Tuesday 23 January 2018

Smiling For Jacinda - And Democracy!

Prime Ministers Can Do Anything! Jacinda’s pregnancy not only constitutes a bold redefinition of gender roles, but also a radical redefinition of representative democracy itself. Overnight the highest office in the land has been made both more representative of, and more relatable to, hundreds-of-thousands of female voters. Quite suddenly, the Prime Minister has become a person much more like themselves.

"JACINDA’S PREGNANT!" For once, the exclamation mark was merited. There isn’t much that takes us by surprise these days, but the announcement that the prime minister and her partner were having a baby caught New Zealanders off-guard in the nicest possible way.

For younger New Zealanders, the news brought confirmation that the torch really has been passed to a new generation of leaders. For Kiwis under 40, it offered proof that the difference between political life and normal life continues to narrow, and that the House of Representatives is, at last, living up to its name.

For older New Zealanders, especially those who came of age to the strains of Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman”, Jacinda’s announcement was a kind of vindication.

This was the generation, after all, who had heard the dominant political figure of their day, Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, declare:

“Could we contemplate the situation where a woman getting equal pay is the bread-winner, and the husband stays at home and looks after the children? I don’t think we could.”

It was these same “Baby Boomers” who accepted, albeit reluctantly, the hard-nosed decision of their own generation’s pre-eminent politician, Helen Clark, to forego the experience of motherhood as the unavoidable price of achieving high public office.

These New Zealanders told their daughters that “Girls Can Do Anything!” – not as a description of the day-to-day realities of the 1980s and 90s, but as a statement of their abiding faith in feminism’s power to shape the future.

So, if a smile lingered on my lips all the way through last Friday, there was good reason. It lingered because I was thinking back to the time when, as a young married couple, we were refused a bank-loan because: “Your wife might get pregnant and have to give up her job – and how would you pay the mortgage then?” Or, recalling the expressions of scorn on the faces of “real” men when they discovered I was a stay-at-home dad, looking after our daughter while my bread-winning wife went back to work. Now, I could say to myself: “Those days are gone.”

How could anyone who had grown up amidst the debilitating sexism of “old” New Zealand not smile, and feel immense pride, when presented with two such brilliant role models as Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford?

There will be some, of course, who look at this couple and frown. The unreconstructed sexists will whip themselves into a froth of rage at Jacinda’s repudiation of traditional gender roles. They will not, however, be the only ones made uneasy by her announcement.

The more “normal” our Parliament becomes, the more its elitist lustre will fade. To those who regard the cultivation of that lustre as an important feature of our Westminster system of representative government, the maintenance of its specialness is no small matter. For traditionalists, investing Parliament with pomp, ceremony and just a whiff of mystery, is all part of separating its deliberations from the ordinary and the everyday. Its members are, after all, invested with the power to upend the lives of ordinary, everyday citizens. For those who believe in our system of “managed democracy”, preserving a certain measure of distance between the people and their representatives is vital.

Jacinda’s pregnancy, therefore, not only constitutes a bold redefinition of gender roles, but also a radical redefinition of representative democracy itself. Never before in New Zealand’s political history have women been able to contemplate a pregnant prime minister. Overnight the highest office in the land has been made both more representative of, and more relatable to, hundreds-of-thousands of female voters. Quite suddenly, the Prime Minister has become a person much more like themselves.

Certainly, there have been many politicians who entered Parliament with young families. Overwhelmingly, however, these were men, whose domestic and child-rearing arrangements, far from challenging “normal” gender roles, actually reinforced them. The handful of women MPs who decided to combine raising babies with raising points-of-order encountered an institution determinedly reluctant to make itself child-friendly.

Thankfully, those days, too, have gone. The image of Trevor Mallard dandling an infant on his knee while seated in the Speaker’s Chair served as a delightful precursor to Jacinda and Clarke’s announcement. His message: The House of Representatives has become a place for everyone; fathers, mothers, children; the People’s House.

