In the Lebanon, everything depends on which religious community you belong to, even your water and electricity supply (both intermittent and unreliable). Overseeing the whole polity are corrupt, kleptocratic, oligarchic leaders of various religious, political, and territorial fiefdoms, who dispute hegemony among themselves but nevertheless display a certain class solidarity so that nothing should change fundamentally and they remain permanently in charge. Protests and revolutions come and go, but the elite go on forever.
The potential for violence is always there, and indeed often breaks out; but most of the population, accustomed to chaos and breakdown, has become adept at survival. Life for them is a question of overcoming everyday obstacles, combined with evading the conflicts around them. Meanwhile, the elite live well.
No analogies are exact, but Western societies seem to be fracturing into various confessional communities each of which, like the Maronites, Druzes, Shiites, Sunni, and others, claims its share of the politico-economic spoils. They struggle like worms or grubs in the tins in which anglers keep their bait, while an unchanging elite preside, or at least glide, godlike, over the whole. In the meantime, public administration deteriorates, infrastructure rots, and inflation rockets. – Theodore Dalrymple
Go to the ant, thou sluggard, advises or even demands the Bible, addressing itself to the idlers among us, consider her ways and be wise. If I were revising the Bible today, I might write, “Go to the Lebanon, thou citizen, thou investor, consider its ways and be wise.” But the problem is that no one learns from the experience of others, and quite often not even from his own, let alone from valid deductions from self-evident premises. Man is the rational animal that somehow manages never to learn, at least not how to live. – Theodore Dalrymple
It’s just a bit of admin. That’s the line given by the SNP and supporters of the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform Bill (GRR) which the Westminster government blocked this week. Letting a male person obtain a female birth certificate just by making a simple statement is no one else’s business. So keep out, shut up.
How maddening when women won’t. But equality law — a confusing, contradictory mess which needs urgent revision — is a delicate ecosystem: rights of trans people set out in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) are balanced against women’s rights in the Equality Act 2010. The GRR lands in this like dynamite lobbed in a fish pond. You can only support the GRR getting royal assent if you’re happy to forsake women’s rights. – Janice Turner
For starters emergency housing is in the social development portfolio. The take-over of motels leading to social mayhem (think Rotorua) has been a tragedy for those housed in them and those in their surrounds. The waiting list for public housing has sky-rocketed since Sepuloni has been Minister. – Lindsay Mitchell
Worst of all Sepuloni has overseen a rise in children living in unemployed homes. The damage to their outcomes is well researched and documented. But unheeded by this government whose sole focus has been to lift incomes with their fingers firmly in their ears over the unintended consequences of paying people to do nothing … except have children.
If all of the above is “excelling” I hate to envisage what failing looks like.
Sepuloni has not been a great Minister. That the media are painting her as such demonstrates ignorance and bias. The only thing that has kept the social development portfolio largely away from the headlines is the comparatively worse performance of police, education and health. – Lindsay Mitchell
It’s all well and good that they [World Athletics] are putting restrictions in on the testosterone levels, and extending the number of years to qualify and so on… but none of that matters. They’d still be miles ahead.
I mean, the women’s shot is half the weight [of the men’s]. Apart from all the strength they’ve gained over the years, there is the height advantage, the wingspan, all the things hormones can’t replace… hip angles, lung capacity etc. Training would be easier for them. That’s just a fact.
If this happens I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a lot of world records fall to trans athletes. – Amelia Strickler
Basically all governing bodies right now are under pressure to issue guidelines. We’ve basically been waiting for it. The fact that World Athletics, one of the biggest, has not [put] its foot down, I think it is really, really upsetting. I think these rules really could open the floodgates.
There will be a lot, I think, who say ‘Well, I’ve waited. I’m ready to compete. What do I have to do?’ And you know, women will be out of a job. Even if there are only a handful, do you put the feelings of a few above an entire sex? – Amelia Strickler
I haven’t come across anyone who is like ‘Oh, it will be fine.’ Even the guys are like ‘Yeah, you’re screwed’. There are jokes made [in training] like ‘Oh yeah, I feel like being a woman today.’ –
I’ve got no problem with trans women competing in a different category. Sport should be for everyone. This is about protecting women at the end of the day. I hope more of us band together to prevent this because it’s going to be the end. – Amelia Strickler
Some of the headlines have been ridiculous. There was one headline I saw the other day about the Prime Minister being driven from office by online trolls. I mean, that is so melodramatic.
It’s just bizarre because, one, it assumes that she’s reading all of the online troll messages from the misogynists and whoever. And second of all, it kind of undermines the fact the polls weren’t going well – Ryan Bridge
Any smart politician will look at that and they will say, ‘Do I have another campaign in me? Do I really want to be scrapping with Chris Luxon over the cost of living when I’ve just got us through COVID? I might be going on to some international job after this. The longer I am here, the worse my reputation will be tarnished as I go through a very bloody campaign. Wouldn’t the smartest thing to do would be to pull out now?’ And I think that’s what the Prime Minister’s done. – Ryan Bridge
I think it’s a little bit condescending and perhaps a little naive to say that this [online hate] played a role.
Nobody gets to be Prime Minister without having a thick skin, nor does any Prime Minister have the time or inclination to spend their time scrolling through Facebook or Twitter comments. – Brigitte Morten
Watching Jacinda Ardern’s departure speech, I reflected that even though I invented the word cry-bully – ‘a hideous hybrid of victim and victor, weeper and walloper, duplicit Pushmi-Pullyus of the personal and the political’ – in this very magazine way back in 2015, it’s never had so many adherents as in the past couple of years, especially in the political arena. From Trump refusing to accept he’d lost an election to Matt Hancock ‘looking for a bit of forgiveness’ from his jungle camp-mates, the age of the over-emotional politician is upon us.
And now here was Ardern – the Adele of Antipodean politics, every trespass against her public judged more in sorrow than in anger because she really did mean well– quitting her role as prime minister of New Zealand after five years and fighting back tears as she delivered her dying swan-song. – Julie Burchill
So much for the crying bit – but what about the bullying? Ardern’s velvet glove concealed a pretty heavy iron fist. She promised to reduce migration, with disabled migrants getting particularly short shrift. Her Covid policy was draconian, preventing New Zealanders abroad from returning and punishing unvaccinated citizens. In a speech at the UN she stressed the importance of not letting climate-change sceptics have freedom of speech on social media. Her hijab-cosplay in the wake of an attack on a mosque was yet another grim example of a privileged western woman showing off by wearing what is for millions of non-western women a living shroud worn under threat of death, as we see most recently in Iran.
But none of this stopped her from dazzling the useful idiots of the liberal press after she became the youngest head of government in the world when elected at the age of 37. – Julie Burchill
If it was any other politician, her desire to escape a spotlight she seemed to find quite enjoyable as she posed for selfies in shopping malls might cause cynics to speculate that there was a dirty great scandal on the way and that this was just a politician looking to get the hell of out Dodge before the storm broke. But this is the hallowed Jacinda, who must not be confused with your average nasty politico when her public image seemed more in line with that of a religious leader; as the usually tough Beth Rigby tweeted ‘I’ve only ever seen political leaders forced out or voted out… but in Ardern we find a rare exception, who again shows us how to lead differently’.
But impersonating the Dalai Lama butters no parsnips with an electorate who are wondering whether they can afford the price of a pat of Anchor. In 2020 Ardern’s Labour party took more than 50 per cent of the vote – the first time a single party has achieved this since 1951 – but it’s likely that it would now poll less than 25 per cent. And it might be the ladling on of the virtue-signalling which has made former admirers of Ardern even more disillusioned than they would be with regular politicians. – Julie Burchill
Ardern – Big Sister with a side-order of saint – has been used frequently as a weapon with which to beat other unashamedly tough female politicians by Woke Bros who believe that females should happily surrender everything, from toilets to trophies in the name of #BeKind. – Julie Burchill
Once more, the demise of a female political leader has made me feel something I’m sure I’m not meant to feel – and that’s nostalgia for the sheer inappropriateness of Margaret Thatcher, barging her way into the twentieth century global village and behaving as no female politician ever behaved before or since. Though I was fascinated by Mrs T, I never once voted for her – I pretended I did, but the tribal pull of my Communist upbringing was still too strong. But watching Ardern shuffle moistly off of the world stage, I do wish that Attila the Hen was still here; how no-nonsense she was compared to the trans-maids of Labour and the Tory dullards May and Truss who sought to imitate her style. I’d love to see her reaction when faced with the idea that women can have penises or that policemen can work from home. Or indeed, the equally outrageous idea that a woman who reaches the top of the political greasy pole at the age of 37 can be some kind of secular saint – rather than just a fresh take on a carpet-bagger, whose shtick is now revealed as wearing perilously thin. – Julie Burchill
The abuse that has been directed at Ardern is horrific and it has escalated dramatically since the Delta lockdown. There can be no justification for it. None. It is vile, gendered, and intimidating. Let me state, on the record, that what Ardern endured is beyond unacceptable.
