nurse.

She has clearly used these skills to help settle Labour's internecine warfare and been invaluable to Little who was a real "man alone" when it came to Labour's complicated factions.

And in my interview with Little on The Nation he made the point that stability was what voters were saying they really wanted to see from Labour before they started listening.

In saying all that, I think Jacinda would be an awesome deputy too. She is becoming a real force, even ranking at 3.5 percent as preferred Prime Minister on the latest 3 News-Reid Research poll.

I think the trash-talking about her is way out of line and just shows there's plenty on the left and the right who see her as a threat. The reality is Ardern is very authentic and people connect with that.

Little could embrace the "Ardern factor" and use it to turbo-charge his own popularity, particularly in Auckland where he is incredibly weak and Ardern is incredibly strong.

Little is from the Island Bay leftie tribe whose idea of a good time is chucking some pork and sage sausages on a Weber barbecue and washing it down with a craft beer while sheltering from the southerly.

Little needs to get out more in Auckland, and tag-along with Ardern at the Silver Scrolls and stuff like that, although I think he should stop short of wearing New Balance running shoes that you can't actually run in.

Andrew Little and Jacinda Ardern at the Silver Scroll Awards in Auckland last week (Twitter/@jacindaardern)

Deploying Ardern as deputy would help Little show the public there is more to him than union meetings and the Island Bay Butchery.

So Little has a hell of a decision on his hands: Jacinda or Annette?

It is a classic new guard versus old guard decision.

If he chooses Jacinda, it will show he wants a fresh face for the future and is confident enough in himself that he is prepared to promote a highly popular rival.

If he chooses Annette, it will show his is prepared to stare down the sizeable support crew of Jacinda and stick with the stabilising force of King even though she dates back to Rogernomics.

King's weakness is essentially that she represents not just the old guard - but the older old guard.

The latest 3 News-Reid Research poll shows 33 percent of people want Ardern as deputy, and 25 percent want King. Out of Labour voters, 34 percent want Ardern and 28 percent want King.

This is interesting because it shows King has a substantial public following too.

Both Ardern and King are political forces to be reckoned with within Labour.

It is a healthy dilemma for Little have - I just wouldn't want to be in his shoes if he has to say no to Annette King!

3 News