Jacinda ef­fect not dead just yet

Sec­ond place isn’t the ter­ri­ble prize it may feels like for Labour. By Adam Dud­ding.

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

LABOUR leader Jacinda Ardern may have come up sec­ond best last night, but she im­me­di­ately fronted up to her sup­port­ers: ‘‘Let’s keep do­ing this!’’

She phoned English to con­cede that he has the most seats – but said the fi­nal de­ci­sion would come down, not to vot­ers, but to other politi­cians.

At Labour’s elec­tion party at Aotea Cen­tre, Ardern re­ferred to All Black great Colin Meads’ fa­mous line: if you come off the field not feel­ing you’ve given your all, you’ve let your team down.

‘‘I came off the field know­ing we gave it our all,’’ she said. ‘‘As Labour leader I will take re­spon­si­bil­ity. But the fi­nal out­come of tonight’s elec­tion won’t be de­cided by us. It will be de­cided by MMP.’’

But this morn­ing, Labour voter Lu­ciana Tieni is prob­a­bly want­ing a glass of whisky for break­fast.

‘‘I don’t think we’ll be too happy,’’ she said in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the Na­tional win. ‘‘If Na­tional stays in, we’re not go­ing to have a change.’’

Tieni, 37, voted for Labour specif­i­cally be­cause of Ardern. The wait­ress and mother of three was a Labour stal­wart up till He­len Clark’s 2008 loss to John Key, then switched to Greens, be­cause ‘‘the last few peo­ple com­ing through Labour have been just s***’’. She will never vote Na­tional.

New Zealand had just eight weeks to hear Ardern’s voice af­ter her emer­gency suc­ces­sion as leader, but that was long enough for many to de­cide they liked what they heard. Her poll num­bers swiftly eclipsed those of her five pre­de­ces­sors, then bounced back and forth un­til last night’s re­sults showed the Jacinda Ef­fect just wasn’t quite ef­fec­tive enough.

This morn­ing the party’s tight five – Ardern, her fi­nance guy Grant Robert­son, her deputy leader Kelvin Davis plus Chris Hip­kins and Phil Twyford – will dial in for a tele­con­fer­ence catchup there’ll be dis­ap­point­ment, sure. It was all too easy for ev­ery­one to get their hopes up in

We’ve dealt with three terms of Na­tional so far, so what’s an­other?’ LU­CIANA TIENI

the face of Ardern’s mag­netism, her sure­foot­ed­ness un­der pres­sure, her ‘‘cap­tain’s call’’ de­ci­sive­ness (even if some of those calls didn’t end well), the size of the crowds she drew, the clam­our for self­ies, the on­line buzz. And yes, trail­ing Bill English’s na­tional in votes and seats, the loom­ing prospect of an­other three years of Na­tion­alled gov­ern­ment is a bit­ter pill.

But there’s still plenty to cel­e­brate.

Eight weeks ago, with An­drew Lit­tle at the helm, a Labour win was unimag­in­able, yet af­ter a whirl­wind cam­paign built mostly on per­sonal pop­u­lar­ity, Ardern made it seem en­tirely pos­si­ble. That’s an achieve­ment in it­self.

The leap in Labour’s sup­port means more Labour MPs in par­lia­ment, and ev­ery ad­di­tional Labour MP, how­ever in­ex­pe­ri­enced, rep­re­sents not just new en­ergy and a big­ger

Jacinda Adern,in slip­pers, watches the progress of the elec­tion at home with friends and staff.

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