Stardust dulls in sunlight

August 7, 2019

A Prime Minister who is well regarded overseas is good for a small country.

But being well regarded overseas isn’t good enough. A Prime Minister has to earn, and keep, approval at home and the stardust that settled on Jacinda Ardern early in her leadership is dulling under the sunlight of scrutiny.

There is no doubt she is a good communicator, compassionate and likable. As Matthew Hooton told Sky New Australia, she would be a good princess or president without power, but she is a hopeless Prime Minister.

But, but, but what about the way she handled the aftermath of the mosque shootings?

There is no question she did that well but that’s the New Zealand way. Other recent Prime Ministers, Bill English, John Key (who did at least as well after the Canterbury earthquakes) and Helen Clark would have reacted with similar compassion.

But those Prime Ministers also delivered, and this one is failing to. Matthew Hooton, again, on the year of delivery:

. . . For those still committed to reality-based politics, Ardern’s “year of delivery” is as credible as her earlier promise to be “transformational”.

KiwiBuild, the Billion Trees programme and the Provincial Growth Fund handing out only 3 per cent of the money Shane Jones has paraded are the most risible. . .

He goes on to list more failures and there are plenty of them.

He isn’t alone in his criticisms and that’s not surprising for people on the right of the political spectrum but even the very left blog The Standard is saying it’s time to ditch the default Jacindamania:

Despite the babies and the engagements, maybe it’s time to ditch the default Jacindamania.

Let’s not bother with the criminal waste of tax on hundreds of working groups, existing to successfully suppressing oppositional opinion through co-option.

Oranga Tamariki has got three investigations underway for removing children, and is being kicked all over the park by the media. Cue another year of paralysis by analysis. . . 

. . .  it’s a very partial leadership. It’s not ‘transformational’, it’s not the year of delivery. What is this government?

This is the weakest leadership on policy of any government since the last term of Holyoake, 60 years ago. That’s on Ardern.

It’s time, since we are now getting emails to volunteer and donate money on their behalf for the next election, to expect more from Jacinda Ardern.

Coming from the left that’s damning.

But wait there’s more. Her interview this morning with Mike Hosking was a train wreck which Steve Braunias dissects:

O the joys and woes of being Prime Minister! One minute you’re swaying your hips for the cameras in the lovely warmth of Tokelau while the world gazes with adoration at your picture on the cover of Vogue, as chosen and commissioned by Her Royal Highness Meghan Markle the Princess of Trans-Atlantica; the next minute you’re back in New Zealand, there’s a serious sex scandal rocking the Labour Party, the cops have gone feral at Ihumātao, the weather’s gone all to hell – and worst of all, you’re stuck on the phone for your regular Tuesday morning convo with Mike Hosking.

It’s paramount that the Prime Minister keeps her cool and shows every sign of being at ease and in control when she makes media appearances. There is but one emoji to maintain: the one with a smiley face, round and yellow and all good, expressing the optimum vibe of inane happiness. . . 

But good cheer and happiness was entirely absent during Ardern’s 10-minute interview with The Hosker on Newstalk ZB this morning. Her appearance was an emoji trainwreck, and it crashed every time that the Prime Minister called the ZB talkback host by his first name.

She said it 11 times. . .

He goes on to give an emojiological analysis of those 11 times.

It’s behind the paywall and it’s worth paying for, here’s a taste:

The interview which prompted this is here.

There was no stardust dazzling and personality sparkling there and even had there been it is no longer enough.

Stardust is no use without substance and personality doesn’t pay the bills.


We can be grateful

March 22, 2019

We can be grateful that, by and large, the response to last week’s massacre has been the opposite of what the killer intended – unity instead of division.

We can be grateful that Muslims in Christchurch and the wider New Zealand Muslim community reacted with forgiveness and inclusiveness.

We can be grateful that by and large, the horror of last week’s massacre has been met with compassion here and overseas.

We can be grateful that, by and large, the response from politicians has been appropriate and non-partisan.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern invited Opposition leader Simon Bridges to accompany her to Christchurch on her first visit, following the example set by then-PM John Key who invited the then-Labour leader to accompany him to the city after the earthquakes.

Since then the PM has shown compassion, empathy and resolve and the Opposition leader has offered support when it’s been appropriate but otherwise left her to it, as he should.

We can be grateful that the changes to gun laws announced are reasonable.

We can be grateful that today those who choose to can observe a two-minute silence in honour of the 50 people who died.

