Brian Edwards Media

Can Andrew Little win next year’s election for Labour? A reluctant assessment.

Andrew Little

If you type ‘Andrew Little’ into the Search box on this site you’ll find several posts in which the current Leader of the Opposition’s name appears. If you take the trouble to read them all – personally I don’t recommend it – you’ll discover that Brian Edwards thinks that Andrew Little doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever becoming Prime Minister of Godzone and that,”maybe, just maybe, Andrew Little is a man for the time.”

Hold on, both of those statements can’t be true, can they? Oh yes they can! And if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll try to explain.  See, I think this Andrew Little is a pretty good guy. Here’s what I said about him just after I’d come to that conclusion: “Whether being good and looking good, whether being yourself and acting yourself are entirely compatible is not something I want to canvass here. But I do know that if you don’t ‘come across’ on television and radio your chances of political success are greatly and quite possibly fatally reduced. Which brings us to Andrew Little. I thought his reply when questioned about why he had won the Labour leadership that ‘it must have been my bubbly personality’ was great. But the irony behind that answer was also a clear indication of his awareness that he doesn’t meet the ‘performance requirements’  that commentators like myself regard as essential in the aspiring political leader. Indeed, in a previous post I wrote him off as ‘a grim-faced, former union leader with little chance of ever becoming Prime Minister’. When his supporters subsequently spoke of his having ‘a dry wit’, I said I was more inclined to regard it as ‘arid’.  So his ‘bubbly personality’ response was encouraging.”

I’m no longer encouraged. After 18 months in the job, the Leader of the Opposition still looks dreadful on television and sounds dreadful on radio. His ‘bubbly personality’  joke has descended from irony to farce. In a recent interview – I think it was on Q+A – he said y’know so many times that I eventually gave up counting. He talks to his interviewers but doesn’t engage with them on a personal plane. He looks and sounds like the caricature of an old-style British trade unionist. His personal ratings reflect all of this. That, sadly, is a losing formula for any aspiring Prime Minister. Pity!

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  1. the main ‘pity’ of all this is that I know lots of people who (in some cases are Labourites) are crying out for a viable alternative to vote for but they see nothing….if only Labour could start to understand the tsunami of change a.k.a the modern world then maybe they could find someone who could lead the alternative charge…but there isn’t anyone…and so a lot of voters are stuck with ‘better the devil you know than the one you don’t ‘syndrome…and either don’t vote or sigh and tick National….the global trend is becoming anti-establishment v establishment which is not what Labour v Tories represent..personally, I think Labour is done as a political concept…

  2. he clearly needs media training!Can you recommend anyone…Brian?

  3. “he said y’know so many times that I eventually gave up counting”. This kind of overly casual speech pattern seems to be an endemic problem in New Zealand – to the point where people in the public eye who regularly speak to the public often come across sounding like they have trouble stringing a sentence together. You would think this would be less of a problem with intelligent people but it isn’t really. I’m inclined to think it’s a problem with our education system but it never gets “trained out” of people in positions where speaking is an important part of their job. As a New Zealander it makes me quite self-concious about the way I speak.

    • Among the worst examples of unpleasant speech are most of the presenters on New Zealand television, particularly, if not exclusively, the women whose grating nasality makes what they have to say almost unlistenable. Sadly this is rapidly becoming the norm.

    • Actually, there’s evidence that saying ‘um’ and ‘ah’ (and variants thereof) a lot while speaking is a sign of intelligence – it shows you’re thinking about what you’re saying.

  4. I think that you may have overlooked something here Brian.

    Andrew Little’s speech to the Green Party Conference.

    Which was a speech for our time

    Quite probably the best political speech of the year so far.

    If Little keeps this up the public will see beyond his trade union past and realise that this is a leader who can see the bigger picture.

    • Alas, speeches to supporters’ conferences don’t generally win elections.

    • Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that speech. Sorry, no lasting impressions on me.However he did get what was probably a pre arranged standing ovation from the packed room of 10 Labour MP’s and 50 green Party supporters.

  5. I fully endorse Rob’s comments. The Labour weakness is however making Key and the National Govt smug beyond the strength of my stomach. Brexit and the popularity of Trump signify, to me, that ‘the people’ throughout the western world are done with politics big time and any ‘anti establishment’ rallying cry brings out the disaffected in an alarming way. I believe we are in for major ructions as capitalism and neo-liberalism are exposed to the scrutiny.

  6. Andrew Little would make a very capable and appropriate Deputy Prime Minister.

  7. Intelligence, sincerity, compassion, a sense of fair play: he’s got them all which is more than can be said of you know who.
    What he doesn’t have are showmanship, blokeyness, a way of conning people and sarcastic ripostes to deflect criticism which, unfortunately, are what are needed to be elected these days.
    O tempora, o mores.

    My browser has just underlined “blokeyness” in red; it suggests, “bloodlessness”. It’s smarter than I thought.

    • I don’t necessarily disagree with what you say, John. But it would be naive that to believe presentation and image, how you come across, are irrelevant to political success. ‘O tempora, O mores’ asylum say.

  8. Hi Brian

    . It is ironic you handsome beast, that John Key a liar, is up against Andrew Little.

    A totally opposite Honest, Plain and Trustworthy man.

    A camera man that wanted to and who was permitted to(unlikely) would find the pleasing features of this straight, good man.

    Best Wishes

    • @BeeJay – I take it you’re having a laugh there?

      Otherwise that is utter nonsense – Little is one of the most devious and underhand politicians in NZ.

