The growth of celebrity politicians

It is hard to believe that journalist, Liam Hehir, wrote this article without perceiving the enormous irony that goes with it. Titled, The growth of celebrity politics should be resisted, he then proceeds to tell us why turning politicians into celebrities is a bad thing; completely forgetting that it is the media that does this, and with no one more so than Jacinda.

The politician in question has to be up for it though but, in Jacinda’s case, let’s face it, she has little else to offer. She has no areas of expertise or specialist knowledge. She has really never done anything in her life except politics and that makes her a very narrow and uninteresting individual. However, she presents well, hugs people at the drop of a hijab, and is at the stage of life that is attractive to women’s magazines. None of this makes her a good politician; it just shows how vacuous the media can be.

And now Liam Hehir has joined the fray. quote.

When he marries the prime minister, will Clarke Gayford become New Zealand’s first gentleman? No. In New Zealand, we don’t turn to the prime minister to supply a first family. end quote.

You could have fooled me. quote.

American popular culture has been pervasive for a long time now. One result of that is a trend towards the misapplication of American modes of political coverage to New Zealand public life.

Jacinda Ardern’s pregnancy in 2018 provided an illustration of the trend. The prime minister was her usual class act and was very dignified about the whole thing.

end quote.

If milking it for all it was worth counts as being a ‘class act’, then I’m sure you are right, Liam, but try keeping a count of how often the prime minister’s face graces the covers of magazines. The implication that Jacinda plays it all down but the public cannot get enough of her is unjustified. Only the Kardashians get more coverage than Jacinda. quote.

The other peculiar reaction to take was over-identification with the prime minister’s private life. Some just found it too hard to confine themselves to normal well-wishing and felt compelled to invest in the happenings, a political and cultural significance usually reserved for the nativity of the Messiah. 

Stuff. end quote.

And the media reported every word that Oscar Kightley wrote in his weekly article at the time about how the world was suddenly a better place because Jacinda was pregnant. It was almost impossible to avoid, and it was the media who made it so.

Again, if Jacinda wants to be taken seriously, she would stop appearing on the cover of Woman’s Day and start being a serious politician but, because she is not a serious politician, this will never happen. Hence we have fluff piece after fluff piece about her private life, because that is all of interest that she has to offer.

Competent politicians get on with the job and avoid the distractions, although they do have to have a bit of a public persona. Think of Bill English and his ‘walk/runs’ and his spaghetti pizzas. The celebrity side of Bill’s political life was his Achilles heel, but no one could deny he was a competent politician. John Key was both competent and good at the celebrity bit, although he did overdo the latter on occasions. Jacinda has the public face down pat but she has no skill set. What you see is all you are ever going to get with Jacinda.

Nevertheless, you cannot get away from the irony that a journalist says that we should not continue creating celebrity politicians when, if the media stopped writing about Jacinda or putting her face everywhere, this trend in New Zealand would stop immediately. Don’t expect that to happen too soon. I guess, for reasons I simply cannot fathom, she obviously sells magazines. It is her private life, not her competence as prime minister, that is doing that.