The lesson Jacinda Ardern needs to learn from Helen Clark

The AM Show 26/04/2018

The Government needs to take a leaf out of Helen Clark's book if it's going to remain popular, commentators from both ends of the political spectrum say.

The Labour-NZ First coalition is still comfortably leading in the polls, the latest by Colmar Brunton placing the Government on 66 seats to National and ACT's 55.

But a viewer/listener poll on The AM Show on Thursday at 9am had 42 percent rating the Government's performance in its first six months as "awful" and 21 percent as "bad". Only 15 percent said it was "brilliant" and 22 percent "good".

Mike Williams, former president of the Labour Party, brushed off the lopsided result, saying it measured "motivation to go online and participate in a poll", rather than voting intentions.

"You've got some very annoyed Tories out there who don't like the result of the election and are going online," he told The AM Show.

He said the Government's biggest problem isn't what it's doing, it's that they're not bragging about it.

"They've got to master the trivia and get the message right."

Public relations executive and former ACT press secretary Trish Sherson said the Government's had major speed wobbles in its first six months, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern could learn better political management from Ms Clark and National's John Key.

"Often it was to the point of being ruthless, because you have to be. I'm not sure the political management yet is there, and that's hamstringing them."

There are three big tests coming up, she said: the Budget, the Northcote by-election and Ms Ardern's six weeks of parental leave after giving birth.

"That is going to be a real test for this Government, because there is not one leader who would step aside for six weeks and leave someone else in charge."

Winston Peters will be in charge for those six weeks - which Ms Sherson says will bring more uncertainty.

"It's so hard to nail down actually what New Zealand First stands for, what their actual values are at the core. Which means it's then very hard as a Government of three parties exactly what their values are, what sits at the core. So I think that is a part of this - it's quite hard underneath for all of them to figure out, where are we actually going here?"

Mr Williams isn't so worried by the prospect of Mr Peters being Acting Prime Minister for so long. Contrary to Ms Sherson, he says NZ First is carving out a space as the "party of the regions".

"I think it's going very well. I was in Hawke's Bay when Shane Jones attacked Air New Zealand. He got a hell of a good response - New Zealand First was probably getting 50 percent of the vote at the barbecue I went to... People knew what he was saying... he's doing a damn good job."

The standout performer

Regardless of how the Government as a whole might be performing, both Ms Sherson and Mr Williams had praise for one individual in particular - Andrew Little.

The Minister of Justice led Labour up until just before the election. Labour rocketed in the polls after he stepped aside, making a Labour-led Government possible.

"What an amazing relationship when you think of how that dynamic has rolled down," said Ms Sherson. "He was the leader... she's now the leader. He's really settled in as a senior minister and is probably more comfortable in that kind of back-room. They're calling him Mr Fix-It."

Mr Williams agreed, saying he "hasn't put a foot wrong" on Pike River and appeared to be moving public opinion on penal reform.

Watch the video above for the full story.

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