Saturday 26 January 2019

The Jacinda Problem: Where She Goes, We Go.

She's With Me: It wasn't quite Mickey Savage's "where she stands, we stand; where she goes, we go", but Jacinda Ardern's open-ended support for Theresa Mays Brexit-beleaguered Britain came pretty close. What has become of "transformational" Jacinda? Can she still "do this"?

WHAT’S HAPPENED to Jacinda? What’s become of the young woman who captivated the electorate sixteen short months ago? The Jacinda who promised New Zealanders a “transformational” government inspired by the politics of kindness. Where has she gone?

Surely the New Zealand Prime Minister who earlier this week pledged to stand by Britain: “Whatever you decide about your place in the global community”; cannot be the same woman who turned up to Buckingham Palace proudly wearing a Maori cloak? That Prime Minister would never have boasted (in the right-wing Daily Telegraph of all places!) that “around four in every five New Zealanders still claims British heritage”. She would have left that sort of racially-charged rhetoric to Donald Trump.

Except, of course, it was New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who said those things. The very same Jacinda Ardern who’s been guilessly decorating the “loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires” who gather every year at the exclusive ski resort of Davos in the Swiss Alps.

It would seem that we misunderstood the Labour leader when she promised us a transformational government. Our naïve assumption was that she intended to transform New Zealand society when, clearly, it was herself she was determined to transform.

There will, of course, be a great many Kiwis who cannot get enough of their PM’s global celebrity status. Seated on the same stage as Sir David Attenborough. Discussing mental health with Prince William. What’s not to like? Jacinda is only going where Bono has so boldly gone before.

And yet, while our prime minister is rubbing shoulders with the good and the great at Davos, thousands of New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens are without adequate accommodation and forced to rely upon grossly over-stretched food banks to feed their children.

While she earnestly discusses mental health issues with William Windsor, her Health Minister back home is, disgracefully, holding the cloaks of New Zealand’s DHBs while they attempt to stone the Resident Doctors Association to death.

While she lends her most solemn and concerned expressions to Sir David Attenborough’s desperate pleas for urgent action on global warming, her “green” government is frantically fabricating new and ever-more-ridiculous excuses for, once again, letting New Zealand’s farmers off the climate change hook.

It is to be hoped that somewhere between all her high-powered forums and Davos’s swanky cocktail parties our prime minister is lucky enough to run into a wealthy venture capitalist by the name of Nick Hanauer. He would be the same Nick Hanauer whose opinion-piece, “A stake through the heart of neoliberalism”, was recently posted on the Newsroom website.

“I am a practitioner of capitalism”, declared Hanauer, “I have started or funded 37 companies. I was the first outside investor in Amazon. I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Yet the most important lesson that decades of experience at the heart of market capitalism has taught me is that morality and justice are the fundamental prerequisites for prosperity and economic growth. Greed is not good.”

Hanauer’s solution to global inequality is refreshingly straight-forward: “A fundamental prerequisite for a more just society is that the wealthiest should pay their fair share of tax.”

If only this clear-eyed billionaire could contrive to sit down with Jacinda and her Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, for a few minutes and explain this to them. Coming from a person as rich and successful as Hanauer, this simplest of social-democratic truths might have a better chance of being accepted than when advanced by the churches, the trade unions, Oxfam, and even one or two of the less star-struck members of their own party.

How sad that it has come to this. That a member of the 0.01 percent sees more clearly what must be done than the young woman who, just sixteen months ago, invited her fellow citizens to “Let’s do this!” How tragic that, sixteen months later, so few of those same citizens have the slightest idea what the “this” that she enjoined them to “do” actually is.

Jacinda is the most accomplished ambassador for New Zealand to have graced the global stage since David Lange bowled-over the Oxford Union. That is not, however, enough. Jacinda is not New Zealand’s MC, she’s our PM.

It’s time for her to start acting like one.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 25 January 2019.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Perhaps it's time we started to ignore that old saying – "politics is the art of the possible." Because believing that means you never ever try to do anything allegedly impossible. Besides, the woman is a centrist along with a large proportion of the Labour MPs at present it seems to me. None of them are ever going to try anything radical, because they have a very narrow idea of what is "possible".

Sanctuary said...

I wouldn't over analyse Jacinda's comments. Our foreign policy is defined by being two faced. A staunch member of the five eyes that cowtows to China. Making fawning statements designed to flatter Brexit toffs and then kissing the ass of the EU is just par for the course.

Michael Smythe said...