However, if you want to address a problem, you have to look at what’s causing it. Some of the vitriol and abuse is from a deeply ingrained misogyny in our society. It’s prevalent in our communities, in some demographics, and the abuse comes from women too. Sit with that for a minute. Many feminists – and I am one of them – don’t want to confront the existence of female misogyny in New Zealand, but it’s there. Female misogynists live among us. In decent numbers.
But the volume of abuse that has been directed at the Government and Ardern is enormous, and it has escalated. And that’s because of some of the decisions this Government has made. Some of those decisions have left normal, law-abiding people feeling caged, controlled, judged, fearful and trapped – and when people feel controlled, and they can no longer determine their own destiny, income, or their ability to provide for their family – they rise up. Anger becomes rage. Rage becomes abuse. – Rachel Smalley
Ardern lost her way this term. She went from being a very good communicator in the first three years, to talking ‘at’ us in her second term. Not to us, or with us. It was at us. Ardern’s communication style changed with the arrival of Delta – it centred on control and fear.
If you, as a Government, tailor your communication so that it divides society and pits the vaccinated against the unvaccinated, if you split families and deny New Zealanders the right to come home, if you make Kiwis enter a lottery to return to their country, if you use the COVID death count as the only method by which you judge the success of your response, and if you don’t listen to people when they arrive on the steps of the Beehive in their thousands and call for change, people get angry. Really angry. – Rachel Smalley
If Chris Hipkins takes away one learning from Ardern’s leadership, it is this. You don’t have to have all the answers. But you do need to listen to the people you govern.
Ardern, perhaps believing it was a sign of weakness, never engaged with some of the brilliant corporate and entrepreneurial minds that offered to help with our economic recovery. The Government never listened to the health sector as they pleaded for more nurses. It didn’t listen to the people running our hospitality and tourism businesses who had come up with ways to protect us, and at the same time enable their businesses to survive. Instead, desperate people who had spent years building a business, had to stand by and watch it collapse. It is people like this who got on social media and raged at Ardern. – Rachel Smalley
There can be zero tolerance for the abuse that has rained down on Ardern. However, to ignore the factors that have helped to fuel the escalation of abuse against her and the Government means we have learnt nothing.
This Government, led by Ardern, sat in a silo and listened only to those who supported their narrative. People’s lives and livelihoods crumbled. That fuelled a rage like we have never seen before.
We can learn from it, or we can spend the next year yelling at each other that Ardern was driven from office because of it.
Here is the uncomfortable truth for many. Ardern walked away. It was her choice to do so, and I applaud her for doing what’s right for her and her family. But Ardern wasn’t driven from the job. Ardern ‘is’ human. She likes to be liked and there’s nothing wrong with that. But make no mistake. Ardern chose to walk away from the job. – Rachel Smalley
Ardern knew better than anyone that she couldn’t win this year. She had more critics than supporters. The adoration that gave her a single-party majority government, had left the building. It’s a bitter pill to swallow if you’re one of her backers. I know. Why? Because I voted for her too.
So if you’re a politician, sit up and take note. You aren’t the only humans. Stop thinking of us as nameless, faceless people in polls. Stop thinking of us as numbers. Stop thinking of us as your voter base, or swing voters, or some other way you chose to categorise us. Instead, find better ways to listen to us. Truly hear us.
Because guess what? Just like you, we’re human too. – Rachel Smalley
He can say what he wants but the reality is, it’s the same staff, same team, same people, same outcome.
It’s a party that is frankly out of touch with New Zealanders. When you see rapidly rising food prices, you’ve seen business and farmer confidence at all time lows, interest rates going through the roof, schools costs, this is a party that has actually lost touch and is out of touch with New Zealanders – Christopher Luxon
We are going to have a very close election, no doubt about it.
We need to change this country and we need a government that can get things done and that’s what I am going to do. – Christopher Luxon
But neutralising unpopular policies won’t be a game changer; finding a connection with voters with a message that resonates is what sets leaders apart from politicians. That’s the political hoodoo bit – and it can’t be learnt. Just ask Phil Goff, David Cunliffe, David Shearer, or Andrew Little. – Andrea Vance
Ardern’s cult-like status, and the legacy of Labour’s remarkable turnaround under her leadership, was enough to hold the party machine together in the face of such huge problems. Hipkins won’t have that backstop.
If voters fail to deliver him the hoped-for political honeymoon he might find that the runway has suddenly got a lot shorter. – Andrea Vance
Ultimately, though, Hipkins’s prospects will be determined by how much New Zealanders paid for their groceries, Christmas presents and holidays at the end of last year, and how firmly the Reserve Bank responds in February.
If any recession is modest or avoided, unemployment stays low, inflation falls back towards the mandated 1-3 per cent band and the All Blacks thrash France at the World Cup opener in Paris on September 8, then Labour should scrape home for a third term. If any of those go wrong, Hipkins is toast. – Matthew Hooton
And lo, it has come to pass. The rise of gender ideology — which for too long was dismissed as too niche and irrelevant to discuss by those too sexist or just too cowardly to listen to women’s concerns — has now exploded into a constitutional showdown, with the UK government blocking Nicola Sturgeon’s wildly unpopular gender recognition reform bill.
For those of us who have been writing for years about the insanity of rewriting the law to accommodate something no one can even define (is gender a feeling? A soul? Simple masculinity or femininity?), this feels a bit like watching your local cult band play at Wembley. Or, to put it from the perspective of those who desperately tried to pretend no problems could possibly arise from a philosophy that tries to rewrite the human experience, insisting being a woman is a mere feeling rather than a fact, this is like having a stain on your ceiling which you tried to ignore, only for it to then cause your whole house to collapse.
It was inevitable the fantasies sold by gender activists would crash on the hard rocks of reality, and not just because of the endless internal contradictions (if gender is different from biological sex, and given that sport is segregated by sex, why are trans women now on women’s sports teams?). The movement is increasingly underpinned by a frothing misogyny that is becoming all too visible to even the most casual observers. – Hadley Freeman
Gender activism has become the permissible face of misogyny for a certain kind of allegedly progressive man. It gives them latitude to call women derogatory names and make spittle-flecked videos, insisting that anyone who has a problem with male-born people in women-only spaces is on the wrong side of history. The effect is men’s-rights activism, but the energy is very incel — shorthand for people who are “involuntarily celibate”. Incels rage online about women who selfishly refuse to have sex with them; gender activists rage at women who won’t just bloody well shut up about their concerns about safety and say what the men tell them to say.
One of the sadder fallouts is the wedge it has driven between women and gay men. Once they were natural allies, not least during the Aids era, when so many women stepped in as caregivers to men with HIV. – Hadley Freeman
Sturgeon is making a big mistake in thinking that by denying science and trashing women’s rights she looks progressive, because the public are smarter than that. And as with all the angry “passionate” men, women won’t forget what she’s done, and they won’t forgive. – Hadley Freeman
In just over a year, we have witnessed the disintegration of a leader whose 2020 tenure of absolute electoral driven power started with overwhelming public support, gratitude and reverence but descended into a myopic and confused authoritarian rule. We have graphically endured a lesson of incoherent government and state overreach which has been on a march of portentous marginalisation through the private sector. It has elevated a ballooning and unproductive state sector of ‘bourgeois’ excess.
The descent to implosion started with the alienation of the vulnerable rural poor, sole traders, the unvaccinated, small business and economic sectors that could not adjust to lockdowns and the downstream consequences of dislocation. Then bewilderingly the whole rural sector was signalled as the primary target of climate change ideology that was more like an atheistic religious purge. This however was only ‘opium’ to the urban green economic activists in a Wellington bubble. Not content with this tirade of totalitarianism and messing with the means of production the Labour government drove the ‘out of control’ train of 3 waters, a dual racially divided health system and the continued and extending legislative requirements of ethnic consultation. Indigenous elites can increasingly demand influence and potentially equity before any progressive economic or environmental change can occur. – Alistair Boyce
The structure is elitest and tribal. This is opposed in its very nature to ‘western’ democratically structured governance with potential equitable redistribution of wealth (i.e. Democratic socialism in action).
This Labour government have significantly eroded the NZ democracy and its sovereignty by caving into an apologist academic elite whose catch cry is to blame all society’s ills on the effects of post colonialism without acknowledging economic, social and political progression and benefits. The prevailing Treaty of Waitangi analysis is opportunistic as opposed to realistic.
Indeed, under this Labour Government the rich and propertied have prospered while by any measure the disadvantaged pains have dramatically increased. Buying a house for most socio-economic demographics is now an impossible dream. The egalitarian socialist democratic ideal has been replaced by a new totalitarianism where ethnic and economic elites prosper, the state sector is elevated in a new realm of ‘woke’ privilege and the disadvantaged now have no hope or aspiration to climb out of the mire of socio-economic depravity. Lawlessness is endemic, on the rise and set to remain, becoming the next government’s problem. – Alistair Boyce
Any balanced debate of ‘co-governance’ has been actively stifled through control of the messaging through mainstream media by NZ on AIR and the State Journalism fund to the point where mainstream media business models are no longer sustainable without government funding. Any alternative view or debate on the government led version of co-governance is ridiculously labelled as racism. Most New Zealanders under 30 and substantial other socio-demographic segments no longer trust the simplistic homogeneity of mainstream pro co-governance ‘propaganda’.
