In 1936, British monarchy faced a crisis when King-Emperor Edward VIII had to abdicate the throne because he proposed to marry a divorcee, Wallis Simpson.
As a result of that abdication, today we have Queen Elizabeth II as Head of Commonwealth when her father George VI took over from his brother Edward, and the Queen inherited the throne through that historical sacrifice for love.
There have been other cases in history when such twists and turns of events carved out with renewed opportunities and changed fortunes. The coming generations in New Zealand will view similar anecdotal sacrifice and political history that took place just months before 2017 election.
After departure of Helen Clark, the New Zealand Labour Party never really experienced stability due to a lack of clear succession plans, among others.
Leadership was like musical chairs, with Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little temporarily occupying the shaky chair.
It was always expected that the leadership change would spell better political fortunes. But with infightings, poor internal management, a wanting media and communications cell, inability to communicate clearly and a lack of charisma from the leaders, good political fortunes evaded the Party.
Hail Mary Pass
According to polls, Labour was expected to lose the game, with election months away.
They appeared to be in a death-spiral, with National confidently gearing up for a historical fourth-term. They needed a miracle. And miracle did they get – with a Hail Mary Pass before the last whistle!
Those familiar with American Football would know that a Hail Mary Pass is a very long forward pass made in desperation, towards end of the game. The ball is thrown as far as you can throw, hoping your player can catch the ball and win the game.
And the Labour team’s Captain, Andrew Little admirably made that long frantic pass. And the ball is caught by the new Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern. She is now in a desperate run for political touchdown, with Kelvin Davis in the flanks, with a looming victorious touchdown.
Andrew Little had big burdens on his shoulders. With election just months away, and polls really hurting Labour, he had to rise to the occasion. He thought, Labour would be in better hands with Jacinda at the helms, as she offered better alternative government. As a die-hard Labour man, he had to do something.
And he made the ultimate sacrifice – an admirable and unprecedented call. This came unexpectedly, very suddenly, but very decisively. He handed over the leadership to Jacinda Ardern. What a wonderful gesture, and an exemplary action that dashed the possibility of him ever becoming a Prime Minister. Very few would let that chance go by, never mind how remote the possibility.
The Jacinda effect
But like a true gentleman and a devoted party Marshall, he made the Hail Mary Pass.
This gesture gave rise to Jacindamania (also referred to as Jacinda – effect). And it created another history – that this Labour transition in leadership was bloodless, without controversy and without opposition. People who had seen enough blood in the past Labour leadership battles would have passed this leadership move as a Sunday school picnic.
New Zealand Herald Political Editor Audrey Young observed this appropriately on August 6, 2017:
“Ardern’ s elevation has been the cleanest transfer of power by any leader in recent memory, way surpassing that of Key to Bill English last year, in which he faced a couple of faux rivals. Part of the reason for this transition is that it had no origins in a coup or scandal or undertones of a selfish decision, as Key’s had.”
We salute Andrew Little – the unsung hero who brought good political fortunes to Labour, culminating in Jacindamania which will rival Bob Hawke’s miracle in Australia.
Former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke took over Labour Party just a month before a snap election in 1983 and led the party to a landslide victory. And that historical Bob Hawke miracle looks certain to be repeated in New Zealand by Jacinda Ardern. (Read article on Bob Hawke punch by Jacinda Ardern, in this edition)
King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, for his love, and created Queen Elizabeth II.
King Andrew abdicated in 2017, for love of Labour Party, and created Queen Jacinda!
Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, ‘Fiji Pundit,’ and lives in Auckland.
Jacinda Ardern with Andrew Little with the Labour Caucus