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Monday, 27 March 2017

Time to put Andrew Little out to pasture

This post is written in response to a question by a commentator on my post Vamos a obtener estadisticas! which contained the suggestion to Labour to roll Andrew Little while they "still had a chance" which I was working on anyway but now with the latest political poll results (very fortuitously) showing Jacinda Ardern more popular than Andrew Little I am finishing this up today.

None the less the questions posed by the commentator were fair questions and deserve a fair answer more than what I could put in a simple reply.

So Toby, thanks for making me think about what I say and justify what I was saying. This one is for you.

So the latest political poll results have dropped and what do my beady eyes spy?

Jacinda Ardern is now more popular than Andrew Little.

Now pause for a moment and let that sink in, let that really sink in. Has it sunk in yet?

Two months ago Jacinda Ardern was polling 1% as preferred PM and now she is the number two choice for the top political job in this country.

She is now 2% more popular than Andrew Little in just two months. What the heck happened?

But this is not really a surprise, to me at least, because with Little's wilting performance in the polls over the last two years and Labours sluggish inability to make any movement in the polls (until now, which seems to me no coincidence) the public have been waiting for something, anything, to come along and change up the dull flaccidity of Labours poll performance.

So when I advised Labour in my recent post to roll Andrew, and said so late last year, and other times last year (even in my very first blog post) I was reflecting the fact that I see a lot of Labours problems in the last two years being down to Andrew Little, not all maybe but a big part of them.

Sure Little was some stability after the ongoing leadership shuffle of Goff, Cunliffe and Shearer  but it was never a comfortable fit and Little never looked comfortable in the role and what followed after his highly contested election was two years of inertia and dismal polling while John Key showed how a popular leader can cover for a party full of misfits and monsters and a government agenda selling the country out left, right and center.

So I have been politely asking that it be "anyone but Little" for 12 months now in the Labour camp but for 24 grinding months no candidate was able to register on the public radar as a replacement for Captain Mediocrity; until now.

And now we have that candidate in the rapidly rising star of Jacinda Ardern.

Now the questioned posed to me by Toby were as follows:

1) Who will replace him (Andrew)?
2) What will they do different?
3) How would the public respond?

So to answer 1) we already have that potential new leader, newly minted as deputy and for 3) we also have that response but for 2) the answer still lingers.

But I am being slightly facetious here as Jacinda has not replaced Andrew yet and there is no clear dynamic for Andrew to be replaced also Jacinda has famously said she does not have that ambition and is just happy to be there, yeah right!

Also unless Andrew decided to go quietly the public will probably not want to see the disgusting shenanigans of a bloody power grab six months out from a general election or the hysterical schism such a thing would create in the party, as the champagne socialists face off against the rabid unionists on the rapidly tilting rear deck of the bad ship Labour, as it sinks beneath the waves.

It would be in effect be handing National the election and turning a potential change of government into another three years of National.

Also the full public response is not encapsulated in one 9% polling but the rapid shift over two months from 1% to 9% does show how easy it is to get the public excited about the idea of change in Labours Leadership, it shows that even the hint of someone else, anyone else (perhaps even someone who reminds voters of the last female Labour leader) is more than enough to send their polling shooting skyward.

But lets focus on 2) for a moment, what would Jacinda, or any new Labour leader six months out from an election, do differently?

Well for a start she might not have to do anything different if her own popularity does actually translate into comparable popularity in the party polls and we don't have have any correlation between Jacindas rise and Labours 2%-3% recent rise in the polls at this time but if there was anything that John Key showed kiwi Pol Sci students and journalists was that a popular leader can pump up a party's popularity no matter how cruddy the party is (Bill English are you listening?).

Then again if Jacinda was to ascend to the throne in some sort of bloodless coup who knows what she might do or what currently dormant policies and plans Labour has hidden away that may be released from bondage.

The answer to that question is not really answerable until she does it but if there was anything which has stood out about Jacinda was her attempts to build solid bridges with both The Greens and TOP in the recent by-election which did seem by warm and fuzzy but compared to Andrew Little's recent moments with Willie Jackson and the ensuing fallout from that strikes me as a very different approach to anything Little would do.