The people are not fooled and were never consulted in the 2020 election campaign on the radical policies to come. Consequently large, marginalised segments turned into an active fifth column which proceeded to personalise, taunt and harass the government and in particular the leader responsible. Mainstream media analysis is missing the point. The reaction of the people is an effect of the cause, a betrayal by state sponsored totalitarianism, and they have been marginalised in greater numbers than arguably any NZ constituency ever before. It was a battle of wills. Jacinda Ardern was faced with the impossibility of taking the blame and directing a recourse going against both ethnic and academic elites and still losing an acrimonious and unforgiving election. The PM raised the white flag choosing to leave the field of battle than capitulate in a spiteful and vicious public election campaign.
Now Chris Hipkins inherits the battle and the impossible plan without a compliant and grateful mandate, but still with the power of absolute government. Without political restraint and in the absence of strong and coherent leadership, unrestrained power has been a poisoned chalice for Labour. How Hipkins deals with the Maori caucus and co-governance not only in practice but through the power of the state will determine the fate of Labour and himself. A double down on existing policy will result in an acrimonious division of NZ society and electoral annihilation. The choices of restrained continuance or a ‘cup of tea’ with a modified agenda probably won’t be enough to win the election but it might prevent a 4-term government tenure of the centre right. – Alistair Boyce
It appears the dangerous and impossible experiment is over and unwittingly, naturally market led Liberal Democracy is winning the battle, reverting it to a skirmish and hopefully avoiding a damaging and unwinnable social war.
The likelihood is Chris Hipkins will hang on uncomfortably until October 14, fighting fires. Hipkins will get burnt like Labour leaders before him. Being a boy from the Hutt with another ‘westie’ (no matter how diverse) for deputy will not save him, as Grant Robertson could probably predict. That story could be breaking news and will wait for another day. In the meantime, Robertson has carefully removed himself and the economic equation from the immediate reckoning leaving the new PM the poisoned chalice and nowhere to run.
The lasting legacy will hopefully be a nonapologetic restrengthening and re-correction of an effective, equitable and democratic policy framework based in proven Western Liberal Democratic traditions. An ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ that might help working kiwis, the disadvantaged in equal measure and small business get through the imminent recession, believing a better future is to come. But for the near future that will be in the hands of Hipkins, Robertson and the dynamic of direct democratic power…hold on to your seats, it will be a wild ride! – Alistair Boyce
The menace of misinformation has been used to threaten free speech everywhere, from Nigeria to Russia to New Zealand to France to China. Nowhere, however, has the debate been as heated as in the United States, where Russian dis- or misinformation is widely believed to have influenced the results of the 2016 election which put Donald Trump in the White House.
However, a stunning article published earlier this month in a leading science journal, Nature Communications, suggests that the Russians probably wasted their money. The misinformation gushing across Twitter and Facebook made hardly any impact on voters’ views. After studying election activity on Twitter, a group of American and European experts in social media and politics found that there was “no evidence of a meaningful relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior”.
This doesn’t mean that Russia didn’t work hard to sway public opinion – simply that its Internet Research Agency failed. – Michael Cook
The hysteria about the Russians sowed the seed of distrust amongst American voters. If Trump had been elected in a manipulated election in 2016, it was entirely plausible that Biden was elected in a manipulated election in 2020. The researchers conclude:
Indeed, debate about the 2016 US election continues to raise questions about the legitimacy of the Trump presidency and to engender mistrust in the electoral system, which in turn may be related to Americans’ willingness to accept claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election … Russia’s foreign influence campaign on social media may have had its largest effects by convincing Americans that its campaign was successful.
In short, where Russian saboteurs failed, the American media succeeded – they spread discord and division throughout the nation. There is a straight line between gullibility about Russian bogeymen and the “stop the steal” invasion of Capitol Hill.
The question of how much toxic misinformation on social media influences public opinion is far from settled, as the authors of this article acknowledge. But it seems sure that Jacinda Ardern’s dream of censoring the internet deserves to fail. – Michael Cook
I think it has been quite a divisive and immature conversation over recent years, and I personally think it’s because the government hasn’t been upfront or transparent with the New Zealand people about where it’s going and what it’s doing. – Christopher Luxon
I think about Kōhanga Reo, I think about Whānau Ora, innovations that were delivered within the coherency of a single system of delivery of public service.”
We believe in a single coherent system – not one system for Māori and another system for non-Māori – for the delivery of public services. Things like health, education, and justice, and critical infrastructure like three waters.
It doesn’t mean that we don’t want Māori involved in decision-making and partnering with Māori, we have a principal objection because New Zealand has one government: it’s elected by all of us, it’s accountable to all of us, and its public services are available to anyone who needs them.”
While we oppose co-governance of public services as just discussed I want you to know the National Party wants a New Zealand where Māori success is New Zealand’s success. – Christopher Luxon
Absolutely, a 50 year plan would be fantastic. One that couldn’t be hijacked by ideology or some blue sky thinking. 93% of our goods are delivered by truck and you can talk all you like about how that needs to change, this is what’s happening right now. You want your bread, you want your milk, you want your chicken, you want your furniture. Basically, you want anything that makes your life a life a lifestyle. It’s delivered by truck. And while we have that level of goods being delivered on the road, and while we have this level of degradation on our roads, it’s costing you and me. When the trucking companies have to repair their trucks because of appalling potholes, they don’t wear that themselves. They pass on that cost. And so we all have to pay for the degradation of our roads. – Kerre Woodham
Much has been written about Jacinda Ardern having to deal with the Christchurch terror attack, the White Island eruption and the Covid-19 pandemic. It is worth remembering that dealing with crises and disasters is part and parcel of being a Prime Minister. During his time in office, John Key had to deal with the Global Financial Crisis, two Christchurch earthquakes, the Pike River Mine disaster, and the Swine Flu pandemic.
But he could also point to his government’s significant record of achievement in managing the country from recession to a “rock star” economy – by reducing government spending, lowering the debt, freeing up the labour markets, and reforming welfare to support more long-term beneficiaries out of dependency and into work.
And that’s the problem for Jacinda Ardern. When she looks at her legacy, what has she achieved?
She claims to have improved child poverty, but the record shows otherwise. She claims to have built houses, but 1,500 is not the 100,000 promised.
Instead, tens of thousands of families are living in motels, crime is rampant, immigration failure has created a nation-wide shortage of workers, union control has removed flexibility from the labour market, the welfare system has again become a trap for long-term beneficiaries, and the inclusion of employment and house prices in the Reserve Bank’s mandate has taken the focus off inflation, leading to the serious cost of living crisis that is now enveloping the country. – Dr Muriel Newman
On balance, she deserves credit for knowing when to throw in the towel if her heart is no longer in it. But Ms. Ardern leaves with much of her promised agenda unfulfilled. It’s been thrilling to be on the world map. But in the end, her years in power were like those maps that left New Zealand off: flawed and incomplete. – Josie Pagani
In the wake of Ardern’s abrupt resignation, the mainstream media are determined to convince us she was hounded from office mainly because she is a woman and had to fall on her sword to escape unrelenting “gendered abuse”.
The fact Ardern has overseen a bonfire of what was a vast store of political capital just two years ago and was facing a resounding defeat at this year’s election has mostly gone unremarked among the flood of columns defending her as the unfortunate victim of trolls and misogynists. – Graham Adams
Well, journalists and commentators are angry — but not at her. The object of their ire is mainly the allegedly mean-spirited, stupid and ungrateful public, who apparently refused to sufficiently acknowledge and respect her virtues as Prime Minister. – Graham Adams
The increasingly visceral reaction to her steady undermining of democracy, and her government’s general incompetence, seems to be interpreted by many commentators as a case of voters failing her rather than the reverse.
Against reason, we are effectively asked to believe that a nation that gave Ardern an unprecedented majority in 2020 — alongside personal popularity ratings in the 70s that outshone anything John Key achieved — has become a deeply misogynistic nation in just two years.
And this despite the fact Ardern herself has denied that misogynistic abuse played any part in her resignation. As she told Newshub when asked whether misogyny influenced her decision: – Graham Adams
It is evident from many reports that women in politics do receive more personal abuse than men but there is nevertheless a glaring imbalance in the type of abuse each sex gets and how they are expected to deal with it. Male politicians are personally abused in ways that would be unthinkable if directed at females. – Graham Adams
Usually, a captain abandoning a sinking ship ahead of the officers, crew and passengers in the first lifeboat available is regarded as an unforgivable act of cowardice. The fact he or she might be tired, or stressed, or overworked never trumps their duty to those in their care.
Astonishingly, in New Zealand, most journalists have preferred to blame the passengers for losing faith in their captain despite the fact she has recklessly steered the ship of state, and her party, onto the rocks. The media appears to believe the passengers are at fault for objecting to the fact Ardern was taking them on a voyage they mostly hadn’t agreed to be on. – Graham Adams
Ironically, Ardern has been complicit herself in an extraordinary legislative move to make misogyny official government policy.
