When Winston Peters put Labour in power I was determined that I wasn’t going to get Ardern Derangement Syndrome.
I’d seen far too much stupidity from people who suffered from Key Derangement Syndrome and was determined not to follow their silly example of making politics personal in this way.
It hasn’t always been easy, but so far I have been able to resist developing ADS.
I accept the PM is a warm and intelligent woman and I’d probably enjoy her company.
However, retaining resistance to ADS doesn’t extend to echoing the adulation that has been heaped on her from many quarters.
That is, as Andrea Vance points out, unhealthy:
Politicians should not have fans. By placing our leaders on a pedestal, it creates an unhealthy and polarising dynamic.
There is evidence of it already in our online political discourse. Any criticism of the Government’s policies and measures is met with a wave of venom.
Even gentle questioning – by opponents, interest groups or the media – is seen as a personal attack on Ardern.
It’s also often seen as sexism which is tiresome.
That’s because when people blindly align themselves to one party and their leader, they tend to overlook the negative effects of their decisions.
Those who seek to hold Ardern to account over flu vaccines, personal protective equipment in the health system, or confusion about restrictions, are villainised or strafed with ‘whataboutism.’ . .
When Ardern is fronting the government that has imposed unprecedented and draconian restrictions on what we can do, at a huge personal, social and economic cost, she must be questioned and questioned hard.
That doesn’t mean personal criticism of her but nor does it mean uncritically repeating her lines such as going early, going hard.
The initial response to Covid-19 was neither.
Then there are legitimate questions over the arbitrary decisions over what businesses and which goods and services have been considered essential under level four lockdown and the economic and social costs of all that.
Candidates will always be judged on their likeability. But infusing politics with an over-the-top “stan culture” turns elections to a sports game, where we are invested in only who wins, not policy or ideology.
And it upends what the political system should be. Prime Ministers are our civil servants, beholden and accountable to us. It should not be a one-sided relationship.
Hero worship eventually reduces our complex, and occasionally flawed, political figures to one-dimensional icons.
Just because Ardern is remarkable, does not mean she is always right.
Over at Croaking Cassandra, Ian Harrison explains six times she has been factually wrong.
He’s found factual errors in what she’s said on transmission rates, the number of cases per 10,000, the number of deaths, containing the pandemic, mortality rates and testing rate.
Steve Elers also says the PM must be held to account over her claims:
During the Covid-19 daily briefings I’ve found myself yelling at the TV screen and sometimes even throwing things at it. Why? Because our journalists seem far too chummy with the prime minister instead of fulfilling their role as the watchdog for society.
A healthy democracy requires the news media to hold power to account, regardless of who is in power, and to question government decisions, just like when the prime minister says: “Elimination doesn’t mean zero cases, it means zero tolerance for cases.” . .
For the health and wellbeing of my TV, I hope the news media will start holding power to account. If journalists can’t find the motivation within themselves to ask critical questions of the prime minister, perhaps they should imagine she is Simon Bridges.
Or perhaps not.
At least some seem to have Bridges Derangement Syndrome where it’s not what he says but that it’s he who says it or the way he says it that becomes the focus of criticism.
Just as putting a politician on a pedestal is wrong, so too is unfairly pulling one back and the media does us a disservice if it lets derangement syndrome get in the way of reasoned reporting and analysis.