What began as a remote chamber, filled with wealthy, privileged men, has progressively been forced to open its ornate doors: first to Maori, then to propertyless men; and, finally, to the majority of the human species. With every dilution of its elitism, the number of citizens who could reasonably aspire to “do anything” has expanded. From the tangata whenua, to the working-class, to the people who hold up half the sky.

So, yes, I’m smiling. Not just for Jacinda and Clarke – but for democracy!

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 23 January 2018.


Nick J said...

We are constantly delighted with Jacinda for so many reasons. The story so far is a breath of fresh air in a sea of dull greyness.

greywarbler said...

It has been the catchcry 'It's time for a change'. Jacinda said let's do it, and made something new and unique and got elected too. If she can keep her energies and change-making implementation fresh and energised to this extent for all of her first term, NZ could be reborn and in a Back-to-the-Future way the past be revitalised to turn into good outcomes.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I've been waiting for the conservative whining. It seems quite muted at the moment. Perhaps they're human after all. Or maybe I'm just not looking in the right places.

Polly. said...

Chris; though your article professes hope and goodwill,
I have doubts about honesty of truth from both Clarke Gayford and Jacinda Ardern regarding Jacinda's pregnancy.
Honesty and truth should have told the people of NZ earlier of this pending occasion.
Good luck to both of them, but they have been less than fully forthcoming to the Nation.
In addition, call me old fashioned, or what ever you like,
Clarke Gayford should be responsible and marry Jacinda.
A real man would.

Kat said...

Not good for women according to Brenda Boyer, whoever she is, from the Herald today. Maybe Muldoon had a point even though just a reflection of his upbringing and the era. I wouldn't mind seeing men opening doors and giving up seats for women again. But women have moved on from that so we are led to believe, by the "media" of course.

Jacinda Ardern is special and is giving her situation a "go". That is a true New Zealand spirit and has been since women endured the rigors of the pioneering days.

David Stone said...

It's not only Clarke that has to make that decision. The question did arise during the election, and Jacinda's stated position certainly left this a possibility for anyone to consider.
It's worth reflecting when worrying about our PM being indisposed for a few weeks that Germany hasn't had a government for 4 months, and seems to be doing better without one.

Victor said...


If you keep going on like this, you might not get invited to the wedding.

countryboy said...

The thing I like about Adern is that she's there for a change. I don't have to dry retch at a Jonky in an Hawaiian short or a Double Dipper the off-shore trust accounter sporting Devils eyebrows and un kissable lips. And fuck! He's short.
It's nice that she's pregnant I guess. You know, in a general sort of way I suppose.
But I'm pausing to ponder the fact that the likes of mallard can be all-a-smoochums when he knows, as well as you and I, that of course the crooks can melt back into the dark from whence they came so as we can move on with a toothy grin and all blush of cheek.... For look-see. A wondrous ‘ all-people’s government’. He can say that because we have nothing left to fucking sell! And those who did the dirty on us all could care less than one small flying fuck what we do in parliament. Bring in a baby? Of course! Bring in ten babies! ( Just not refugee babies from countries that were destroyed by those we call allies.)
Donkeys ! Cast Iron Robot sex workers, Bee Hives, irony ! Fruit bats, fishes of various oceans... Who cares?
I can hear the neo-criminals chorus “ Oh dear, never mind, seemed like a good idea at the time. Now look! A left leaning middle of the roader with child to divert attention! Ka loo Kalay. “

Fuck that. I could care less if Adern gave birth to a truck load of elephants. Of course, I hope her and her man enjoy a healthy wee beastie to love and cherish for years to come. I'd be a monster if I didn't. A monster perhaps like shipley is, bennett is, collins is, parata is, tolly is.
While this is all lovely and summer-ish and new life and all.... lets not be coerced into forgetting what those other bastards did to us.

Bushbaptist said...

Congratulations to 'Cinda and Clarke. Good luck and best wishes.

Polly, has it occurred to you that Jacinda may not want to be married? Whether they do or don't is no concern of ours.

speiro said...