The passing of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act in 2021 — which introduces a self-identification process for changing the sex shown on a person’s New Zealand birth certificate — effectively makes being a woman a state of mind.
By making the definition of a woman a moveable feast that includes biological men she has helped erase the scientific and common-sense definitions that underpin women’s sex-based rights.
Now that’s misogyny. – Graham Adams
Those who continue to ferociously support Ardern, are those who can’t see beyond the health response. Yes, the decision to lockdown in March 2020 was a life-saving and unprecedented decision. The failings came afterwards. The management of our economy, and the failure of the leadership team to horizon-scan on issues like accessing the vaccine, rolling it out, the economic response, and the crucial role that immigration was going to play in lifting our productivity. That was lost, it seems, on Labour’s leadership team who went back to the text books — they opted for ideology as opposed to responding to the dynamic reality we were living in.
Now, that’s what Hipkins has to shoulder. Policy, policy, policy. What is he going to do? – Rachel Smalley
And that’s what Hipkins has inherited. He is going to have to face into the policy and reform vacuum that Ardern has left in her wake. What to keep? What to ditch? And what of the hundreds of millions of dollars, in fact, it will be over a billion, that has been invested in some of these policies that he will shelve. In a country with significant child poverty and inequality issues, that will be a very uncomfortable pill to swallow for Kiwis. – Rachel Smalley
I am sure Hipkins is sincere in his belief in state education. His allegations regarding charter schools were reckless. An independent report found they were wrong. Māori and Pasifika pupils greatly benefited from charter schools.
Hipkins has announced he is doing a review of Labour’s policies. Reviewing Labour’s opposition to charter schools would be a good start. New Zealand’s ranking in the international educational comparison tests are the lowest ever. Māori and Pasifika pupils are voting with their feet and fleeing state schools. – Richard Prebble
The most reliable predictor of election results is the right way/wrong way poll. For around 18 months the polls indicate most of us think the country is going the wrong way.
Hipkins can only win an election if he can produce a new agenda to take us in a new direction. He has no mandate for a new direction. He can only get a new mandate from an election. I do not know if Hipkins can win a snap election. I know if he waits until October Labour will be swept away. – Richard Prebble
The Budget is due in May. With Robertson at the helm, Hipkins has an experienced Minister of Finance in budget processes. But that Minister of Finance is also experienced in spending large amounts of taxpayers’ money. Hipkins has promised to address the ‘inflation pandemic’ but high fiscal spend doesn’t help with this.
Perhaps the hardest thing for Hipkins to be able turn the boat around, is all the Government has said on its reform agenda. Being a senior member of Ardern’s team, he has been rolled out numerous times to defend government policies, thus providing plenty of file footage for use in the media and in Opposition attack ads.
Hipkins’ biggest selling point as the new leader is the experience he brings to the role. But he cannot distance himself from the Ardern era. He received the two-thirds majority needed to get leadership within 48 hours of Ardern’s announcement, which is likely to mean he needed to make a lot of concessions to his caucus colleagues.
Hipkins may be speaking a big game of going back to ‘bread and butter’ issues, but the logistical and political costs are likely to impede any ambitious U-turns. – Brigitte Morten
Ihe Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods by John McKnight and Peter Block led me to realise that we, as citizens in the broadest sense, had ceded our power to central and local government at great cost to our sense of agency as communities. And that’s what the aftermath of the earthquakes had restored for a moment in time.
These writers warn us of the dangers of the dependency that results from governments fixing our problems for us; robbing us of our capacity to problem-solve, and reducing our ability to build resilience. And that is something we are going to need in spades as we confront the challenges we know are coming our way. – Lianne Dalziel
Do we want to be consumers of government services, or citizens active in our neighbourhoods and communities, helping to solve problems that affect us all? – Lianne Dalziel
To anyone living with a rare disease, there are new, promising medications being developed constantly, so… don’t give up. Don’t give up on hope. There are always things being developed that can be life-changing. – Judy Knox
Imagine if mainstream British politicians were photographed at a demo at which someone was holding a placard that said ‘Decapitate coconuts’. A demo at which there were open, horrendous expressions of violent contempt for black people who hold the supposedly wrong views. A demo at which it was stated that such sinful ethnic-minority people should not only be executed but eaten, too. ‘I eat coconuts’, one of the signs might say. There would be uproar, rightly so. It’s unlikely the politicians would keep their jobs for long.
Well, the sexist equivalent of this scenario did happen, for real, in Glasgow on Saturday. Politicians were seen standing in front of protest signs that fantasised about visiting bigoted violence, not upon morally disobedient black people, but upon morally disobedient women. TERFs, as they’re called, which literally means ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’, but which really means witch, bitch, scold, hag. Anyone who has witnessed a hardline trans activist spit out the word ‘TERF’ will be under no illusion as to the misogynistic menace that underpins that four-letter slur. Yet while there is concern over what happened in Glasgow, there isn’t as much public fury as one might expect. – Brendan O’Neill
Not seeing two hateful placards is kind of forgivable – not seeing that trans activism now seems to consist of little more than angry men bellowing ‘witch’ in the faces of women who have the temerity to disagree with them is not.
We need to talk about the hatred for ‘TERFs’. It is out of control. It is the most vehement form of bigotry in the UK right now. Over the past few days, we haven’t only witnessed gender-deluded men in Glasgow saying ‘Decapitate TERFs’. We’ve also had Reduxx magazine reveal the identity of the Scottish trans activist – a man – who wrote despicable violent tweets about someone driving a car into one of Kellie-Jay Keen’s gatherings of gender-critical women, so that we might see TERFs ‘exploding like bin bags full of baked beans on your windshield’. The same gender jihadist spoke about murdering Rosie Duffield with a gun and JK Rowling with a hammer. – Brendan O’Neill
A political party that harbours men who dream of battering women, and whose elected representatives are seen next to banners calling for women to be beheaded, and whose councillors compare women who defend their sex-based rights to the people who oversaw the industrial slaughter of Europe’s Jews has a very serious problem, doesn’t it? – Brendan O’Neill
Sexist hate is a daily reality for women who question the idea that you can change sex. Witness those clips in which mobs of masked men yell ‘fucking scum’ and ‘fucking piece of shit’ at Kellie-Jay Keen and her gender-critical friends. See the rape and death threats visited upon JK Rowling every week. ‘You are next’, a lowlife said to her when she expressed sorrow over the stabbing of Salman Rushdie. Or just behold the low-level intimidation that attends virtually every gathering of ‘TERFs’. There will always be gangs of men outside gender-critical meetings; men horrified by the idea of women speaking among themselves about their rights; men who ridiculously believe that their feeling of ‘womanhood’ and badly applied lippy makes them women, too. Better women, in fact. As India Willoughby tweeted at the weekend, ‘I’m more of a woman than JK Rowling will ever be’. That’s misogyny, too. The idea that a man – yes, India’s a bloke – even does womanhood better than women is testament to the low view of womankind that’s been whipped up by the trans cult.
Any movement that attracts so many bigots really should have a word with itself. Any activist set that helps to make it fashionable again to call women witches really should engage in some self-reflection. For here’s the thing: while it might be the outliers of the trans cult who scream witch and issue death threats and say ‘suck my girldick’, their tirades only express with greater ferocity and spite the misogyny that is inherent to modern trans activism. The root idea of the contemporary trans movement – that ‘transwomen are women’ – is itself misogynistic. Its reduction of womanhood from a biological, social, relational phenomenon to a costume that anyone can pull on, even people with dicks, is profoundly sexist. It dehumanises women. It denies the specificity of their experiences. It turns womanhood into a feeling, something flimsy. – Brendan O’Neill
The mantra ‘transwomen are women’ underpins the resurgence of misogynistic thinking. There is a traceable line from this mainstream chant to the fringe cries of ‘cunt’ aimed at any woman who says transwomen are not women; that there’s more to being a woman than feeling and image. The violent hatred for ‘TERFs’ might mostly come from unstable individuals online, but it expresses the sexism and intolerance that are absolutely key to trans activism more broadly, and in particular to its belief that a man can be a woman. We need a firmer fightback against the hatred for ‘TERFs’ and in defence of the things that are threatened by this new witch-hunt – women’s rights, freedom of speech and scientific truth. – Brendan O’Neill
Recently, the private schools and in particular some of the more established public schools, remind me of the iceberg that has melted over time, weakened by their misplaced love of child-centred learning and rejection of adult authority over decades. In such a fragile state, when the woke brigade comes searching, these schools flip right over, suddenly and without warning, bowing to the incessant cry against the privileged.