We can be grateful that this will provide a prompt to the media to reduce the saturation coverage so they don’t cross the line from news to voyeurism.


It’s only words

March 8, 2019

Chris Trotter has seen through the conjuring :

WHAT IS IT? This weird, emotionally energetic style of politics that promises “transformational” change and then, mysteriously, fails to deliver it? . . .

Nameless though it may be, few would deny that Jacinda Ardern is its most brilliant local exponent. . . . So effective are “Jacinda’s” communication skills, that a great many New Zealanders have taken to confusing her declarations with actual achievements. Those who point out the discrepancy between the Prime Minister’s magnificent words and her government’s less-than-magnificent deeds are not well received. But, that does not mean they are wrong. . . 

 So richly evocative of selfless activism and against-all-odds success was her declaration that Ardern’s audience’s critical faculties were suspended. Almost as if the promise and the deed were one and the same. Some people might call what she did “casting a spell”. Others, even more provocatively, might call it “magic”.

But, magic of a certain kind. Ardern’s are not the sort of spells that begin with fantasy but end in reality. Jacinda is no Churchill. Rather than a magician, she is a conjurer. What Ardern weaves with her words are not the intentions that lead to actual deeds, but the dangerous illusion that what is being asked of her has already been accomplished – made real by the unmistakable sincerity and the power of her will. Once she has declared her determination to end child poverty, who could be so churlish as to point out that the children of the poor are still with us?

Ardern’s conjuring is perfectly suited to that crucial group of voters who detached themselves from the National Party in response to what they saw as the “awful” problems which John Key and Bill English had failed to address during their nine years in office. . . 

Ardern’s game-changing intuition was that all these voters really wanted to hear were different words. Commitments, promises, studies, working-groups, projects: policies filled with good intentions and promoted with powerful displays of empathy. The number of voters eager to focus on the fiscal mechanisms required to pay for Labour’s kinder, gentler New Zealand were considerably fewer. . . 

Every successful conjurer, however, must have their very own Jonathan Creek. Somebody to design and build the equipment that turns the conjurer’s masterful misdirection into a reality that baffles and delights. Ardern’s misfortune is to preside over a coalition government decidedly lacking in Jonathan Creeks. Thanks to Clare Curran, Phil Twyford, Iain Lees-Galloway, Grant Robertson and Shane Jones, too many people in the audience are being distracted from Ardern’s magic spiel. Some are even beginning to work out how the tricks are done.

This is not how the story is supposed to end. Not with people wondering whether the Prime Minister’s promises are ultimately achievable.

It’s not that “Jacinda” has become less likeable. . .  It’s just that Ardern’s “Magic Politics”, as with all kinds of fiction, is absolutely dependent on the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief.

If (or should that be ‘as’) people discover that fighting climate change and ending child poverty will require the imposition of real and rising taxes, then Ardern’s illusions will begin to fade. The voters will start noticing the strings attached to her magical promises.

And the spell will be broken.

She’s very good with words, especially those that touch emotions, but it’s only words and empty words at that.

Change and progress require more than empty phrases. They require decisions and actions.

The government is nearly half way through it’s term and what has it done to make a positive and sustainable difference to New Zealand?

This government, and it’s leader have over-promised and failed to deliver.


Drip, drip, drip

November 30, 2018

Leader of the Opposition is reputed to be the worst job in politics.

It’s certainly not an easy one, especially early in the term of a new government when few outside the politically tragic are interested in what you do and say.

The media doesn’t help by fixating on poll results and interviewing their own keyboards to write opinion pieces forecasting the end of the leader’s tenure.

They carry on, drip, drip, drip like water on a stone in the expectation they will eventually be proved right.

They did it to Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little and it worked because the Labour caucus was too fixated on itself and its divisions and the party panicked.

They did it to Helen Clark but it didn’t work. Even when all she could muster in the preferred Prime Minister poll was only 5% she stared her would-be coup leaders down.

They didn’t do it to John Key because he polled well from the start and he became leader towards the end of the Labour-led government’s third term when it was looking tired and stale.

They didn’t do it to Jacinda Ardern but she took over the leadership at the very end of the National-led government’s third term and so close to the election she got far more attention than a new opposition leader normally would.

The drip, drip, drip is happening to Simon Bridges but none of the pundits give their gloomy analysis context. He became leader only a few months after the election when it’s almost impossible for an opposition leader to shine.

