Ardern's verbal style: Huge, diverse and positive

5:13 pm on 1 August 2017

Analysis - Politicians don't often get a moment in the sun, but new Labour leader Jacinda Ardern certainly took the limelight today. RNZ's digital journalist John Edens has been taking note of the Opposition leader's verbal style.

Jacinda Ardern, Labour Party Leader

NC Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

In the era of personality politics, young politicians aren't young, they are ''youth adjacent'', campaigns are referenced with descriptors like ''blancmange'', and ''better'' is the buzzword.

The newly appointed Labour leader Jacinda Ardern's post-caucus press conference provided an introduction to her verbal style.

A smiling Ardern's choice of language focused on positive adjectives - 'incredible', 'fortunate' and phrases - 'the campaign of our lives'.

''Yes, we are an optimistic nation, but when you work at the coalface of politics and in the communities, as we do, we know and we see every single day that as a country we can do better than this.

''We can be better than this.''

Party political aspirations were "huge'' - an adjective that's been at the forefront of another leader's vocabulary.

''Better'', ''fairer'' and ''focus'' were watch words. She talked of the future, being positive, organised, and ready.

Is she up to being PM?

''Yes, I am and my team would not have selected me if they didn't believe that also.''

She touched on a ''diverse'' rural background - she grew up in Murupara and Morrinsville - and conceded she was ''a young proposition'' but not that young.

Ardern could be prime minister in less than two months and the first question she was asked was whether she was up to the top job.

She won't quite be the youngest PM if you count the third premier of New Zealand, Edward Stafford, who was a little over 37 years - by 40 days - when he started his first term in 1856.

Jacinda Ardern, Labour Party Leader addresses media at Parliament after Little stands down.

NC Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

She was ''youth adjacent'', her team was behind her, and they planned to bring a different stamp to the campaign.

And that meant a personal stamp.

''Relentless positivity will be amongst it and also a really clear vision for New Zealand.

''I have a very clear view that we can be a much better country than this.''

She talked of ''focus''.

But, she didn't want the job, did she?

''I said that in a very genuine way.

''These are extraordinary circumstances. I have been asked to take on this challenge. I have accepted.''

Labour weren't just united but ''totally, totally united'' and ''completely focused'' and ''positive''.

''We'll come out of this better as a team.'' And the campaign? That'll be ''vibrant''.

''We're going to be running a very, very vibrant campaign alongside the team. And trying to give New Zealanders every chance they can to get to know us a little bit better.''

The campaign won't be vanilla - it'll be colourful: "There'll be nothing blancmange about this campaign.''

Towards the end of the press conference, she said she didn't expect there to be many changes to the front bench.

Ardern wasn't drawn into any comment on other parties, saying she was ''focused'' on the Labour campaign and the team ''going forward''.

Asked whether she had the attributes to handle a coalition with the Greens and New Zealand First, she said her experience as president of a socialist organisation involved working with Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine youth.

Her reply - "I think I can do this'' - got a laugh.

New Zealanders were optimistic and she repeated the line about believing in a ''better'' country, a ''different vision'', and a ''very positive'' one. With big shoes to fill, the job was ''enormous''.

Wrapping up, Ardern's message to Prime Minister Bill English was ''don't be complacent''.

She added that she learned on the job from age 28, demonstrating she was ''competent'', ''confident'', with ''a real difference'' and ''a new vision''.

Although the Opposition leadership role was ''the worst job in politics'', she welcomed it as a privilege.

And what is Labour's vision?

''I'm very mindful that the next generation is about to inherit a New Zealand that isn't better than what their parents experienced and so our focus will be about bringing fairness back into New Zealand.''

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