Once upon a time, public schools were bastions of traditionalism, setting the standard for the rest of us. The richer in society used to have a sense of duty towards those less fortunate and these schools made it their raison d’être to inspire young men and women to serve others. Many graduates from these schools would seek careers that would allow them ‘to give back’ and live out their duty. – Katharine Birbalsingh
Help out at the local soup kitchen? Join the army? Become a teacher? Why do that, when all you have to do is join a Twitter mob that will cleanse you well enough to earn a quarter of a million a year in the City and read the Financial Times – Katharine Birbalsingh
Hipkins’ actions so far have been positive, enthusiastic, and polished, further encouraging a hitherto increasingly anxious caucus that the party’s fortunes may be about to change. With Parliament resuming in three weeks, this is all good news for Labour. However, the rapture notwithstanding, Labour’s electoral mountain remains as high as ever.
In addition to all the usual problems facing a government in election year, Hipkins faces three potentially insurmountable challenges to conquer before election day – time, the deteriorating economy, and the “Jacinda factor”. – Peter Dunne
Even if he manages to successfully overcome these hurdles, Hipkins still faces the biggest one of all – history. Since Peter Fraser succeeded Michael Joseph Savage in 1940, six prime ministers – Holyoake, Marshall, Rowling, Moore, Shipley and English – who have taken over during a parliamentary term have lost the next election. While Labour’s delight in the smooth way in which this week’s dramatic transition has been handled is understandable and justified, it is but one step in the confirmation process. The final, decisive word rests with voters, who will have their say on election day. – Peter Dunne
We are very conscious that lower-income New Zealanders are being absolutely smashed by inflation.
The great shame is that Labour increased the minimum wage so much in previous years, but what you’ve seen has happened is that they have not been able to increase it as much in these inflationary years because they know it will be passed on. – Nicola Willis
Now, every year National was in government we increased the minimum wage – we think that is the right thing to do – but how much you do that by is a very careful balance.
Because what we don’t want is workers on the one hand being paid more, but on the other hand having to pay so much more in costs at the supermarket, on rent and other things that their wages just get eaten up. – Nicola Willis
Starmer has unwittingly revealed what ‘Davos Man’ is all about: he’s about escaping the irritating plane of democratic decision-making in preference for the rarefied company of the 21st century’s self-styled philosopher-kings. He’s about liberating himself from the constraints of democratic politics – especially the constraint of being answerable to the masses – in favour of chumming about with the better-educated, better-dressed better people of the World Economic Forum. For Starmer to dismiss Westminster, the Mother of Parliaments, the one institution over which British citizens have some direct and meaningful control, as just a ‘tribal, shouting place’ is depressingly revealing. It reveals his contempt for parliamentary democracy, and it reveals Davos Man’s belief that politics is better done away from us pesky plebs.
The World Economic Forum has been taking place at Davos in Switzerland every year since 1971. It’s an ‘annual jamboree for plutocratic banksters, avaricious industrialists and superannuated spongers to come together in an orgiastic eulogy to global capital’, in the apt words of the Spectator. – Brendan O’Neill
In Britain, a democracy, aspiring PM Starmer is constantly bombarded with tough questions, like ‘Do women have penises?’. He’s forever torn between the Remoaner instincts of probably every single person he knows and socialises with and the Brexit beliefs of vast numbers of ordinary people, including Labour-voting people. He has to go into the House of Commons, that tribal hellhole, and submit his vision for the country to the criticism and even ridicule of his fellow elected representatives. What a nightmare! Far better to be in the cushy surrounds of Davos, far from the madding crowd, in polite, agreeable meetings with polite, agreeable people, where you’ll never bump into a Brexit voter or a ‘TERF’ asking you yet again if women can have penises. Davos is sweet relief for a political class that likes politics but not the public.
This is what Davos has always been about. It is nearly 20 years since the political scientist Samuel P Huntington popularised the term ‘Davos Man’ to describe an ‘emerging global superclass’ of ‘gold-collar workers’. Huntington nailed Davos Man. He’s part of a powerful ‘class’ that is ‘empowered by new notions of global connectedness’, he said. Davos Man is ostentatiously ‘post-national’, said Huntington. These elites ‘have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations’. – Brendan O’Neill
This is the key dynamic in globalist politics. Globalism is not a plot by sinister rich people, even if the WEF’s use of phrases like ‘the great reset’ and ‘global redesign’ are a tad chilling. Rather, it is the outward, physical manifestation of national elites’ turn against nationhood; of their search for new forums beyond borders, and beyond public accountability, in which they might make decisions. For much of the postwar period, and with real vim since the 1970s, insulating political decision-making from public pressure has been the great cause of the modern political establishment. Hence, we’ve had the rise of the European Union, the founding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, annual gatherings like COP and Davos – all justified on the basis that there are some issues that are so large and complicated that it is preferable for them to be discussed and decided upon by clever people untethered from the low-information urges of ill-read national populations. Davos is less the cause of the crisis of democracy than its beneficiary.
The end result of this cult of political insulation, of elevating policy from the national sphere to the global one, is the rise of a new elite that views itself as borderline godly. – Brendan O’Neill
There’s a religious fervour to nutty comments like these; a fantastical vision of oneself as the messianic deliverer of humankind from doom. Now we know what happens to the political elites when they free themselves from public pressure, from us: they go mad.
It’s time to bring them all crashing back down to Earth. Back to the terrestrial world of nations and politics and accountability. Back from Davos to London and Washington and Paris. So what if they’re bored with the institutions of national democracy? These are the institutions through which the rest of us can express our interests and keep politics fresh and responsive. The gold-collared superclass might have little need for national loyalty and national government, but the working classes still do. – Brendan O’Neill
Prior to Ardern’s resignation, Willis said “It’s well past time for the government to present a real economic plan.” And she said the government had to come back from the Christmas holiday and deliver one. They didn’t. It’s now January 26th, and the government came back from holiday and delivered a resignation. There is still no plan. Inflation is static — a stonking 7.2% – and we can feel the cool winds of a recession blowing in.
The pomp and ceremony is over for Hipkins now. He has to get on and deliver – something his Government has never really achieved in five years. And when he puts forward his economic plan, he does so knowing that a student of one of our most effective Finance Ministers is watching on, and she’s waiting in the wings. – Rachel Smalley
Now, in his first speech as incoming PM, Chris Hipkins said his focus would be on the economy & cost-of-living. It constitutes a full re-branding of Labour. Why do that? To answer that question, let’s first define former PM Ardern’s legacy.
In a line, it was a focus on non-economic and moral issues. If you read Ardern’s Harvard address, it refers to the likes of abortion, gun-control, “misinformation” on the Web, future of democracy & her “kindness” agenda. She never spoke a word about economics. Of course, Harvard students & professors would not take well to being lectured on that subject – but loved every word of her class on the morals – giving her a standing ovation.
But that’s not where it ends. Ardern also tried to be a climate change leader & championed minimizing Covid-related health issues during the pandemic by imposing strict rules, which led to large economic costs. Those economists who advocated quantifying the benefits of these rules against the financial costs were branded cold, heartless types at the time – folks who callously put a monetary value on human life. – Robert MacCulloch
Ardern’s leadership only saw an ad-hoc, stitched together set of reactions to put out the many fires blowing up in the Kiwi economy. However, with no guiding economic model behind her, I believe her sincere & earnest attempts to put out those fires proved immensely stressful and over-bearing.
Today, Kiwis are too busy paying food, petrol & mortgage bills to philosophize about trade-offs between freedom of speech and disinformation on the web with kids at Harvard. Surveys show the cost-of-living is our chief concern.
That’s why Hipkins first act as PM was to rebrand Labour. He thinks Ardern’s reputation as a global leader righting the world’s wrongs has morphed into a domestic liability. Hipkins is branding himself as “chippy”, an ordinary Hutt Valley kid who needs to save his own finances before he can save the world. – Robert MacCulloch
Many commentators are now suggesting that Labour will abandon identity politics and move to the “bread-and-butter” right.
But there’s a deeper problem our new PM must contend with; the issue of trust in institutions, particularly in the government. A recent Herald poll showed that 32 percent of respondents found the government untrustworthy, and 15 percent found them very untrustworthy. The Herald also found that 64 percent felt the country had become more divided.
It is important to remember that leadership choices and decisions have far-reaching consequences. Leaders are responsible for the environment they create. Cheerfully saying that you are happy to create a two-tier society with vaccine mandates after consistently rejecting the idea erodes trust. Trying to vote through an entrenchment clause in the already controversial Three Waters bill does the same. As do financial stimulus packages that exacerbate the gap between rich and poor. – Jason Heale
But here’s the thing; as a representative democracy, it is ultimately our responsibility as citizens to hold leaders accountable by voting. During their time in office, we also have the privilege of providing feedback in various forms, whether through writing to them or protesting if we feel we are not being heard. The way we do it demonstrates the trust deficit that many are seeing.
Given that a week is a long time in politics, the election is quite far off. A Curia Poll of people who voted for Labour in 2020 shows that many key policies are unpopular. In fact, our new leader’s primary challenge is rebuilding our trust in the government. That will heal divisions. As Thomas Simpson has written, “there is evidence from the US that political polarisation is now affecting the ability of ordinary citizens to engage with each other on issues which are politically significant.”
