The “Jacinda Effect”

OPINION: There has been some comment in the media and elsewhere about the so-called “Jacinda Effect” on the election and particularly Labour’s chances of improving its position as a result. As commented previously, once Andrew Little decided to go Arhern was really the only choice Labour could make. I am sure the change will be positive rather than negative for Labour but it is a risky move for Arhern and if she does not make an impact on the election results she could well be dumped as a result. It would have been less personally risky to have waited until after the election. But circumstances really gave her little choice.

So is there a distinct “Jacinda Effect”, what is it and how long will it last? 

Well, there is no doubt there has been an effect – Arhern is young and bright, oozes positivity (?) and I think is intelligent, and reasonably astute politically. She has made a good impact in the media and has certainly hogged the limelight for the first week after her election. She certainly has the charisma factor that Bill English lacks and Jacinda v John Key would have been something to see!

However, I am not overly impressed with the new party slogan “yes we can do this”. It doesn’t really say anything and even has a hint of desperation about it

I think that long term she would be an excellent leader for Labour but has to make it past the election first.

So yes, there is a distinct “Jacinda Effect” and it comes in good part from her personal qualities not just because she is the new Leader.

Will it last? 

jacindaNobody knows the answer to that but my guess would be that it won’t. She has several problems to overcome. One is that she is facing a very powerful National Party and they will be watching and looking to counter every move. The second is that strong, positive, quick decision-making is all very well but it increases the risk of not properly thinking through the implications of new policy or policy changes and having to retract policy or even worse stick with an unworkable policy. The third risk is that it is too late to generate a completely new policy platform so she is stuck with most of Labour’s existing policy, and voters will be looking for more than that.  And there is a risk of being seen to be effectively just recycling old policy if she makes changes, and that is very much the case with the announcement of a light rail link to Auckland Airport. The idea has a long history.

Her final problem is the Labour party itself.  They have a poor record for self-discipline and I think Arhern will have her work cut out keeping them “on message”.

I think there will be much interest in the results of the next few media polls.  I think the first poll out will not mean too much – I would be surprised if it did not show a gain for Labour.  The real interest is in the trend shown by the next several polls – can Labour hold on to any early gains or will they start to fade back down in the polls again?  There will be just as much interest in National’s polling – if Arhern can attract voters from National that makes life very interesting – but if voter support just moves around between Labour and the minor parties not much has been gained.

So there is an interesting couple of months in prospect!

At least all of this had breathed new life into the election campaign, and might even drag in some of those young previously disinterested voters that all parties would like to grab. That could really create a different looking election result.


By Bas Walker

This is another of Bas Walker’s posts on GrownUps.  Please look out for his articles, containing his Beachside Ponderings.