While 'Jacindamania' continues to grow its worthy of considering that the first 100 days of her new government included:
1. Awarding a 12 year permit to an overseas oil company to search our coast for new oil reserves to exploit, in spite of the clear scientific consensus that significantly less than half of the existing fossil fuel reserves cannot be exploited if we want any chance of keeping global warming below 2degrees. This action is the exact opposite of someone who believes that climate is the 'nuclear free' issue of their generation
2. Free-trade as opposed to fair-trade is alive and well under labour. Rather than subsidizing goods produced for the local market and imposing tariffs on equivalent goods imported goods from overseas to reduce the massive environmental cost of free trade, with its associated abuse of low wage developing countries, this government won't change that status quo
3. In spite of Sth & Nth Korea actually talking to each other our 'capitalism hasn't been a friend to many' foreign minister is intent on strengthening links to the US and echoing the statements of Rex Tillerson demanding that 'tougher sanctions need to be imposed'.
4. 'Affordable' has been redefined to mean 'a house costing between $500-600K. Affordable for who?
No matter how much you attach meaning to the symbolism of the PM being being a young woman, pregnant, young mother, relentlessly positive etc, when it comes to politicians the only thing that really matters is how they adhere to their rhetoric through their actual policy. And so far it seems clear that with a little tinkering around the edges, the PM & her party aren't a party of change, but a party of the status quo.
Isn't it time we moved past attaching meaning to the symbolism attached to our leaders?
- Thatcher and Theresa May have made it clear that woman are just a capable as men of ruling with a complete lack of compassion, empathy and humanity
- Merkel has made it clear that the female leader of a powerful country is just as capable as a male leader of imposing brutal austerity on the citizens of a weaker country
- At home The 'mother of all budgets' is not known as the 'father of all budgets', and while the 'left' highlights the faults of the 'right', the left shouldnt forget that beneficiaries in NZ had to endure 9 yrs of a Clark govt before their benefits were increased by the key govt that followed. Neither should it forget that our last female PM used parliamentary sovereignty to deny iwi their legitimate right under our founding document to test their case for sovereignty of the seabed and foreshore in the courts - which was a complete betrayal of 'democracy'.
Isn't the legacy of Obama as much a wake up call that attaching 'hope' and meaning to a politician purely on their rhetoric and symbolic value, is extremely flawed? Will the legacy of our new PM simply be that young mothers are just as capable as anyone else of resisting an overwhelming need for change, in order to preserve the status quo? I hope not, but the only way that will happen is to take the symbolic blinkers off and hold this new government and its PM to account for what they actually do, not what you think they might do based on what you think their symbolism represents

Polly. said...

Victor; 23 Jan 21.44.
Good point.
Never thought of that.
I will change.
I will buy a new suit.
If pretty does not propose.
Will shove suit up his arse.
If he does propose and I do not get an invite.
I will shove suit up your arse.
Vic , your on a winner.

Victor said...


"For traditionalists, investing Parliament with pomp, ceremony and just a whiff of mystery, is all part of separating its deliberations from the ordinary and the everyday."

Is that such a bad thing? If we value democracy, we should surely want the people's assembly to be thought of as something "special" and worthy of inherent respect. Ceremony and tradition tend to be useful parts of that mix.

An unceremonious state is a diminished state, which, of course, perfectly fits the neo-liberal agenda.

One of the many things I like about young Jacinda is her ability to rise to ceremoniousness when the occasion demands. John Key didn't have that ability and his lack of dignity in office helped diminish the status of government, to the detriment of the governed.

So, let's rejoice that Parliament now more resembles the country in terms of composition and is, hence, more genuinely democratic. And let's rejoice at the sight of nursing mothers feeding the citizens of the future in its chamber.

But let's also remember the high responsibilities that come with membership of that place and the awe-inspiring traditions that link our parliament to the heritage of, for example, Seddon and Savage, not to mention more distant figures, such as Pim and Hampden, who made our system of government possible.

In summary, Parliament just isn't an ordinary place and New Zealand would be ill-served if it was made so.