The trust challenge is a big ask; Ardern turned her party around within weeks in 2017; Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has to turn the country around in a matter of months. – Jason Heale
Politics has become a struggle between those with knowledge capital, versus those with financial capital. The people left out are those with neither. They used to be called the working class, and I’m on their side. – Josie Pagani
AI is picking up the way ‘’progressive left’’ voices present to the world. Thomas Piketty calls it the “Brahmin left”, those who see their mission as clerics instructing the masses. The goal is not necessarily growth or affluence for the many, but a society shaped by their own beliefs.
When did the left stop talking about poverty first, and the hope implicit in lifting people out of it? – Josie Pagani
The left mimicked by AI is not hopeful, it is catastropharian. We are close to extinction, not the authors of a world within reaching distance of being free from poverty for the first time in history.
We were once nation-builders, whose pitch was hope. Norm Kirk put it into poetry at a time when politicians were more preacher than party. He believed everyone wants someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work, something to hope for.
Robots see a left in which optimism and red-blooded moral crusade have been replaced by a professional political class whose 10-point plan beats a 5-point plan. –
The educated class supports a version of ‘’diversity’’ that manages to exclude diversity of opinion or life experience.
I’m not so interested in the horse race of politics – who is up or down. Politics for me is the joyfulness of life, or why bother? – Josie Pagani
Labour, I believed, needed to face some uncomfortable truths. I am not qualified to unpack the origins of misogyny in New Zealand – that needs to be explored by a team of psychiatrists and social anthropologists. However, I do believe the escalation in generalised online anger is fuelled by New Zealanders who, for two years, didn’t have a voice.
The Government didn’t so much run a tight ship through Covid, it ran a submarine.
It engaged only with those who supported its narrative, and never critically appraised its decisions or strategy. For months, we saw only Ardern, Ashley Bloomfield, and Grant Robertson. Progressively, we saw Chris Hipkins too, but our lives were shaped by four people who, collectively, didn’t engage with or listen to the people they governed.
If you deny people their freedom – even if you believe it’s in their best interests – and you don’t provide an opportunity for open communication, you will ultimately create angry, caged animals. This doesn’t in any way justify the horrific abuse that Ardern has received, but it hopefully suggests that New Zealanders can pull themselves back from the horrible, polarised place we find ourselves living in today. – Rachel Smalley
Words are lovely. Saying the right thing is great but doing something, anything, shows you really mean it.
I have no doubt he’ll get there eventually, but if you’re sworn in as Prime Minister on the same day the annual inflation rate is announced and it’s stubbornly stuck at 7.2 percent, you should be asking your finance minister for something, anything that’s in the works or relatively easy to hustle together to announce at your first big, official public moment in the job. – Tova O’Brien
This new regime is promising change in the weeks and months ahead, promising greater support for low and middle-income earners and small businesses.
Getting out there and listening as the PM is doing with businesses here in Auckland today is important, statements of intent are important.
But when people can’t afford crumbs, throwing a morsel their way will fill bellies and petrol tanks far more than words and meetings ever could. – Tova O’Brien
One of the characteristics of fame is that it is essentially Faustian in nature; to become a celebrity, one must sell one’s soul to the devil. It’s a highly questionable idea — why should there be such a price for being proficient at acting or music, for instance? — but it is one that persists, regardless of continual pushback from those in the public gaze. The reason it does so is not just down to the power of the media but also because it offers a sense of justice, or at least morbid satisfaction, to the public. We can look at the rich and famous, with wealth, status and lifestyles beyond our wildest dreams, and assure ourselves that there has been a terrible cost to their integrity, privacy and ultimately wellbeing, and suddenly the world seems just a little bit more balanced and just. Even the paparazzi, hated and courted by celebrities, have this Mephistophelean quality. – Darran Anderson
What is particularly illustrative and sympathetic about Prince Harry’s relationship with fame is that it was not chosen. In the traditional Faustian transaction, the would-be genius or celebrity sells their soul, knowing that the cost is damnation and believing that the gains will be worth it. With the royals, fame is hereditary, which is as much of a curse as a blessing. The transaction is one-sided. No deal is made and yet the individual assumes precisely the same debt. In a world, even a country, where children are born into horrendous poverty and deprivation, it’s difficult to have sympathy for someone born into immense privilege. Yet it is warranted, given that child we watched walking along forlorn at his mother’s funeral did not choose any of this.
The problem is that Prince Harry is now a man and no longer a lost boy. Though he has chosen an arguably noble route of walking away from an environment that had shunned him, and he has the right to speak his mind and tell his own story, he has not walked away from fame. Sympathy, like any resource, is finite. It is entirely reasonable to wish to escape the stilted environment expected of the royals, the stiff upper lipped omerta that hides a multitude of pain and sins, the expectations to be a well-turned-out blind eye-turning mannequin (some years ago, I found myself in the unlikely company of a drunken lord who informed me that the royals were pitied by the rest of the aristocracy).
It is even more understandable to wish to escape the glare of the lens that played a part in the death of a beloved parent. Having chosen Meghan and America, Prince Harry had the chance to transcend fame and to effectively defeat the presence that has seemingly haunted his life. He could go semi-privately into any number of ventures. Harry was not, after all, a signatory to the Faustian pact. One of the most tragic aspects to what has been unfolding is not just the painful reality of a family schism, but rather that at the brink of escape, Harry decided to return to the table to sign the contract. – Darran Anderson
The point where sympathy dissipates is with this issue of fame, the courting of it rather than the walking away. This is where the public’s role in the Faustian bargain comes in. This is what differentiates celebrities from the rest of us, the point of departure, and the judgement can and may well be merciless. By aiming for the echo chamber of the terminally online and the patronage of the American establishment, the wider sympathy is lost. It is especially frustrating as the prince had a chance to get out. – Darran Anderson
Here lies the deeper issue. Whatever you think of Harry and Meghan or the Royal Family, you are expected to think something — whether acolyte or tormentor. The public are the essential piece of the Faustian contract, as much as the media. We are its creditors. When it is signed, what might begin as human sympathy becomes a detached form of judgement. The figures we gaze at become dehumanised, either as saints or demons. The weight of having to play these roles or simply being perceived as such is no small thing, though we can always say they are well renumerated for their troubles. It is worth considering what the gaze of the media does to such figures, and Prince Harry’s life is an ongoing example, but it is also worth considering what it is doing to those of us who watch. – Darran Anderson
Accuracy is the cornerstone of journalism, especially when it comes to news reporting. If a man appeared in court, claiming to be a brain surgeon when he was actually a hospital porter, we wouldn’t expect a headline announcing ‘brain surgeon convicted of rape’. The same rule should apply to other obviously untrue claims. – Darran Anderson
At a time when it has become routine for male defendants to be referred to in court reports as ‘she’, such a high-profile case presented newspapers and websites with a stark dilemma. The judges’ bench book, which consists of guidance rather than law, says it is a matter of ‘common courtesy’ to use the personal pronoun and name that a person prefers. Many women and some lawyers, however, think it is ridiculous — and insulting to rape victims — to enforce a pretence that a male defendant is female. – Joan Smith
The state the courts have got themselves into by submitting to the demands of gender ideology is vividly illustrated by the judge’s remarks to the defendant in this case: “Ms Bryson, you have been convicted of two extremely serious charges, this being charges of rape”. A woman cannot be convicted of rape, which is an assault involving the use of a penis. In a bitter irony, the prosecutor described Bryson’s evidence as “entirely incredible and unreliable” — yet the court accepted his claim to be a woman.
No one who has seen pictures of Bryson arriving at court in skin tight leggings believes that for a moment. Accepting his claim at face value has dire consequences, because it has been reported that he will be housed in a women’s prison while awaiting assessment, despite being convicted of violence against women.
Journalists should be calling out this nonsense, not going along with it. If editors feel it is being imposed on them by the justice system, why aren’t they campaigning against a blatant attack on press freedom? If it’s trans activists they’re afraid of, they need to get a backbone. Distrust of the media is widespread and this practice of ‘misgendering’ rapists is making it worse. – Joan Smith
It’s often difficult to distinguish the cunning from the stupidity, the foolishness from the evil, of the political class.
In Scotland, a bill has been passed to make it easier for 16-year-olds to change their gender on official documents and to be recognized as their chosen gender (the word sex has, of course, been expunged from the discussion, and will soon be as redundant as the word “unhappy,” which has now been replaced in common parlance by “depressed”). – Theodore Dalrymple
The multiple confusions of all this need hardly be pointed out. The term “gender assigned at birth” makes it sound as if the sex inscribed on a birth certificate was decided by the flip of a coin, that it was completely arbitrary and had no basis in objective reality independent of anyone’s will (it’s sex, of course, not gender, that’s assigned at birth). Moreover, to live as someone of the chosen different, that is to say opposite, gender suggests that there’s an essential difference between male and female, which difference it’s the ultimate object of transgenderism as an ideology to deny. If there weren’t such a difference, how could it be recognized that someone had lived as either of the genders? There would be no need for certificates. – Theodore Dalrymple
Naturally, not everyone in Scotland is opposed to the bill and there have been demonstrations (not very large ones, it’s true, but noisy and attention-receiving) in favor of it. I think this must be the first time in recent history, at any rate, that there have been demonstrations demanding what amounts to the abrogation of adult responsibility towards, and manipulation and abuse of, immature young people.
