The Jacinda effect and why National will be worried

Jacinda Ardern's rise has had a rapid effect on Labour's fortunes.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Jacinda Ardern's rise has had a rapid effect on Labour's fortunes.

OPINION: Is the Jacinda effect worrying National? Hell yeah. One of National's most senior ministers, Gerry Brownlee, had a gift for broadcaster Paddy Gower on the way into question time on Wednesday.

It was an envelope addressed to Gower as the "chief cheerleader" and inside were a cheerleader's pom poms. It was for Gower's coverage of Jacinda Ardern's rise to the Labour leadership.

Every where National looks it's been wall to wall Jacinda. And that will be making them very nervous.

Before Jacinda, the Nats kept telling us they were not taking the election for granted. But in their heart of hearts even they didn't believe that.

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Now everything has changed.

The new Labour leader is causing a huge stir in the media, and on social media as well. The baby controversy - should Ardern have been asked about her plans for children? - has kept the story going.

Ardern has just 50 days to turn around a hopeless position for Labour and give it a fighting chance of forming the next government.

It should be almost impossible but National doesn't have to cast its mind back very far to know that one person can make a dramatic difference in a very short space of time.

In the case of former National leader Don Brash it took only one speech in fact - National shot up about 20 points from an almost terminal position in the polls.

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Brash did it by polarising New Zealand over race relations. If Ardern shoots up the polls in similarly dramatic fashion, it won't be by polarising New Zealand.

But she has the potential to be the lightning rod for a mood for change.

It would be a big ask to oust a successful and popular government, especially when all the economic indicators are pointing in the right direction.

But it will worry National that Ardern has already managed to change the narrative about Labour as a hopeless divided party so quickly.

When National says it's not taking the election for granted, we can believe it now.

 

 - Stuff

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