Victor said...

Correcting previous post:

"Pym" not "Pim".

jh said...

Having a baby as prime minister is just frivilous unless she actually achieves something. Let's hope this is not all there is too her.

sumsuch said...

Letter to my late 80s Mum I mentioned 2 things: despite my feminist mother, it takes a bit to digest; and, the triumph of an unmarried mother-to-be being our PM after all those decades of that being the worst a woman could do.

Between the abyss of her staunch Presbyterian brother and the Catholic prior owner/mortgagor Mum could only get a renewed mortgage for our home at the last minute via her Anglican (read what you wish into his religiosity by that)ex-husband's guarantee.

12 foot high ceilings til 30--delish.

About Jacinda otherwise it's summarized in Countryboy's contribution.

Yes, Jacinda socially pleases. What would please in reality is another '35.

Jayson said...

Jacinda and Clarke are having a baby and good for them.
Also,it is great to see the man stay at home and be the primary carer.
However, there is an absurd narrative floating around the media that Jacinda can have it all and by extension all women can also.
To anyone who has had children, this is of course utter nonsense.
Compromises will be made either in the attention she pays her job or her child and she is likely to suffer under the strain of it all.
Is this really an expectation we want to set for new parents of either gender?
For me, it is little different than bombarding teenage girls with pictures of stick thin models whose figures (if you can call them that) are unattainable for the rest of the populace.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Compromises will be made either in the attention she pays her job or her child and she is likely to suffer under the strain of it all."
Here we go.
1.Would this be said about a man?
2. Every family that has paid work has someone who doesn't see their children as much as a stay-at-home parent. After I was made redundant, I looked after my kid while my wife went to work. Are you suggesting that as of necessity she neglected the lad?
3. Many families if not most in fact have two people working. Are you suggesting that everyone neglects their children or their work? Why should this be different for a politician?
4. Considering that many male politicians have neglected their family and often their work, why should you be judging Jacinda Ardern? How many politicians have time off for spurious reasons – junkets and the like? How many have been regularly too drunk to be in charge of a country?
5. This is the society we have now, so suck it up, or try to change it.

Geoff Fischer said...

"The New Zealand Parliament is now open to everyone" - except of course those who refuse allegiance to the British crown. So you are in effect saying that politics, political freedoms and fundamental political principles are not important, while the symbolism of a child born to a Prime Minister in office is indeed significant.
You also claim that the New Zealand Parliament is truly representative when it is in some respects less representative than it has been for the past hundred years, now consisting entirely of middle class professionals like Ms Ardern.
A pregnant Prime Minister will have much the same emotive public appeal as a pregnant monarch. The enthusiasm is not over what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will do in office, but over what she symbolizes and reflects of the domestic side of the lives of her people, a role formerly filled by the monarch.
Does the regime need a second symbolic head? Arguably not. Can it manage without a full time and fully committed executive? Arguably yes. But the survival of the government and the regime will depend on their ability to manage serious political problems, and not on their ability to demonstrate the practicality of combining a serious management role with the business of bearing children.

Victor said...


Happy, as always, to oblige

David Stone said...

" If we value democracy, we should surely want the people's assembly to be thought of as something "special" and worthy of inherent respect. Ceremony and tradition tend to be useful parts of that mix. "
We may well want this, and I agree that a dignified deportment is very desirable in our leaders, However such an aspiration does not survive listening to question time on any parliamentary session.
We hope they are more responsible and less petty than such an experience would suggest, and we hope they know more about what they are doing than we do ourselves because they would need to. But they don't. They are not there because they have more wisdom or understanding than you have yourself, or Chris has, or most if not all the contributors to Bowalley Rd have.
They just have more wish for the feeling of importance of holding office, and occasionally more determination to try to fix something they think is wrong .
One thing you soon realise if you get involved in a political party is that no-one is there because they want to facilitate the operation of effective democracy. They are there to try to impose their will, or their ideas on everyone else whether everyone else agrees or not. And I would include the late Jim Anderton in that description.
So while I agree that parliament should aspire to dignity and respectability, I don't agree that we should afford it a respect that assumes an exceptional quality in the participants that isn't there. They are fallible , just like we all are but worse they often are not honest. I find the normality and lack of pretension surrounding Jacinda's announcement refreshing and hopeful.
But none of this addresses speiro's reservations above.
Cheers D J S

greywarbler said...