The most important question, perhaps, is what’s next on the progressive agenda, once the right of children to change gender (with present technology, they can’t yet change sex) has been granted? There will surely come a time when progressives will grow bored with the issue and seek another to give meaning to their lives. – Theodore Dalrymple
Apparently, political agendas are okay in science so long as it’s your politics being promoted. The sad part is that so much of science is being damaged by the failure of advocates to understand that science is supposed to be largely free from political slants, and when a political viewpoint has permeated science, as in the Lysenko affair, it has always been harmful. And make no mistake about it—the conception of DEI being promoted as the future pathway to “inclusive equity”, both here and in other science societies, is indeed an ideology, and one that can be rationally debated instead of being taken as a given that must be enforced. – Jerry Coyne
A child’s wishes must be taken seriously, but can be only one factor in reaching an overall decision about their best interests, in a highly charged and complex situation. Given the uncertainty surrounding diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria, the UK should, like Finland, Sweden and France, follow a more cautious path; we should end medication and medical transition for children and adolescents now. – Dr David Bell
The city has been badly let down: by a calamitous lack of under-investment in critical infrastructure, a mayor who lacks all the right qualities for leadership. Local emergency management, and critical transport agencies were caught napping. – Andrea Vance
This Government is already on thin ice with Aucklanders. There is no coming back from mishandling the emergency response.
And let’s not get carried away by a promising start. Hipkins is just a fresh coat of paint. The same weaknesses remain – competence and delivery. – Andrea Vance
Shuffling the chairs around the Cabinet table, and dumping a couple of policies, won’t be enough to convince a grumpy electorate Labour has really changed. – Andrea Vance
And so it ends. A most remarkable premiership has run its course and all we have left are the memories.
Well. We also have $60 billion of additional sovereign debt, an expanded social welfare roll, inflation, a generation locked out of homeownership, expanded restrictions on free speech, and a container-ship of social meddling, from a ban on plastic shopping bags to a law preventing the sale of cigarettes to anyone born during or after the reign of Sir John Key.
Ardern’s zenith was in the weeks after the Christchurch terror attacks.
Her leadership was powerful and sincere. The collective response to her genuine and empathetic reaction ensured that anger, both domestically and internationally, was directed at the one place it belonged: the terrorist. – Damien Grant
However, this brief season of national unity was used to force through a prohibition and compulsory acquisition of a range of firearms with minimal engagement with the usual democratic processes. – Damien Grant
Much has been written about the Covid response and the merits of the decisions taken. We are now in a position to reflect on the costs; both economic and social.
Under Ardern’s guidance we became a nasty team of 5 million.
We hounded the unclean out of their employment and our cafes. For anyone whose understanding of history is more extensive than whatever is taught in our schools, the sight of citizens having to show their papers to board public transport or attend a lecture was dispiriting. As was the public’s uncritical compliance.
Worse was to come. The Fourth Estate cowering on the balcony of the Third Estate as the marginalised, disenfranchised and desperate ranted in impotent rage on the lawn below is a metaphor for how civil society evolved under Ardern’s guidance.
Those protesting were not rivers of filth. They were driven by desperation and often delusion into an act of insanity no more deranged than demanding that a man languish in managed isolation as his father died in a nearby hospital. – Damien Grant
As we look back, it becomes clear that we were in the grip of hysteria that was being used by the state to drive compliance.
What was done was done with pure intentions by those who believe with certainty that sacrificing the individual for the collective good is not only just but necessary. It is a rationale with a troubling legacy.
Yet the real gift Ardern has left the land of the troubled long white cloud is in the area of race relations.
Like most Pākehā I am not that interested in the Treaty. I have read the various versions, written columns on the topic, but like our current Prime Minister I’d struggle to rattle its principles off if put on the spot. And yet I, like most of my contemporaries, am perfectly happy with the process of dealing with historical grievances.
If land was taken, it should be returned, and if it cannot be then compensation paid. – Damien Grant
I am suspicious about the elastic and ill-defined principles of the Treaty and believe that the Tribunal itself is operating outside its statutory remit.
Equally, I am aware that those whose lands were taken and ancestors attacked and killed by colonial forces breaching the Treaty’s undertakings feel that the regime is far too parsimonious, slow, and the compensation inadequate for the wrongs committed.
If you look around the post-colonial world, New Zealand has navigated these issues far better than most. The cost, in terms of our GDP, has been trivial, and the advantages of having a robust if imperfect process for resolving historical grievances far outweigh any errors at the margins.
Into this delicate balance crashed Ardern and her progressive thoughtlessness. – Damien Grant
We are moving from a regime where historical wrongs are being addressed, to a state where one ethnic class has an inherent and enduring political status that is based on their ancestry. This cannot end well.
It is possible that the reform remains in place amid a growing resentment in the wider population.
There will also be disenchantment when it becomes clear that this change does not benefit the rank and file within Māoridom but only those with the skills connections to capitalise on the opportunity. – Damien Grant
Ardern will forever be popular among those who are delighted not by what she did, but who she was.
In this she was the perfect post-modern prime minister for a generation who believe your identity matters more than your character, and where your intentions carry more weight than the outcomes of your actions. – Damien Grant
People have stopped listening to Labour and simply don’t believe their promises. He can cancel a few things – but are they cancelled or just postponed?
Hipkins has been an integral part of the Ardern Government. As a senior minister and a close confidant of hers, he has approved and led much of the work that has been proven to be very unpopular.
Will people believe that he has changed his mind? More likely they will think that he is only cancelling some projects because he wants to win the next election. What happens if they do win? – Paula Bennett
Hipkins has already stated that he wants to see changes to our tax system. That he doesn’t believe the current system is fair, but he won’t make changes before the election. What will those changes be if he is PM after October 14?
We do know what Hipkins stands for. He has led much of the unpopular policy work over the past few years and he has not changed his ideology overnight. At a personal level I wish him well. However, this change of guard will not be enough to change the minds of the majority of New Zealand voters. – Paula Bennett
New Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ most urgent task is to convince Labour-sceptical voters his Government is different to Jacinda Ardern’s.
To do that, he needs to cut Three Waters immediately.
Nothing else would signal change as clearly as ditching Three Waters.
This policy is radioactive to voters. It is a symbol of how distracted and arrogant the Ardern government became.
Nothing screams “distracted” more than Labour pouring huge amounts of energy, money and time into water reform while Kiwis struggle to pay their mortgages and grocery bills.
Nothing screams “arrogant” more than Labour forging ahead with a policy voters hate. Hatred is not a strong word in this case. Voters filled town hall-style roadshows opposing it, they erected signs along rural roads begging the Government to drop it. Sixty per cent of Kiwis opposed it. Only 23 per cent supported it.
Few Labour policies generated more negative headlines. From the early dirty-tricks TV advertising campaign designed to scare voters with nonsense threats of filthy water, to Nanaia Mahuta’s attempt to entrench part of the law behind her colleagues’ backs. It’s been a dog from start to finish. – Heather du Plessis-Allan
Hipkins will have a Herculean task on his hands convincing Mahuta to kill her darling. She has 14 other Māori MPs backing her up.
The power behind the throne stays the same. Ultimately, a change in leader changes little.
This will test Hipkins’ mettle. How badly does he want to win the election?
On currently polling, he will lose. He can do any number of other things to try to win over voters: crackdown on crime, relieve cost-of-living pressures, wipe student debt. But, those things take time. Weeks, months, years. If he starts his prime ministership defending and pursuing a deeply unpopular policy, he’ll have lost the argument already. The phone – as they say – will be off the hook. What comes after that is defeat.
This is his chance to prove to upset voters that a Hipkins Government is not more of the same. – Heather du Plessis-Allan
Mark it in your diary: the bicentenary of the Gaols Act 1823. The work of the social reformer Elizabeth Fry, this landmark law mandated sex-segregated prisons with female inmates guarded by female wardens. When women were incarcerated among men, Fry observed, they were exploited, terrified and raped. She established a principle which became enshrined in international law, from UN protocols to the Geneva conventions. How, then, was history rewound, 200 years of evidence memory-holed, so that this week the double rapist Adam Graham was remanded in Cornton Vale women’s prison? How could a “robust” risk assessment by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) conclude he was safe? – Janice Turner
It is a sobering reality that among the many pressures young people encounter today the constant barrage or doomsday predictions is taking a devastating toll. Being told the world will end removes the will to live especially if accompanied by a plethora of other negative impacts.
Many of the predictions are simply rubbish, a product of scientists desperate to hang on to funding or a tenure combined with a media using sensationalism to try and stay profitable.
The psychological pressure is becoming worse. Not content with playing havoc with young vulnerable minds by piling fear upon fear using unusual weather events as weapons the climate change monsters are now setting impossible targets that they already know full well will be missed creating greater panic and feelings of hopelessness.
This manipulation of impressionable minds is unforgivable.
