John Armstrong: No room for sentiment - King knew she had to move aside for Ardern

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So much for Labour's complete and utter insistence that talk of Jacinda Ardern becoming deputy leader of the party at Annette King's expense was nothing more than media-driven speculation.

So much for Andrew Little's declaration early this week that there would be no change in who held that crucial post for the simple reason that there was no vacancy to fill.

A week may be a long time in politics. When it comes to Labour, a couple of days can feel like a millennium.

The Labour veteran says Ardern just needed a home base - which she now has in Mt Albert - to take the next step.
Source: 1 NEWS

Or that is how it might seem in the wake of King's resignation today from the parliamentary party's second most important position.

On the face of it, it appeared that Labour's leader had given very  straightforward and very public assurances to King that she would not be dumped from the role in order to reward Ardern for pulling off an emphatic victory in last Saturday's Mt Albert byelection.

These were not assurances, however. They amounted to a very big warning to King to quit the post. Otherwise, the rug would be pulled from under her.

Little chose his words very carefully. True, he made the point that the "no vacancy'" sign remained illuminated outside the deputy leader's office, thus ipso facto there would not be any change.

Source: 1 NEWS

By employing this obviously pre-rehearsed patter, Little was able to  deflect media demands, than he categorically rule out any change.

What he was really saying, however, was that there was no vacancy at the current time.

It did not mean there would not be a vacancy some time in the future, be it within the next three hours, the next three days, the next three weeks or the next three months.

Little did not want to be seen to be pressuring King to give up the post. He did not want to be seen as even hinting that she should do so.

Having previously missed out to National in Auckland Central, Labour's Ardern romped to victory in Saturday's Mt Albert by-election.
Source: Breakfast

She should be grateful for that. It gave her the chance make her standing down look more like her decision.

Little gave her time - though not too much time - to think hard about reconciling her self-interest with that of the wider party.

Despite King being in high dudgeon regarding the post-byelection "speculation" surrounding her future and her blunt assertions that Ardern would bring nothing new to the role, few would know better than her that there is a fundamental rule of politics: no-one is bigger than the party.

She would also be acutely conscious that sentimentality in politics is the first turn-off on the road to defeat.

King has received a taste of just how short is the supply of that commodity under Little's regime. But she is Labour loyal to the absolute core and well understands why she had to go.

That was always going to happen just as night follows day.

Regardless of whether or not Ardern is deserving of her so-called "star quality", Little needs her standing alongside him on election platforms, hoardings, advertisements and posters.

She has the capacity to reach out to Aucklanders, more specifically the thousands aged between 18 and 30 who cannot be bothered voting and who find Little's dour trade unionist persona about as inspiring as the tired homilies found in the cheapest Christmas crackers.

The 10,000 majority Ardern secured in Mt Albert last Saturday only hastened something which was already inevitable.

Likewise King 's decision to quit Parliament altogether. King is not the kind of MP who is happy to waste the next three years sitting on Parliament's backbenches be it in Government or Opposition.

The Labour candidate celebrated her Mt Albert by-election victory in the Auckland electorate last night.
Source: 1 NEWS

Her retirement from politics carries elements of the tragic, however.

She was adamant that she never, ever wanted to be leader. Having found happiness in her private life, she did not want to risk the frequently impossible-to-meet demands of a political party's top job to jeopardise that happiness.

How different things might have been had she relented. King is arguably the best leader the Labour Party never had.

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