Patrick Gower: National's attacks on Jacinda Ardern look desperate

OPINION: The way National has revved up its attack machine to take on Jacinda Ardern shows just how worried they are.

But what should be more worrying for National is that the attacks are backfiring and may be empowering Brand Ardern rather than weakening it.

First, Nikki Kaye had a go in Parliament saying Ardern was all show and no substance.

Then Paula Bennett tried to double-team Ardern on the AM Show this morning by saying she was "condescending" in her response to Kaye's condescending attacks - which only served to make Bennett look condescending.

It is all a tactic of course. It shows us National is worried about Jacinda. And it makes them look more than a little desperate.

I've been around Parliament for a while and the "attack" by Kaye on Ardern wasn't really up to much in my view - Labour called John Key out in a similar way for years for being all photo ops and no substance.

But it was the way Ardern's supporters leapt to her defence which shows she potentially has that untouchable aura that National should recognise all too well - because John Key had the very same thing.

People love Jacinda. National can't understand it, but they do. People loved John Key. Labour couldn't understand it - but they did.

For years Labour and the left attacked John Key and it only made him stronger.

Now National faces the danger that its attacks on Ardern will only make her stronger.

It may just be that Brand Jacinda is the same as Brand Key - no wonder National is so panicked.

I can see what National was trying to do - get Ardern's equal, Kaye, to lead the attack.

National wants to seed its attack line with the public that Ardern "has never done anything", which is well known in the political world but not so much in the real world.

National's plan would have included leaving its bovver boys on the sidelines so they don't look like bullies - but you just know that Gerry Brownlee and company would have been cheering Kaye on privately.

It is all routine attack politics but it may well be failing. It has let Ardern grab the moral high ground which fits with her brand of a "new style of politics".

National's thesis that Ardern is all show may be true, it may not. But National is going to have trouble proving it this year, as the deputy Labour leader's role is not like a Minister's - Ardern will not be exposed to pressure.

We will discover in the coming weeks and months just how popular Ardern is and how powerful Brand Jacinda can become.

For now it may be that National needs to rethink its attacks for fear of looking desperate.

And National can also be thankful and remind itself that Ardern is not the leader - Andrew Little is.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's political editor.