So at this time there is lots of potential but it will not happen unless Andrew Little realizes that he could lead Labour into the coming election and even win it but nothing but a clear and absolute victory in September is going to remove the nagging doubts about him and in a hung or tight parliament such a weak leader would be helpless to fight off any pretenders that decided to make their moves.

Imagine, Labour wins the election by one or two seats and finds itself with the supply and confidence agreement from hell as its either NZ First and Winston's septuagenarian ego on its last glory ride or a newly enfranchised Maori party willing to drive all manner of devils bargains on Labour.

Its not quite the nightmare scenario but its close and chaos that would follow, as all the spirits of 96 rise up and start haunting the Beehive, would probably lead to a hung parliament, a snap election or worse as one of the support parties gets in a huff, takes their toys and goes over to play with National.

So Little has to go BUT it has to be bloodless. Little has to see this as inevitable, and with his deputy more popular than him, he might even be doing that, specially if these number keep on as they are or even worse hers go up and his go down.

But politics is not the domain of the rational, and fragile and inflated egos always come into it.

Also political popularity polls are the purest form of public endorsement outside of an actual election so Little has to not only notice these but also acknowledge them.

What he, or his ego, might not acknowledge, is the good of the party over the good of himself and if that happens it will be the slow, painful and inevitable rise of tension as the election approaches and the leader of the opposition is less popular than his deputy, and how will that look come the leadership debates?

Such a situation would be handing all other parties a club to beat both Labour and Andrew Little with while doing nothing but sharpen the hunger of Jacinda and the disaffected grumblers in the ranks.

Then when Labour looses a close election, a legion of fingers will be pointed at Andrew Little and the "what could have been's" will start and Andrew Little's political career will be as good as dead (if it is not already).

So we can be humane about this and leave the gate open and hope he will wander off himself to that great back paddock in the sky or we will have to be strong about things and take him out behind the milk-shed.

The matter is, in essence, that party leadership (or the leader) can and does have an effect of the fortunes of the party itself and if there is disconnect it can effect both, as Andrew Little and Labour have found out.

Of course I fully admit that if Jacinda was to somehow ascend, bloodlessly to the throne she could turn out to be a non starter and Labour could still get beaten like a gong in the election due to a resurgent National, Jacinda just not having enough mojo to make it over the distance or the complexities of coalition politics coming to the fore and swamping Labours electoral hopes and dreams in one big wave of disappointment.

Also, I am sure that there are other in Labour who would love to see Little out and themselves running the show so just because its Jacinda now it might not be later, but that's for another post.

I don't expect a lot of people will be ready to agree with me but I believe that my political neutrality (if you consider the view that all politicians are equally untrustworthy scum as "neutral") helps me see this for what it really is (and has done for over a year). Nonetheless, those who wish to say I am wrong (and who knows they may be right), feel free to say so in the comments.


  1. Thanks for permission to tell you you're wrong! Shall I presume in future posts that, without such permission being explicitly, given, telling you you're wrong is forbidden?

    Anyway, you're wrong. One poll is hardly evidence of some massive popularity of Arden, especially when neither leader polls more than 10%.

    You admit you have no idea what, if anything, Arden would do differently, which is barely a compelling case. The only attempt you make at substance is the idea she could reach out to TOP and the Greens. The idea that TOP has any political weight remains massively unproven - the party has made absolutely zero electoral impression. The idea of a closer relationship between Labour and the Greens leading to increased support for Labour is a popular one among left-of-Labour types, but it's just wishful thinking - former Key voters are not staying away from Labour because they think Labour isn't close enough to the Greens, after all.

    Still, I admit, "Replace Little with Arden because ?" is slightly more substantive than "Replace Little with ? because ?". So, well done. After a year's work honing your arguments they've gone from 100% insubstantial to only 50% insubstantial. Looking forward to 2018!

    Actually, looking forward to 2019 when you're arguing that Labour should chuck Jacinda Arden and replace her with literally anybody else in the hope they'll do some unnamed different thing that magically results in winning elections.

  2. Hi Toby:

    Sorry if it sounded like I was giving you permission, that was not the intent. I enjoy debate but I learnt from my time on KP that some people don't enjoy my opinions so I sometimes like to preface the response in the actual post.

    None the less I do think that a jump from 1% to 9% in two months shows that there is a public appetite for a change in Labours leadership and that Little is just not cutting it.

