Magic-Woman: The mantle of success has already been draped over Jacinda’s shoulders. Victory advances towards her with arms outstretched. Her followers are convinced they know how this year’s election is going to end. She has filled them to the brim with hope. That’s the Magic – that’s the trick. Photo by JOHN MILLER
THAT JACINDA ARDERN has the “Magic” is not now in dispute. Labour’s campaign launch proved it many times over. Not only in terms of the 200m-long queue stretching back from the Auckland Town Hall doors. Not only because the whole event went off without a hitch. Not only because Jacinda’s speech was an absolute blinder. The Magic resides in the fact that everyone involved in the launch: the organisers, the media, the audience itself; had turned up anticipating a triumph.
The mantle of success has already been draped over Jacinda’s shoulders. Victory advances towards her with arms outstretched. Her followers are convinced they know how this year’s election is going to end. She has filled them to the brim with hope. That’s the Magic – that’s the trick.
The enormous significance of political magic is made clear principally by its absence. None of Jacinda’s four male predecessors had it. Contact lenses and a new haircut couldn’t make it appear. Speechwriters working in shifts couldn’t summon it. Focus groups couldn’t even tell the party where to look for it. But no Labour member; no Labour voter; had the slightest difficulty understanding that the Magic was passing them by.
Because, without the Magic, the party’s leaders were just so many talking heads; and its policies just so many (so many!) words on paper. They could be wheeled out in front of the public, but the public couldn’t be persuaded to notice them. Promises to do good things could be announced, re-announced, and then announced all over again – and, still, nobody believed them. Absent the Magic, why should they? The party was never going to be in a position to make them happen.
But, oh, what a difference, when the Magic finally appears! First, there’s the shock of recognition. In Jacinda’s case, that came just a few seconds into her first media conference as Leader. No one had addressed the Press Gallery with such effortless authority since the departure of Helen Clark in 2008. The journalists all thought they knew Jacinda Ardern, but they were wrong. The Jacinda Ardern with power was a very different person from the Jacinda Ardern without it. That mysterious and indefinable “gift of grace” – kharisma in Ancient Greek – had taken up residence in Jacinda Ardern, and she was changed.
No call now for tedious recitations of party policy. When the Magic is with you people don’t want to know the details of any particular reform, they want to know its purpose. And that’s what this sudden infusion of charisma has done for Jacinda. It has enabled her to communicate the passion and the urgency of her intentions with striking clarity – as when she declared Climate Change to be her generation’s “nuclear-free moment”.
Page after page of earnest policy proposals could never have achieved the political impact of that single sentence. Like David Lange’s in/famous quip that “you can’t run a country like a Polish shipyard”, Jacinda’s “my generation’s nuclear-free moment” political marker discloses a potent combination of emotion and aspiration. Not the least of which is her clear determination to not only participate in History, but to shape it.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Monday, 21 August 2017.
Magic might get you into government. Policy makes it worthwhile. I repeat – David Lange.
A thought provoking item, Chris.
Winston is now unambiguously the Kingmaker. Yet, paradoxically, he's found himself in that position at the very point at which his party is shedding considerable support.
What an interesting election.
Don't confuse me with facts - just believe in my smile. The policies are as deep as a carpark puddle, but have some real 'teeth' behind them.
Victor: I don't believe that Winston has lost any support.
New Zealand's polling is a far cry from YouGov with the British elections. Only one of the polling firms even reveal how many people said they didnt know who to vote for or refused to take the poll. For a country that doesnt require voting by law - these are critical figures.
The incredibly high polling of the Tories prior to the UK election was because a third of the electorate were being cut from the polls because they didn't give a preference when interviewed. As Corbyn won over electors Labour swelled with bringing "Don't Know" voters into the graphs which made it appear as if Conservative support was falling. This is the situation with NZ First. As a percentage of possible voters, it's support hasn't dropped over the past two months. National's hasn't either.
There is only a handful of polling firms in NZ. The TV3 Reid Poll hasn't been updated since Andrew Little resigned and Metiria Turei first hit the headlines. Roy Morgan was started its surveying well before the Little / Turei changes and didn't finish with its sample until well after.
Colmar Brunton and UMR are the only polls conducted after the turmoil - both suggest Winston is heading toward the best election he has had under MMP. Both firms suggest National has a 3pt lead over Labour and Colmar suggests the Greens may well fall beneath the threshold.
National's current polling - if firm - (37% of eligible voters) is higher than in any MMP election. In the last election National's 36.64% (with a 77% turnout) was enough for National to grab 60 seats!
Labour's stunning turnaround is on the back of pulling in the undecideds... and absorbing the Greens. 87% of Kiwis now say they know who they will vote for - which would be a fantastic turnout... the only time in the past 30 years to get that number flocking to the polls was the first MMP election. Unfortunately, not one firm canvases how likely their respondents are to vote - which is what this election is going to be decided by.
I hadn't focused on the rise in the percentage saying they know who they will vote for.
It opens up a heap of alternate possibilities.
Thanks for pointing this out.
Magic thinking Chris.
Are you on the turps?
All we have here is a collapse of the Greens thank heavens, as I have wished for for years. So well do Arden for that. But all we really know so far is a smiley fresh face, we have little idea about in the longer run. Yet where is here great team to be the competent cabinet? Nats have that. You say grey but actually many are not and grey means wise, experienced, sober.
As I understand it she still has not got the numbers with WinFirst alone so will need more which makes it same as before she arrived. It will probably be up to National to decide if they will offer the old crooked fox enough cake. They may prefer not to, and sit back and enjoy seeing how he eats red riding hood for breakfast.
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