New Zealand opposition leader quits weeks before looming elections

02 August, 2017, 00:49 | Author: Darrell Lopez
  • Andrew Little with Labour deputy leader Jacinda Ardern

With the General Election scheduled for 23 September, the opposition Labour Party has done the unthinkable and replaced its leader.

Some in Labour were understood to have put together the alternative leadership team of Jacinda Ardern and Kelvin Davis to replace him if he made a decision to go - but other senior MPs said they did not expect that to be actioned unless Little went of his own volition.

ACT leader David Seymour bid farewell to Mr Little, saying his resignation required "enormous courage". He said he was getting lots of texts from Maori supporters "who are just proud that this day has finally arrived".

Ardern said the situation was "not what anyone expected or wanted", but that her team was about to "run the campaign of our lives". As leader, I must take responsibility for these results.

She praised Little for his loyalty to the party, and said she and the caucus remain committed to winning at the election.

It follows two days of turmoil after a string of bad polls and Little's admission he had asked senior colleagues if he should step down.

Doubts over Mr. Little's leadership had grown over the last 24 hours after he admitted in a Radio New Zealand interview that he had to take responsibility for the party's dismal polling and had considered resigning.

While for Prime Minister Bill English, the message that Ms Ardern is now his number one rival came through loud and clear.

For the first time in the party's history, a Māori has been elected to the party's deputy leadership.

With her new deputy Kelvin Davis standing alongside her, she promised "relentless positivity" and appealed to young, idealistic voters. Stuart Nash said he believed Labour would be "doomed" if it changed leaders at this point, but others said it could help hold up Labour's vote from further collapse.

However, he warned the Nationals could not be complacent because New Zealand's complicated proportional voting system usually results in minority governments reliant on smaller parties as coalition partners. There's a little bit of sadness, but you've got to get on with the job.

"They're in disarray, the basic problem isn't really the leadership, it's they just don't have a positive view of what New Zealand can achieve", he told reporters.



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