      Something that sums him up perfectly was his reaction to a Christmas function he was invited to in Wellington in recent times where he walked out of the elevators and saw that people had their children there and said “There are children here? Yuck”.

      Yet, a week later he was at it pretending to engage with children at a Christmas event.

  9. I dont mind if Andrew Little doesnt become PM.What I do mind is our country being dismantled by the existing Government.Greens or Labour I just need relief from the current cronies.

    • pjr, are you stark raving mad?, New Zealand would be in a state of constant fear if the Labour/ Greens ever secure government bench’s.
      Many people would die of insomnia and worry.

      • “Many people would die of insomnia and worry”.

        One way to get shot of the 47%.


          Damn! I was going to say that.


          kat, never thought of that, could be a very good idea, needs some more thought.
          I have now given it due consideration,
          I urge people to vote for the Labour Green parties.

  10. “So, at the end of the day, y’know the mum and dad voters aren’t interested.” Typical John Key talk.

    May I also take this opportunity to point out to all the woman in politics that the plural of woman is not actually woman but ‘women’, pronounced ‘wimen’. It is bad enough coming from a man – but woman really should know better!

    Oh, and I think Andrew Little could get there!

    • Well said about the wimen, John. Now, if we could only get the Great Unwashed to pronounce the contraction “they’re” as “they’re”, as opposed to the common “there”, life will have improved immeasurably.

  11. Tempting to agree. But then, Helen never really had what you’d call an engaging personality either.

    Funny hair. Grim smile. Tendency to explain, rather than discuss. All very Andrew. And politically the two are not far apart, either.

    She was elected because she represented change. Which – in part – was because she’s a woman.

    Plausible scenario: National wins the government benches, Jacinda wins the Labour Party. That could work.

    • Jacinda doesn’t have the intelligence or experience to win votes – listening to her in interviews is a nightmare – very few people would get fooled by that – maybe 18 year old boys and champagne socialist housewives who normally vote left anyway.

  12. We are in too much of a mess to dalliance with “bubbly” personas and clowns. The country needs an honest straight talking PM that has some vision and delivers for everyone.

    Take a look at a few old newsreels of Michael Joseph Savage, looking the picture of an old trade unionist and speaking in that squeaky monotone. “Our mission is to build not to destroy the social structure……”

    Thats what we need now.

  13. Haven’t we had enough of glib show ponies yet?

    Haven’t we learned our lesson?

    Are journalists subtly expressing the idea that only TV presenters are fit to lead countries, because they look good and can speak with conviction?

    When will we decide that’s what’s between the ears – a beating brain rather than a cash register or cotton wool – is more important than a beaming grin?

  14. Took the time in view of recent British shenanigans to look at the various politicians on Youtube. Was stunned at how articulate Cameron, Johnson, Grove et al are compared to us. They might be toffs but boy they talk well. Almost grew a chip on my shoulder just listening to them. Not being tribal BTW am sure its the same with the Labour ones.

  15. Cameron, Johnson & Gove deliver to the Brit class based sensibility which expect leaders who by and large are chosen from the Eton common Room. A deep well of patronising optimism and sense of entitlement are trained into them. We get a leader who is articulate only in market speak and barely interested in social issues which tells a lot about our priorities as a nation.

  16. The bad news for Labour, is that Little – with his trade union mindset – isn’t going anywhere fast; the good news is, the caucus gets another go at trotting out another leader who will eventually join the Labour Leadership ranks of abysmal no-hopers.

  17. The problem for me is that National are too central for Labour to gain traction. I can’t see Little as a political force anyway, because force is something he hasn’t, and unlike a few posters here, I can’t credit the man as possessing a great intellect, either. Thus he IS unelectable in my view….and being smug, quippy and smiley isn’t enough for me to take the reins off the bloke who, it must be said, has done a reasonable job, and to give control of our prized islands to a rank novice who only got his position because he wasn’t as awful as everyone else who put their hand up.

  18. Wrong frame. Defeating National next year isn’t contingent on the electability of Andrew, because that presumes the old binary flip/flop frame still applies. Political alignment nowadays creates a triadic structure of the body politic in all western countries.

    This has been obvious since Reagan got elected president with 28% of the vote, so the reason the left stick with the antique binary frame of people vs ruling class is a pathological aversion to learning from experience.

    When I gave up puzzling why the New Left was devoid of content in 1971, I decided both establishment political wings were part of the problem, so the only viable path to a better future was to self-identify as a centrist. The practical value of this stance is that one may then agree with both left & right on particular policies & issues, while similarly rejecting leftist and rightist behaviour that is clearly inconsistent with the common good. Currently the proportion of the electorate with this view is about a third in most western countries – roughly equal to the left & right.

    Doesn’t matter, then, if National is “too central for Labour to gain traction”. All that is required to defeat the Nats is for Labour to stop merely preaching to the converted, and accept that the power to determine the outcome lies in the political center. Does Andrew have the nous? Seems not, otherwise he would address the self-employed and small business folk in his speeches in terms that demonstrate he has sufficient empathy with their situation to represent their interests. His unionist posture will ensure defeat.

    Does he have advisors able to grasp that a common-interest center-left political platform is the only way that Labour work with the Greens and NZ First? Unlikely. Leftist sectarianism is a deeply-rooted pathology.

    Aotearoa requires the left to transcend this, front with politicos who can see the big picture, and deploy those with sufficient intellectual capacity to devise a plan for government that will win centrist collaboration. Such a constructive move, combined with Key unable to accept that the housing market is trending to prevent his seemingly inevitable 4th term, is a feasible recipe for a change of government next year.