Ardern turns tables, borrowing Collins’ ‘strong team’ slogan

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Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says she wants to continue to encourage political candidates from diverse backgrounds to come forward, even if she leaves politics after the election.

Jacinda Ardern.

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone 

Ardern was at Southmall in Manurewa with Māngere candidate Aupito William Sio, Papakura candidate Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki, Manurewa candidate Arena Williams and Takanini candidate Dr Neru Leavasa.

With about 30 hours before the close of polls, she said Williams’ campaign had just recorded knocking on 12,000 doors, and said that was an example of Labour’s on-the-ground presence across the country.

“They’re going and repeatedly calling on those that they want to make sure are turning out,” she said.

“We’re out campaigning hard using every hour that we’ve got to make sure that we get that strong party vote for Labour which will of course mean both a strong mandate but the ability to bring in extra team members who will make a real difference on the ground.”

Ardern’s campaign has often seen her walking through malls, drawing a crowd, and today was no exception. She said it was part of the election she most enjoyed.

“There are parts of campaigns that are tough but other parts that I love and I think probably all of our candidates would say the same – particularly the amount of time you get to spend with people, to hear their stories, to see the difference that our policies are making.

“We’ve had a few days obviously throughout the campaign we’ve had large groups come out to say hi, to wish us luck. What’s important for us is making sure that they then turn out and vote.”

National leader Judith Collins yesterday borrowed Ardern’s “relentlessly positive” slogan, and Ardern today turned the tables with National’s “strong team” line.

“What makes a strong team is having diversity of experience. Each of the people coming into our Parliament offers that within our team.”

In last night’s final debate before the election, one of the few points that broke new ground was Ardern saying she would quit as leader if Labour was in opposition. She said it had been the first time she had been asked the question but it had always been her personal position.

“People often ask how long people intend to be in politics, I’ve been asked that since the day I arrived, I’ve always said I’m here as long as I believe I’m making a contribution.”

“I take each term as it comes, I’m running hard this election and that’s what I’m focused on.”

The diversity of political representatives was a theme she said she wanted to continue whether she was still in politics or not in future.

“I don’t have a defined view of what that would be, I’d say probably I want to play some role to continue to encourage candidates coming forward from a diverse range of backgrounds.

“One of the things that I encounter a lot in this role – I go into schools a lot and I talk about politics – and there are a bunch of young people in there who think that they don’t have the right personality or leadership or skills for politics – I want to change that perspective … even if that’s something I just do on the side in the future I want to keep doing that role.”

Collins today, asked what she thought Ardern would do if she did leave politics – as unlikely as the polls suggest that would be – said she expected the Labour leader would go to the United Nations.

Ardern rejected that, confident in her chances, saying she had no plans to leave politics right now.

“No. You will have heard me answer and dismiss statements like that for a long time. It’s not just been in this recent election campaign. Unfortunately it’s part of that mischief making you hear in the final weeks of the election … why would I if I’m running to be prime minister?

“My focus is here, and on New Zealand.”

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