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Andrew Little in 2017. Image: Adrian Malloch
Andrew Little in 2017. Image: Adrian Malloch

PoliticsOctober 17, 2023

The highs, the lows and the holy-shits of Andrew Little, MP

Andrew Little in 2017. Image: Adrian Malloch
Andrew Little in 2017. Image: Adrian Malloch

From Labour leader to Daddy Thicc Snacc, a whistlestop tour of a parliamentary career.

Trade Union leader turned Labour Party president, turned politician proper, Andrew Little has announced his retirement from parliament. Here’s the highlights reel.

High: Elected Labour Party leader

First elected to parliament in 2011 on the list, Little had long been talked about as a possible future Labour leader. In a five-week leadership contest following the 2014 election, which saw Labour win just 25.1% of the party vote, Little emerged victorious over Grant Robertson, David Parker and Nanaia Mahuta. He impressed on the hustings, but victory hinged on union support. At the first round of voting, Little finished fourth among his caucus colleagues. 

Low: Angry Andy

Coined by National backbenchers and popularised by John Key, the epithet was unkind, unfair even, but sometimes in parliament it fit Little like a fiery glove and rarely played well on television. 

Holy shit: The hung parliamentarian

In 2016, Whanganui artist Mark Rayner made a rug featuring Little looking, well, big: ripped up top and naked all over. Little, who was the sequel to a similar John Key work, took it in good spirits. 

Andrew Little examines his rug. Photo: Toby Manhire

Low: Stands down as Labour leader

Little in many ways stabilised the party and oversaw the development of policy that almost entirely prevailed beyond his time as leader. But after Jacinda Ardern overtook him in polling, just months after being promoted to deputy, and an internal poll put the party on 23%, it began a process that culminated in his resignation just seven weeks out from election day.

High: Stands down as Labour leader

Though senior colleagues had counselled him to stand down, Ardern had encouraged him to carry on and it seems unlikely he’d have been rolled if he was determined to stay. In making the decision he did, Little paved the way for Ardern and a path to government for his party. Speaking today to media, Little said: “You need ego in politics, but you also need humility. Humility and self-awareness.”

High, mostly: A portfolio of portfolios

Since Labour came to government in 2017 he has been minister of justice, for workplace relations and for Pike River; the minister of health, for the spy agencies and for treaty negotiations, as well as the lead minister for the response to the Christchurch mosque attack Royal Commission, the minister of immigration, for the public service and of defence. Not all at the same time.

He launched bold efforts to rethink criminal justice, was unafraid to stand up to offshore social media giants and spoke out against Australian deportations. And achieved respect across the board for commitment to treaty negotiations, such as in the powerful apology to Ngāti Maru. 

He sometimes rubbed people up the wrong way – and had many critics in the health system when pushing through the reforms – but was broadly regarded as a hard working, well-informed, bullshit-free, straight talking minister. 

Low: Not saying ‘fat’

That was weird.

Holy shit: Daddy Thicc Snacc

Little was an unlikely embracer of meme culture. 

At one point, encouraged by a group of breakfast radio DJs, the minister of the crown changed his official Twitter handle to Andrew Daddy Thicc Snacc Little. 

And he remained a social media ninja to the end.

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