Jacinda seems capable, thoughtful, experienced and healthy and should make a good politician. There is a lot to be done, and concern that she may not be able to do a good job of handling all her responsibilities. The baby, the country, maintaining a good relationship with her chosen partner.
Well I think she will handle everything well. It will be better than it would have been under National, and will hopefully work like chaos theory,
a relatively small change, can have large results, and in this case they will be beneficial.

The saying that women can do everything has been imbued in society, affecting both the lives of career and low income working women. At the top high middle and upper-income limits they are expected to do everything perfectly, and utilise every minute of the day with high-output multi tasking. At the lower end they are expected to be better than any one person can achieve when they are short of money, short of reliable and kindly help with the tasks of living and child-rearing (whether in tandem with other/s or not) and they should learn to be in two places at once. The quantum woman is today's woman. Helen Reddy sang I am Woman, and the words were aspirational, and also about achievable goals. Jacinda can manage baby, with planning, combined parenting and trained and reliable help, and still be better than Gnashional's fathers.

I am Woman
You can bend but never break me
'Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I'll come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
'Cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul
Whoa, yes, I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

Get real. Labour and Jacinda will bring a fresh look at our problems but National have tied us in a Gordian knot beyond any other Party's ability to untangle.

greywarbler said...

No-one, not a determined woman, not the newly-elected Labour Party
from a country of four million, can stand against the might of the world's financiers and even those near the billion population are constantly on the alert to maintain their elite position. This woman has the training, the background, to run this country and be a parent. But why should she be expected to be a miracle worker seeing to things that the combined talents of all the males, and pseudo-males and some females in National have avoided, or not grappled with adequately for nine years!

Jacinda is a strong, determined, smart and sensible woman trying to grapple with a whole lot of things that apparently smart, sensible men have been unable to do. (Note that Don Brash ex-Governor of the NZ Reserve disagreed with policy published by the British eminent authority of the Bank of England. WTF)

Some references that relate to the present situation.
[PDF]Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin 2014 Q1
by M McLeay - ‎Cited by 467 - ‎Related articles
Quarterly Bulletin 2014 Q1. • This article explains how the .... then, in normal times, supplied on demand by the Bank of. England. The rest of this article discusses these practices in more detail. Money creation in reality. Lending creates deposits ... balance sheet, the first row of Figure 1 shows that this is without — in the first ...

Video: (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=how+banks+create+money

Chaos theory - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Chaos theory is a part of mathematics. It looks at certain systems that are very sensitive. A very small change may make the system behave completely differently. Very small changes in the starting position of a chaotic system make a big difference after a while.

Geoff Fischer said...

"They are there to try to impose their will, or their ideas on everyone else whether everyone else agrees or not." That comment (from DJS?) goes to the heart of the systemic problems (which are many) with contemporary western democracy, and goes some way to explaining why so few New Zealanders participate in political parties, and why up to a third of the eligible population do not vote in parliamentary elections. We are told that we have the right to choose our own leaders, yet we know that in 50% of cases (or higher in the United States of America) our "choice" will be over-ridden and a leader or leaders will be imposed upon us by electoral process. Even if we are so lucky as to get "our" choice of leader or representative, chances are we will not get the changes or policies we were expecting as a consequence of that choice, we will continue to suffer from "voter regret", we will continue to ambushed by policies such as war in Iraq and "Rogernomics". Rather than engage in futile railing against Donald Trump, Tony Blair, John Key, Roger Douglas or even Jacinda Ardern, the National Party, the Labour Party or New Zealand First, we could take the simple measures required to correct the demonstrable defects of contemporary democracy. However we should not expect parliamentarians, who have been schooled in the game of "imposing their will" and have become expert in the dark arts of democratic politics, to take the lead in creating a democracy which gives an effective voice to every citizen.

greywarbler said...

