It's his party now
By Richard Harman (author)
Just consider the basic facts.
Labour has just changed part of its leadership team without any internal acrimony and with what looks like being a unanimous decision when it is put to their caucus next week.
This is a measure of how much Andrew Little has been able to impose order and discipline on his party.
Labour has become his party.
The only wrinkle in the decision of Annette King to resign and then Andrew Little nominating Jacinda Ardern to replace her was that Little was left endorsing King in her role as late as Monday.
Partly that was because no-one seemed quite to know what King was doing.
She was obviously not in touch with Little himself, and he was being careful not to be being seen to undermine her in public.
She had got fed up with media queries as to whether she would resign almost from the moment Ardern was declared the Mt Albert winner and thus responded to those questions saying they were “ageist”.
“All this hype about whether I would stand down, and Andrew was saying there was no vacancy. Well that’s true,” she told POLITIK.
“It was always my decision.
“There was no vacancy until I decided I would stand down or the caucus kicked me out.
“And there was no move in the caucus to get rid of me.”
Thus she replied to questions about whether she would stand down by saying nothing had changed.
King is something of an icon within Labour; acceptable across all the factions and is seen as someone who lives and breathes the party.
But she says that she had begun to think about retiring altogether once Paul Eagle was confirmed as her successor in the Rongotai electorate a fortnight ago.
She had apparently floated the idea with some of her staff but not in any definitive way.
Ironically she has been close to Ardern, acting as something of a mentor to her since before she even came into Parliament.
“I’ve been her mentor and friend since before she got into Parliament and we talk regularly.
“I think the crunch point came was for her to win a base.
“I’ve had a permanent electorate base all my life, and it gives you a sense of security and a sense of belonging and she’s got that.
“She is just going to go from strength to strength.”
And while everyone in Labour's hierarchy both in the Caucus and party has been careful to say that this was King's decision to make; it will come as a relief to many because it now means the party has someone from Auckland in its top three.
Labour believes Auckland is the key to the election and is buoyed now by relatively strong showings in the local body elections and the Mt Roskill and Mt Albert by-elections.
But there was also something symbolic about the King resignation; she is the last of the Clark era of leaders to depart. Michael Cullen, Phil Goff and even David Cunliffe are now gone.
Only Trevor Mallard is left, and he is quarantined as potential Speaker.
One of Labour’s most senior officials said the caucus was now truly the Andrew Little caucus.
While Labour MPs and officials were uniformly positive about King's resignation, there was one slight jarring note in the background, and that was the role played by the media.
There were some people spoken to by POLITIK who felt that had King not resigned, the party would have faced endless media speculation about when Ardern might replace her.
“It was certainly a factor,” said one senior MP.
“But it was not an overpowering factor.”
There are now questions about spokesmanships, and it would be expected that King will shed health in favour of David Clark.
That leaves the Trade and Economic Development portfolios up for grabs.
Logically they should go to David Parker who has held both before. But though he may get trade he may not get both.
But perhaps what stands out most from today is how non-controversial the whole change has been.
It’s a long time since Labour ahs been able to say that about a leadership change.