Ardern Still in Training

By John

Two good articles have appeared this week: Fran O’Sullivan in the Weekend Herald criticising the leader of the Labour party and Matthew Hooton doing the same to the leader of the National party. Neither could be termed complimentary. Far from it.

Let’s look at Fran’s. The headline: Ardern still leaning on training wheels gives a good idea of the direction the article is going to take. Knowing the time it took her to learn how to wrap fish and chips, learning on a cabbage, are we surprised?

Fran first refers to her interview with Jack Tame. To avoid chronic indigestion, knowing who the participants were, I deliberately missed the occasion. According to Fran, Jacinda told Jack she wasn’t able to get the CGT over the line because NZF wouldn’t agree. Fran rightly points out that a more experienced political leader would not have allowed themselves to be boxed into such a corner in the first place. In effect, Winston boxed her ears. Don’t try that again. As noted by Fran she then threw in the towel. She effectively picked up her ball and ran away. Something she has become noted for. Ihumatao and her run to Daddy in Tokelau having signalled possibly a very dangerous precedent when it comes to private property rights.  

Fran says that in Labour’s eagerness to form a coalition with NZF, it did not secure the policies that Ardern campaigned on in 2017 within the Coalition Agreement. With what has happened subsequently that is all too obvious. Another point Fran made was that it is indicative of the position she finds herself in, where her prime ministership is still not so well established that she feels confident to go over the top of the junior coalition partner and appeal to the public to back her. In my view, on the CGT she knew she didn’t have the backing of the public. Whether she would have gone to the public anyway is a moot point.

Fran goes on to say Ardern’s style is in sharp contrast to Helen Clark. Clark described her style as an active chairman of the board – direct, task-focussed, active. On that, we can agree! Ardern hasn’t got the capacity to be a Clark. So far she hasn’t displayed any of those three attributes, ones clearly needed to be a good leader. Evidently however, according to Fran, Jacinda is a mean mimic and while a staffer in Clark’s office when she was PM, learnt to ape Clark’s deep baritone voice perfectly. Wow! Pity she doesn’t use it on Winston.

Fran makes the point that she must negotiate with Winston to get her policies in place and this is confusing for the business sector. I would have added, and the rest of us. She points to the RMA reforms and the fact NZF have not said whether they will support any resultant legislation. Looking at some of the caveats around the reforms I hope they don’t. 

Fran notes that apart from negotiating with NZF, procedurally, Ardern approves the cabinet agenda, leads meetings and is the final arbiter on procedure, can dissolve parliament and call an election (I wish she would), is Minister of the SIS, and also leads a political party and its caucus.

Fran asks if she’s up to it. I hardly think this was supposed to be a joke at the end of the article but one could be forgiven for thinking so. As Fran says – Ardern is still learning – not simply to be a prime minister but also to be a cabinet minister.  Well, I’ve heard of learning on the job but with all due respect this is far removed from the Morrinsville Takeaway. 

Fran concludes by saying that at the halfway mark she is still at the trainer wheels stage when it comes to her prime ministership. The next twelve months will be critical.

I say the next twelve months will be chaotic and the trainer wheels will have fallen off.

The lady needs to get an appointment at the hairdresser, stop using a handbag that looks more suitable for carrying the groceries, smarten up generally and at least look like she’s in charge. In equine parlance, Jacinda hasn’t even got Winston near the water yet, never mind making him drink.

No prizes for guessing who the ringmaster is.