Jacinda Ardern has announced her resignation, prompting a leadership battle within Labour ahead of October’s election. Here are the frontrunners – and some long shots.
Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation contained an extra surprise underneath – deputy PM Grant Robertson ruling himself out of a tilt, blowing the race to replace his boss wide open. We’ve assembled a quick survey of the key contenders, plus a few extra who might not leap to your mind, but will definitely cross their own. They’re ranked by plausibility, along with the return for a hypothetical dollar invested, were New Zealand a place you could gamble on politics (sadly, you can’t any more).
Labour’s Mr Fix-It, Chris Hipkins has been one of the highest profile ministers throughout the Ardern government. He shepherded much of the government’s Covid-19 response after the scandalous departure of David Clark, he was forced in to mop up the mess with the police portfolio after Poto Williams’ weak performance in the role, and somehow he also managed to find time to tackle education (though those in the polytech sector may question his abilities in this area). Needless to say, Hipkins is probably the best known out of his caucus colleagues. He’s also managed to become very comfortable in the media spotlight, something that may give him an advantage during election debates with Christopher Luxon. / Stewart Sowman-Lund
The current transport minister seems like a decent bloke – and that could be what the country wants and needs. The everyman appeal has worked for National, surely it can also work for Labour. Those in the orbit of the seat of power, like the Herald’s Audrey Young, have previously suggested Wood as a likely future leader. It’s been rumoured for a while that he was eyeing up the job. Whether he receives the support of his caucus remains to be seen, but you can bet on Wood putting himself forward. /SSL
The current deputy prime minister has formally ruled himself out of seeking the leadership – but Ardern did much the same prior to her elevation, and if the drums of support beat loudly enough he could plausibly change his mind. Robertson has been a loyal deputy and a steady pair of hands throughout the Ardern government and it’s not out of the question that his caucus colleagues may view him as the best bet to retain power. Despite losing his leadership bid in 2014, Robertson remains broadly popular – though this will have been tainted for some by his association to Ardern. Perhaps most importantly, he’s the current finance minister and this year’s election will be won or lost on the cost of living. Oh, and he also has the backing of one David Parker. /SSL
— David Parker (@DavidParkerMP) January 19, 2023
Ranked just 17 on the ministerial list, Allan presents as a total outsider in many respects: she’s only been in parliament since 2017 and a minister for a little over two years. Yet Allan has performed admirably in every portfolio she’s been handed, including both emergency management and justice at times of real strain. She’s charismatic, funny and unflappable, and would burnish Labour’s progressive credentials and provide a true sense of generational change – a divorced cancer-surviving Māori lesbian – while also being perhaps the most relatable MP to middle New Zealand in her caucus (easily the MP most likely to be found in Bunnings on the weekend). / Duncan Greive
Ardern’s predecessor as Labour leader, and a minister who has proven an ability to take the weight of multiple major portfolios, Little is the only known quantity as leader in the parliamentary Labour party. Unfortunately what the electorate knew of him it didn’t much like, with his catastrophically bad polling numbers opening the door to Ardern’s shock elevation in 2017. But an English-like return to leadership, while unlikely, is not impossible – particularly if other contenders view the election as unwinnable, and want to avoid the taint of a heavy loss. He has strong union credentials (albeit frayed through recent pay negotiations as health minister), always a plus given their potential role in electing a fresh leader should the caucus not solidify around a candidate. /DG
Another damage control minister, Woods is often pulled in to tackle problems that other ministers have failed to address. As housing minister, she orchestrated the overhaul of KiwiBuild and has been front and centre of other lower profile housing policy announcements. Already set to be in charge of running Labour’s election campaign, Woods will have a strong sense of how the party was planning on winning in October. Could she be better utilised as the face of the party? /SSL
The leader of Labour’s large and powerful Māori caucus is probably no one’s idea of the next prime minister, particularly after his chaotic interview with Jack Tame at the end of last year. But the Māori development minister does have one important true believer: Willie Jackson. His self-belief, union credentials and extremely affable, working class persona would all be assets. Unfortunately his freewheeling talkback-host style would likely detonate any longshot bid within moments of it commencing. /DG
Prime minister Phil Stoner Twyford. It certainly has a ring to it. Some say Twyford’s been keeping a low profile over the past few years so as not to do anything too embarrassing. Others say he’s been biding his time, doing the numbers, and readying himself for election day 2023. /SSL