'Pretty little thing' Jacinda Ardern a top contender to replace Andrew Little – poll

A Herald-Digipoll has found Jacinda Ardern a top contender for the Labour leadership, just behind Annette King (who has indicated she does not want the top job) and the top-rated "Don't know/refused."

Some 750 eligible voters were asked,  "If Andrew Little were to step down as Labour leader during this term, who do you think would be his best replacement as opposition leader?" The results:

  • Annette King 21.8%
  • Jacinda Ardern 20.1%
  • Grant Robertson 18.0%
  • Phil Twyford 4.0%
  • None of the above 10.5%
  • Don't know/refused 25.7%.

Ms Ardern's strong showing was discussed on Paul Henry's breakfast show, with guest Graham Lowe saying the Labour list MP was "a pretty little thing" who would "look good" as prime minister.

"She speaks pretty smart," Mr Lowe added.

Co-host Hillary Barry promised the ex-league coach would leave the studio with bruised shins.

Mr Lowe (69) later told media, " I was trying to compliment her. I come from an era where calling someone pretty was one of the highest compliments you could give and so I did."

He added, "I would worry about offending Jacinda herself, and If I did I apologise.

"But I was giving her a compliment on her image and just how powerful she comes across.

"She is the full package. She is smart and compelling to watch and listen to."

The Labour front-bencher has been the target of patronising comments before. In 2012, Paula Bennett quipped "Zip it, sweetie," after Ms Ardern heckled her in Parliament.

Ms Ardern also featured in the Herald Digipoll's wider preferred prime minister ratings, which were:

  • John Key 63.7% (down 0.9)
  • Andrew Little 13.3% (down 0.6)
  • Winston Peters 11.6% (down 0.4)
  • Jacinda Ardern 3.9% (up 3.4)
  • Helen Clark 2.6% (up 1.6)
  • Metiria Turei 0.9% (up 0.6)
  • James Shaw 0.6% (up 0.6)
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