The question being asked is ‘Can Jacindamania make a difference in the coming election – and will it be enough to change Labour’s fortunes?’ Well the answer is – it already has. In the latest Newshub-Reid Research political poll the Labour Party has jumped up 9 points to 33%, which is the highest poll they have had since January 2014. Apparently not at the expense of the National Party though – Labour’s gain seems to be at the expense of both the Greens Party and New Zealand First – both down by around 4% each.
Are we finally going to have an interesting election? Up until a week ago the battle between Andrew Little and Bill English was predictable and boring – Labour’s decision to make Jacinda Ardern the deputy leader was a bold move, but it wasn’t bold enough – and the polls reflected the apathy of New Zealanders. It looked like the coming election was going to be one dull middle aged man pitted against another slightly less dull middle aged man – even English trying to humanise himself on social media wasn’t working.
But then Little resigned after a disastrous performance in the polls, which was a shock to most, especially as just hours before he had insisted he would not be standing down. Jacinda Ardern professed that she didn’t want the top job, but in reality she looked anything but reluctant – she appears powerful, she is in control, she has presence, and she looks and acts like a leader. This is becoming known as ‘Jacindamania’ or the Jacinda Vibe, and it may very well carry the Labour party to victory in seven weeks’ time. If National aren’t quaking in their highly polished loafers – they should be.
So what is the Jacinda Vibe – and how can National get some? The best thing going for this relatively inexperienced politician is her believability. Her ability to do the job may be in doubt, but when she steps up to a podium she has an aura of honesty and truth – we trust she will deliver what she is promising. And she has shown that she is not going to back away from the tough issues – she says ‘I can handle it’ and her rise in the polls shows that we believe her.
Are we shallow to fall for a winning personality and a gorgeous smile, and is that all we are judging her on? Will her general likeability, and obvious sense of humour be enough to drag back the voters that Labour lost to the Greens and New Zealand First? We are still in the honeymoon phase of our relationship with Jacinda – and there are only seven weeks to go until the election, but the media have already fallen in love with her. Gerry Brownlee was so incensed by the positivity he sent NewsHub reporter Patrick Gower a cheerleader outfit, addressed to ‘the Labour leader’s cheerleader-in-chief.’
With her current popularity at an all-time high, the worst thing National could do is disparage and criticise her during the coming weeks of campaigning, because the repercussions may just be that the media will turn their backs on our present government and throw all their support to Labour. A party that has been basking in the glow of a popular Prime Minister with John Key at the helm, may now look to be completely overshadowed by a Labour leader for the first time in many years.