    If you can explain what it is that is driving Jacinda from 1% to 9% so quick I would like know what it is.

    It could be for inconsequential reasons and she might go back just as quick but still does not explain why she went up and what that sudden and rapid shift was all about and at this time I see it as a good as any indicator of dissatisfaction inside Labour voters with Little.

    Also, as I note in my post, Arden may not have to do anything different to be effective, my issue with Little has not been what he has been doing per se, Labour has kept on doing what it does over the last 12 months but with Little at the head of it it has not resonated well with the public or the polls. You have to admit that.

    I do admit there is little to support the idea that a closer relationship of Labour and the Greens as having resonance in the public but something has to explain Labours recent rise in the polls and the recent timing of several Labour/Greens policy positions may be the cause of that, or it may not.

    I would put one question to you though and ask what you think is to explain for Labours and Little's low polling over the last few years, specially as Little's polling has been distinctly downwards.

    Standing by the captain when the ship is sinking just for the sake of politeness or protocol may be honorable but it wont save the ship.

  3. "If you can explain what it is that is driving Jacinda from 1% to 9% so quick I would like know what it is."

    Statistical noise.

  4. HI Toby:

    OK, so if we take the margin of error at 3.1% out we are still left with 5.9% (lets just say 6%) that has to be accounted for in the popularity rise of Jacinda. Also it worth keeping in mind that a MOR can swing both ways so her popularity could actually be 12%.

    I'm not sure exactly what you mean by statistical noise but lets assume that your referring to some form of error in the polling which has lead to this jump being incorrect.

    Such an error could be the fact that in the polling there were a higher level of Jacinda supporters than in the actual populace (possible but hard to imagine since the polling is random).

    There could also be an actual error in the poll (ie a false number/return etc) but that seems also unlikely given that this is a professional polling company and that no where else on their current poll showed any clear deviation of such kind.

    It could be a random surge in the wake of her recent promotion to deputy leader and that come the next poll her popularity will drop back to 1%; this one is possible but we need to wait and see, but since few other except Bill English have shown such big moves in polling over time (even Little's degradation in popularity has happened over 24 months not just two) but that means that the polling is accurate and what has been picked up is a sudden but short lived spurt in popularity for Jacinda which will drop back as quickly as it came up.

    That could happen but that seems less statistical noise than a genuine surge in popularity and rather a genuine but short lived jump in polling, we still need an explanation for why and even if we take that into account we are still left with Andrew Little on 7% and declining form his personal high 24 months ago.

    So my original follow up question was to explain why Labour and Little were polling so low still and statistical noise needs to be expanded on to hold up otherwise your suggesting that the polls are not valid overall.

  5. I really don't want to have to explain Polling 101 to you.

    But I will say this, if you honestly believe that a single isolated poll showing another Labour politician rising slightly above the leader in "Preferred Prime Minister" polls is grounds to ditch the leader, I don't know what to say to you.

  6. I'm not saying a single isolated poll makes the argument.

    I'm am saying the following:

    - Little's polling has been in decline for his two years as leader
    - Labour has had leadership issues with Little for that two years
    - Labour's polling has been in the dumps for longer than two years
    - No other politician in recent polling (as far as I can think of) has had such a jump in popularity without actually being PM (ie Englishes jump from nothing to 26%)

    Little is a liability as leader, Ardern is at least popular, which as leaders go these days makes the grade (look at Key).

    So that's not taking a single poll out of context, that's watching Little's polling drop poll after poll for two years; that's watching Labour struggle to make any upward polling in those two years and longer; that's seeing another Labour MP make sudden and dramatic traction as soon as she is highlighted as a potential leader and followed by a rise in the party polling.


    Maybe but maybe not but I am gonna take the chance that it is not in this case, its a reflection of a want, a desire for change in the Labour vote pool as well as parts of the party itself.

    So thats not polling 101 but that is politics 101; political parties don't do very well these days with unpopular leaders (democracy or not).

    So I again put it back to you to explain the continual decline of Andrew Little in the polls over his time as leader and why Ardern has shot up because statistical noise or not it does require an explanation.

    My call to ditch Little has been going on for over a year, and its based on a lot of things. This is just the latest in a long list.