I was recently talking to an Iranian Kiwi who sells their carpets. He likes living here, but also likes to travel, see other places and of course goes back to Iran regularly to catch up and restock. His feeling about local people is that they are incurious, complacent, can't handle change, want everything to go on the same as before.

I think that is very much the same for all NZ. Even in the fast moving. internationally involved, sophisticated cities here, I think they are just conforming to visions borne out of last century.

Passionate about their country they are not, except to talk in advertspeak. Concerned about its direction - they are not. Unable to break out of cliches and cliques and embracing, even selling their souls for, the latest technology, device, clever toy - they are.

If they are thinking about the future they will obsess about one particular interest that seems future-thinking. If they listened to Slavoj Zizek they would be totally confused as he blasts his iconoclastic way through self-gratification and comforting platitudes about the future.

What they don't obsess about is why they all tend to talk in the prejudiced way of the self-centred 1970s and 1980s about poor people and people of colour not making it in the world. The world is changing fast, and they are just floating on the top of the waves, surfing above the reality for many of the citizens who are just as good people as themselves. The poor aren't 'making it' because their ways of making a living have been savagely cut away by the wiping of import duties, and there has been no concerted effort on the part of the disastrous and wilfully negligent governments to ensure that their working lives were spent in providing for the future, planting trees and such like.

You would think that self-interest might override the wilful ignorance of the middle-class, and they would have recognised the debasement of the NZ working class as a canary in the mine scenario with the bell tolling for them too. But they have been infected with affluenza and spread it amongst themselves.

If Jacinda can dent this mass hypnotism that rules much of the country, she will be guiding us to the first step on the ladder that will take us to where we can perch and wait out the worst of the disasters and have enough community enterprise spirit to build again. We will be then determined to rise again but it will be forward-looking, not a carbon copy of the old cathedral, system, or whatever, but one that works on practicality, and kind community spirit, and short-term alleviation, fitting into longer-term problem solving staged plans, and effective participatory democracy. We will avoid inflexible rules and authoritarianism as is happening in far too many countries.

Victor said...

"So while I agree that parliament should aspire to dignity and respectability, I don't agree that we should afford it a respect that assumes an exceptional quality in the participants that isn't there."

Agreed. And that makes it all the more important to celebrate the institution, what it stands for and the traditions that help define it. When you do this, you also define the standard to which members are expected to aspire.

Jacinda's baby announcement wasn't part of the business of parliament and was appropriately informal. John Key's failure to go beyond flip comments and side-of-mouth put-downs was often part of the business of parliament and was an insult to voters, even during the unaccountable love affair so many had with him.

Victor said...


A further comment. I know you are someone who values New Zealand's sovereignty, possibly even more than I do.

Well ponder this: Sovereignty, in our system resides in something called "The Crown in Parliament". In effect that means just Parliament plain and simple. So it just ain't ordinary.

Jayson said...

You are being purposefully obtuse.
My wife and I both work and compromises are made all around.
To suggest otherwise shows your intentional dishonesty.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jayson – I presume those remarks are directed at me. In what way was I being dishonest? All I said was that you seem to be implying that Jacinda Ardern could not do the job properly. And if that's true for her, is true for every parent that has children. Your second sentence shows the dishonesty of THAT. Either it's possible to do a job and have children, or neither you and your wife are devoting enough time to your children OR your job. Can't have it both ways.

greywarbler said...

Our 'intentional dishonesty'? I don't think so, nor do I think you have shown 'intentional dishonesty'.

But you seem confused about what women in this modern society are wanting to do, and how women of child bearing age want to have the right to have as much equality of opportunity for office-holding as men.

You say:
Compromises will be made either in the attention she pays her job or her child and she is likely to suffer under the strain of it all.
Is this really an expectation we want to set for new parents of either gender?
For me, it is little different than bombarding teenage girls with pictures of stick thin models whose figures (if you can call them that) are unattainable for the rest of the populace.