Jami-Lee Ross’s sabotage  didn’t help but at least for now, it makes Bridges’ leadership stronger. The National caucus has learned from Labour’s bad example that disunity is electoral poison.

It is the caucus who decides who’s leader. None of them will want Ross to claim the leader’s scalp and anyone with the political nous to be leader would know that this early in the government’s term, it would be almost impossible to make headway in the preferred PM polls and no matter who took over, he or she too would be subject to the drip, drip, drip of negative columns.

What the columnists don’t see, or at least don’t write about, is what I saw yesterday – Simon Bridges speaking confidently and showing his intelligence, sincerity and warmth.

This is not the dead man walking about whom they opine.

He has, to borrow a line from former Invercargill MP Eric Roy, had a very bad lambing.

I don’t know how much tough stuff he’d faced before, but yesterday convinced me that like good farmers after bad lambings, Bridges has got up and is getting on, in spite of the drip,drip, drip that’s trying to take him down.


MPs’ families should be off-limits

April 24, 2018

Deborah Hill Cone’s column  asking why does Clarke Gayford bug me?, has not surprisingly caused an uproar.

Some media used to focus on former Prime Minister John Key’s son, Max, but that doesn’t make it right.

MPs’ families should be off-limits.

If, as in Gayford’s case, they have a public profile of their own, comment and criticism shouldn’t stray into the political and personal.

Rotary has a four-way test for thought, word and deed:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

I would add is it NECESSARY?

This would be a good guide for journalism and commentary. Had Hill Cone tested her column against those questions would she have written it?

It is her truth, but it’s questionable if it is fair, it definitely didn’t build goodwill and better friendships, it wasn’t beneficial to all concerned and it simply wasn’t necessary.


Paying cost of lack of preparedness

March 23, 2018

Labour wasn’t prepared for opposition when John Key led the National Party to its election win in 2008.

Nor was it prepared for government when Winston Peters anointed it last year.

It wasted nine years in opposition, wracked by internal dissent, spending a lot more time on leadership wrangles than policy development.

It didn’t expect to win last year’s election and so made stupid promises, like the fees-free tertiary education, it didn’t think it would have to keep.

The price for Labour’s lack of preparedness is a policy vacuum  which Checkpoint points out it has filled with reviews, working groups, advisory groups and investigations.

Ministers have announced 39 of those in three months – one every four days.

A few might be acceptable, even wise, for a new government, 39 is not.

Instead of a government of action we’ve got one  of inaction and prevarication.

Instead of governing, it’s marking time while it marshalls the policies it ought to have been working on in opposition.

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First confidence test fail

October 24, 2017

Winston Peters used his speech announcing who he would anoint as Prime Minister to give a lament about how dismal the outlook is.

We in New Zealand First believe that an economic correction, or a slowdown, is looming, and that the first signs are already here:

– In the housing market slowdown
– In Reserve Bank and trading banks nervousness
– In the cessation of hot money into our economy
– In property ownership concerns
– In receding consumer optimism, and
– In ebbing retailer confidence

There were great risks in whatever decision we made and despite our having had no influence on these risks, some will attempt to heap the blame on us.

That those blame caricatures are both spurious and misplaced, won’t stop attempts to misdescribe the cause of events.

That’s why we are putting this scenario out front, right now, so that such attempts will fail.

No-one can blame Peters and his party for events beyond their control.  But now they’re in government we can hold them responsible for how they prepare for and react to them.

It won’t be ‘misdescribing’ at all to blame him and the government he’s part if they don’t take a prudent approach to preparing for a gathering storm.

National inherited a projected decade of deficits when it came to power in 2008.

New Zealand was already in recession and then the global financial crisis hit.

It then faced other natural and financial challenges including earthquakes, droughts and a dairy downturn.

No matter what was thrown at them, Prime Minister John Key and his deputy and Finance Minister Bill English projected calmness and confidence. They promised to protect the most vulnerable and were open about making tough decisions.

Thanks to their efforts, and of course all those of the individuals and businesses who contributed to economic growth,  the incoming government has inherited a far sounder financial base and outlook.

Peters by sorry contrast has failed his first confidence test with his gloom and doom but don’t-blame-us speech.

This is reflected in a reader survey by the NBR.

Asked if they expected their businesses to thrive, survive or nosedive, 50% opted for survival with 35% picking nosedive and only 15% picking thrive.

That’s not a scientific survey but businesses need confidence to take the risks to invest and Peters has given them none.


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