According to a Colmar Brunton poll on the country’s preferred leader, Labour Party Leader Andrew Little is languishing back in fourth place, at just 5 percent, the lowest result for a leader of the opposition since 2009.
Deputy Leader Jacinda Ardern placed third with 6 percent of those polled preferring her to any other option; Bill English came top with 26 percent, while Winston Peters came second with 11 percent.
Ardern’s popularity was clear as she spoke to a crowd of roughly 120 people, the vast majority of whom were students, at OUSA’s Clubs and Societies Building on Thursday last week.
The median age of the current New Zealand Parliament is 50 years old, significantly older than Ardern, which provides some explanation of her appeal to the nation’s youth.
Her speech began by tactfully exploiting this appeal, commenting that she is a “child of the ‘80s,” before acknowledging that “politicians typically come across as bland and lazy”.
Assuring her audience that she is “not in politics for the sport of it,” but rather due to “a strong set of values and the ability to make a change,” she noted that the values she has now are the same ones she set out on her political journey with.
During his brief opening speech and Ardern’s introduction, Dunedin North MP David Clark spoke of the election being fought largely on Labour’s plans of investment vs. the National Party’s tax cuts. Ardern stated she considered “tax cuts to be blunt instruments that give money back to the nation’s top earners”.
Predictably, considering the audience, Ardern then touched on Labour’s policy of three years free tertiary education for a relatively long period.
She told the audience how “terrifying it is to see the debt you’re racking up,” before mentioning Labour’s track record of helping students, most notably taking interest off student loans while the student is studying, a policy that Labour implemented in 2005.
She spoke about how she considered climate change to be an issue of principle and explained that there is “so much to gain in being world leaders on the issue,” believing it to be an issue that the “NZ I know would take the lead on regardless of its size”.
Ardern finished by explaining the need to “leave our economy and ecology in better spot than when we found them.”
After the event, David Clark told Critic that "having a packed hall to hear Jacinda and me speak is heartening and is the largest turnout for a political event on campus in a long while.”
“It shows that when we share a message that is hopeful, and looks to create opportunities for everyone (not just the privileged few), people are inspired by that. Students are tired of politics as usual and are demanding a fresh approach that will put people, and the interests of our future generations, at the heart of our democracy.”