I have been watching the NZ election campaign closely since 1st August when 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern ascended to Labour party leadership. Today's polls put her party at 43% and National with just 39% the first time National fell below 40 for many years. Ardern is also winning the Prime Minister's preference stakes over Bill English by a whisker but this gap is likely to widen after the third and final leaders' debate. What has caused the change in fortune for Labour? The short answer is leadership.
And leadership means communicating the vision for the country and the ways of achieving that. It is difficult as it is for National without the Jacinda factor attempting to win a fourth term. In NZ history voters' fatigue with the third term government is all too clear to see. But if John Key had remained leader of National no one would doubt National would go on to win an unprecedented fourth term in NZ modern political history. Having watched the first two debates I would pick Jacinda as winner for both debates. She was not convincing at all times but PM Bill English came across as stiff and impersonal despite the forced smiles throughout. I suppose leadership charisma is something given not learned one either has it or not have it. Richard Prebble a former heavyweight politician rightly noted how inexperienced Jacinda is who "never held a real job with no real life experience". I think the only thing note for Ardern was working as a policy analyst in the British cabinet but that would not have counted for much for the post of Prime Minister. However there is a mood for change and a new face appearing sincere (Jacinda's values) and having the charisma of leadership could be all Ardern needs to ascend to the top job in the country. I have my personal views on many things. Labour, being Labour a centre left party goes for more welfare - three years of free tertiary education. The pros of this policy is that every young adult is given an opportunity for University study but the cons is that it will lower standards across board as those not qualified for tertiary education just wanted to have a bite at the cake since it is free. We will see University rankings falling further under Labour though I have much sympathy for free education espoused by Labour.