New parents do always make compromises, the task is never easy. So they can 'expect strain of it all whichever gender they are'. They have to cope, and learn more than they have done previously as theory, apply it but continually be updating with expert advice about supplying what is needed for each distinct period of a child's life.
Jacinda Ardern has a wide scope for choosing how to co-ordinate her life around her job and her family, ensuring that she works in with her husband and vice versa and that the baby has 24/7 care to the high standard she and her husband will set.

You are exaggerating when you compare caring for a new baby and carrying the weight of an important job, with the commercially-driven, mindless propaganda about beauty. Being convinced of the desirability of an image of slim beauty thin to the point of addiction, even death, is a severe mental condition. Presenting Jacinda Ardern as something other than a normally balanced, capable politician of high ability achieving personal family goals as well as one of high standing in our country is not a realistic comparison.

Victor said...


Your comment at 17.55 is just superb.

Change is much needed but I think we need to face the reality that this is not a transformational government.

I suspect it doesn't want to be transformational, which may be a justified criticism of it. But, more importantly, it cannot be so, given the nature of its majority, its mixed composition, its unreadiness for office and the deeply entrenched myths of neo-liberalism and fiscal conservatism, which (for the moment at least)dominate so much of our national discourse.

But this can nevertheless be a government that helps transform attitudes, not so much by winning arguments (though that's also important) but by how it comports itself, how it appeals to our better natures and how it collaborates and talks with the wide diversity of people and interests that make up New Zealand. And out of this might come creative and, indeed, transformational second and third terms.

Winning the empathetic imagery war will be a key part of this process and, pregnancy or no pregnancy, no-one is better qualified for this role than our new PM. And, yes, I know that the left's puritan conscience chafes at the self-indulgent flummery and moral inconsequentialness of image wars. But they are an inevitable part of politics.

Back in October, Jacinda said the following in an interview with John Campbell:

"I know I need to transcend politics in the way that I govern for this next term of Parliament but I also want this government to feel different, I want people to feel that it's open, that it's listening and that it's going to bring kindness back."

That strikes me as a very good place to start, just as long as it's not where we finish.

Geoff Fischer said...

In what constitutional document is it stated that "sovereignty resides in the Crown in Parliament"?
How does "The Crown in Parliament" equate to "Parliament plain and simple"?
Isn't the monarch (Queen Elizabeth) the sovereign of New Zealand?
Members of Parliament must pledge allegiance to the monarch. The monarch calls and dismisses Parliament. So does not sovereignty reside in the monarch?

sumsuch said...

Celebrate this democratic move on the part of Ardern. Vera cynical about the personality-charisma approach to democratist politics. Decidedly unhappy about 'Jacinda's' announcement we can halve child poverty in 10 years. Tomorrow for 100% would be too late for me. Not to understand force and the need for it is not to be a social-democrat. Leave realpolitik to Helen with her degree.

Victor said...

Geoff Fischer

In answer to your question, this is what Dicey has to say in his seminal work.

" Parliament means, in the mouth of a lawyer (though the word has often a different sense in conversation) The King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons: these three bodies acting together may be aptly described as the "King in Parliament", and constitute Parliament. The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty means neither more nor less than this, namely that Parliament thus defined has, under the English constitution, the right to make or unmake any law whatever: and, further, that no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament."

— A.V. Dicey Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885)

In New Zealand, this sovereignty is deemed to have moved to the King or Queen of New Zealand, acting through his or her Governor General in concert with the members of the House of Representatives.

You are, of course, correct in stating that MPs take an oath of allegiance to the monarch . But, since 1689, the monarch is whoever Parliament says is the monarch. And the said monarch can only, by convention, call or prorogue Parliament on the advice of whoever has the confidence of Parliament.

Muddled? Complex? Replete with infinite fish-hooks? Strangely and counter-intuitively practical?

Yes, it's English. So what do you expect?