‘Net zero’ by 2050 is blatantly unreachable. – Owen Jennings
Having aided and abetted the Extinction Rebellion nonsense the catastrophic propounding scientists and their media lapdogs are now teasing the fearful with unobtainable goal setting. It is evil mind games. – Owen Jennings
Allan’s reform proposals will criminalise Folau’s critics. Are new blasphemy laws really what the Minister of Justice wants? – Roger Partridge
The decision by Sport Northland to deny ‘Stop Co-Governance’, a community group, use of their Whangarei venue to hold a public meeting is illegal and defies the rights given to all Kiwis to voice their political opinions. This case, yet again, illustrates the contempt held by many for the foundational liberty of free speech, and it cannot be allowed to stand, – Jonathan Ayling
Ardern was the target of an extraordinary amount of abuse, but the toxicity extends further than the outgoing prime minister. Over the last decade or so, any public figure or politician – regardless of their politics, gender, and ethnicity – has become increasingly targeted for abuse, especially online. It began well before Ardern’s prime ministership.
Any sober observance of John Key’s time as prime minister shows the incredible hatred and abuse directed his way in the eight years he was at the top. This included his family, and Max Key claimed in 2016 that he received “death threats twice a week”.
Some of the aggression towards Key wasn’t even widely condemned. When gallows and death threats were cartoonishly made in leftwing protests, they were generally contextualised as expressions of anger and contempt for some of his policies as Prime Minister.
But a line was crossed in Key’s time – encapsulated by leftwing rapper Tom Scott’s “Kill the PM”, which spoke of assassinating Key and raping his daughter. At the time, the song and its artist had plenty of defenders on the left.
Since then, New Zealand society has become much more polarised. A survey published by the Herald in December showed 64 per cent of New Zealanders believe the country has become more divided in the last few years. – Bryce Edwards
Yes, there were and are huge numbers of vile, sexist putdowns directed at Ardern. But the story of her rise to great heights has shown that her gender or becoming a mother while in office haven’t held her back in the slightest. If anything, New Zealanders strongly celebrated the progressiveness of having a prime minister become a mother while in office.
And the fact that the New Zealand Parliament now has a majority of women says something very striking about how gender is not the barrier for electability that it once was in this country. It could be argued Ardern’s gender and motherhood have been an electoral asset rather than a liability. – Bryce Edwards
The leveraging of Ardern’s personality and star power epitomised the trend in politics for election manifestos, policy, and ideology to be de-emphasised. In fact, politics has become “hollowed out”, and substance and depth are now missing in democracy.
Few people join political parties, and the historic ties between parties and traditional constituencies have been eroded. Without the social anchors of strong ideologies and ties to social class and other demographics, elections are more about personality and the attributes of leadership than ever before. – Bryce Edwards
The unfortunate flipside of having one personality embody and represent a party and government so entirely is that when the popularity of that institution plummets, it’s the personality at the top who becomes the magnet for all the discontent. Unfortunately for Ardern, by having her personify the Labour Government so totally, this has meant that she has been the recipient of, first the adulation, and now the blame.
Labour’s spindoctors might well have been smart to push Ardern to do the cover shoots, and develop a big media presence around her personality and charisma, but ultimately it became a double-edged sword.
The lesson is that the hyper-personalisation of politics is deeply harmful and unhealthy for all involved. The antidote is to shift away from personality politics. New Zealand political parties must rediscover their soul and substance, and not be based so much around leaders. They need to recruit members again, encourage their participation, and focus on policy development. Politics should not be an elite activity.
The media, too, could learn to focus less on personalities. The total concentration on Ardern’s star power was such easy journalism. But it came at the expense of a policy debate. – Bryce Edwards
We need a debate about polarisation and toxicity in New Zealand politics. An increase in toxicity, and especially the gendered and racial nature of it, is likely to increase. We need to find a better way forward.
But this is very different to presenting Jacinda Ardern as a victim. As some commentators have pointed out, this desire to turn her into a victim of abuse is somewhat paternalistic and patronising. Former prime minister Jenny Shipley has warned, for example, that “If we overemphasize the abuse question, it implies women can’t do this job and that’s not true.”
Even worse, is if partisans and liberal-leftists attempt to use Ardern’s departure to provoke a culture war. By painting a picture of “the deplorables hounding the Prime Minister from office”, such voices are just increasing the toxic polarisation in a way that prevents a sober discussion of the problems.
An unsophisticated condemnation of political opponents just drives up tensions and looks like petty opportunism rather than a genuine concern to help find a solution for a real problem. Instead of reducing the hate and rancour, such “call out culture” methods tend to be counterproductive and are a dead-end.
Instead, what is urgently needed is a better understanding of what is driving social divisions, and an acknowledgement that the increased abuse of politicians comes largely from our unhealthy personalisation of politics.
This focus on individual politicians and New Zealand’s shift away from collective ways of doing politics is fuelling a hyper-individualisation by which political careers live and die, leaving us all the poorer. – Bryce Edwards
One can well imagine the Prime Minister going through the Christmas briefing papers with care, then looking at the family, at the unread books, at the sun and the possibility of going fishing – and contemplating resigning. – Brian Easton
It can’t, obviously, be that people get more enjoyment about some things than others, and that making your own mind up about what you’re going to enjoy, and in what measure, is part of the joy of being part of a free society.
The last thing we would want to do, of course, is to organize a whole economic system around that idea.
The advertising of junk food is, to quote Jebb one final time, ‘undermining people’s free will.’ What we need to do, and fast, is to crack down on the office profiterole-profferers and Schwarzwaldkuchen-suppliers and put an immediate ban on all advertising of nice, tempting things.
Only then will be truly free of the scourge of office cake. – Dr James Kierstead
The Government giving itself only three days to choose a new Prime Minister seemed, at least initially, heroic. If you take them at their word, pretty much nobody except Hipkins knew until Ardern rocked up to caucus and shared the news on Thursday. And yet, magically, consensus candidates for both PM and deputy were arrived at by Saturday morning. It was almost like they knew the answer to the question before they asked it.
The second one still has me scratching my head. Why would the outgoing Prime Minister announce the election date and then promptly resign? Isn’t that one of the most obvious things you’d leave to your successor?
It only made sense if Ardern’s successor and their campaign chair (Megan Woods) were all in on the plan, and everyone had agreed on the new team ahead of time. And my strong hunch is they were.
Third, Grant Robertson was remarkably relaxed about not becoming the leader and sacrificing his Deputy PM role. Now we know why. By jettisoning his Wellington-based electorate yesterday, he signalled he has his eye on the exit sign as well. – Steven Joyce
All this might be considered trainspotting except that it highlights that Chris Hipkins is very much the continuity choice for PM. These are the same people rearranging the deckchairs to make room for the fact that one of their number (quite reasonably) wanted to retire, but to leave everyone else’s position broadly intact.
There was no public debate about policy, no discussion about who best to lead the party and whether it should go in a different direction, just a “Jacinda’s going, you’re up Chris” agreement.
Sure, they will talk about changing things and Hipkins has done little else for the past few days. He of course can read the polls. Ardern was doing the same before Christmas, so even that is continuity. – Steven Joyce
And that’s the problem. From Hipkins down, these are the people who, for better or worse, have made all the decisions over the past five years which have landed us where we are. Robertson is responsible for monetary policy settings and the re-signing of Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr. He’s responsible for the huge increase in the tax take that is squeezing Kiwi families and the gargantuan levels of inflation-stoking government spending. He’s allowed his colleagues to go nuts with the regulatory burden on businesses, and the convenient pandemic-driven curb on immigration is straight out of his “Future of Work” playbook.
New Deputy PM Carmel Sepuloni has overseen the explosion in the use of motels as emergency housing and the rise in the number of working-age people on a benefit despite low levels of unemployment.
Hipkins himself has driven a massive expansion in the size of the public service, a poorly executed centralisation of the polytechs, and shrugged off some of the poorest attendance records our school sector has ever seen. To say nothing of obstinately refusing to alter some of the most egregious settings during the Covid lockdowns and border closures which left such a sour taste with so many New Zealanders.
Even if the four at the top really wanted to repudiate some of their previous decisions in order to win re-election at the end of the year, will the key factions within the Government allow that to occur?
There are two big decision drivers in this Government, the unions and the Māori caucus. The unions bring the money and the volunteers, and the Māori caucus can count. Not only do they have the biggest bloc of votes in the Government, they are the only group in parliament which can at least theoretically side with the Opposition and defeat the Government in a vote. None of that has changed. – Steven Joyce
There is nothing wrong with continuity when the people are broadly happy with their lot. In 2016, continuity was the imperative. But when the polls are dropping and the public says you are heading in the wrong direction, continuity is not what you need. If those at the top of the tree can’t shed some of their pet beliefs and deliver real change, the public will no doubt deliver it themselves.
So when the new Prime Minister talks about a re-set, are we talking about change to the core belief systems that landed us where we are today? Or are we being set up yet again with more of that pre-eminent skill of the sixth Labour Government, its sophistry, albeit this time delivered in a more folksy, self-deprecating manner? – Steven Joyce