Do you not see how effectively Jacinda is leading the post-neo-liberal revolution? Promoting a better way of doing politics - applying empathy to a wellbeing budget - is not incompatible with constructive diplomacy with those with who we wish to trade on the fairest terms possible. She is a "breath of fresh air" while you, I a sorry to see, are an old fart.

Kat said...

As a new fresh young PM, Jacinda Ardern had to get some international recognition in her kit bag before turning her attention to home. Otherwise her political detractors would attempt to pillory her for being internationally naive and still the "little girl". So smarts to her for getting it out of the way first and banking the experience. My bet is in the coming months we will see a very focused PM on domestic issues.

BlisteringAttack said...

Richard Attenborough in para 8 of your piece died in 2014.

Presumably you refer to his brother David?

Anonymous said...

Chris, Cindy is a 'Communications Studies' major, who has no profession or trade , and a has never held a job that wasn't in the Fashionable Beliefs Industrial Complex. In 10 years in parliament, she has achiveved nothing of note, policy wise. She does look good on TV, esp looking concerned and spouting cliches. Here high faluting policy philosophy espoused in Europe are feeble when compared to thebpractical disasters at home - the admitted failure of Kiwibuild (which was only ever a marketing slogan). She and her deputy PM having different foreign policy, and her utter lack of control of him. The real news is that the Nats are STILL polling higher, despite their own problems.

Jens Meder said...

Perhaps there will be more political support for proportionally higher taxes on higher incomes with a policy including systematic participation in national and personal wealth ownership creation by the poor -
so that the higher taxes will not be consumed by just covering up poverty through widening welfare benefits, but by actually reducing and eventually eliminating poverty through at least a minimally meaningful level of personal wealth ownership by all citizens eventually, and no children born into "have nothing" poverty ?

Bazza64 said...

Funny how billionaires become altruistic when they are rolling in moolah. Before their financial success they would have used every trick in the book to enable them to minimise income tax & grow their empires. When they have got so much of the green stuff that they don’t know what to do with it then they tend to go down the track of “the wealthy should pay their fair share of tax”. Cue: now so bored with all their $ they are seeking approval from the wider community (money no longer satisfies their egos?)

George Soros comes to mind, makes a killing with capitalism & then derides the system that made him what he is. Now a “convenient lefty”

Seems those at the top of the ladder want to change the rules for those beneath them grasping their way up. Noble sentiments for sure, but these guys weren’t exactly Mother Theresa on the way up (maybe Mother Teresa is not a good analogy as some have the opinion that she was not a friend of the poor, but a friend of poverty, but that is for another discussion.)

Geoff Fischer said...

It was good, fair and proper that those whose votes secured the Prime Ministerial office for Jacinda Ardern should have placed their faith in her willingness and ability to deliver on her promises, implicit or explicit. No voter should act to cynically impose a government on his or her fellow citizens while inwardly questioning its good faith, and voters should support the government of their choice to fulfill its promises to the electorate.
But many of those who did not vote for Jacinda will not be surprised by her uninspiring performance to date. She has delivered exactly what anyone who dispassionately examined her political career would have expected of her. It will also be no surprise to those who recognize that the monarchist regime will never deliver justice for our people.
So we do not go where Jacinda goes. We do not petition foreign heads of state for redress or salvation, as our ancestors petitioned Queen Victoria and King George. The time of false hope is past.

sumsuch said...

Disgusting you can only address your own people, in the south of the south. And in this flash emotional style.

Jacinda Ardern is the same person making a face at the election of Andrew Little as Labour Leader.

Four fifths of us are British and Irish, lets recognise that, any status quo that doesn't is sterile. NZ has given us great wealth at the cost of rootlessness. Every last slum-dweller beside me here in Gisborne is just a phone call away from knowing their roots back 700 years.

Since that great egotist Jack Lee addressed all these issues with the very first Labour Govt in his book 'Simple on a Soapbox' I think it's apposite you should review that book. Rather than holding up the 30s to myth status as a base.

John Hurley said...

Prime Minister of Woman's Weekly.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Isn't it interesting that whenever a perceived progressive woman, particularly a young woman is given a position of power, such as Ardern or Ocasio – Cortez, conservatives always always try to belittle them in some way by suggesting that "they are a girl" "they know nothing" "they have achieved nothing". In the states of course it's reached some form of hysteria which are Ocasio Cortez is turning to her advantage because she is young and social media savvy, while her critics are old farts and not.
Now it's all very well suggesting that Ardern has achieved nothing, but you really should suggest what she could have achieved given that Labour has been in opposition since she became an MP. "Policy -wise"? I would suggest you don't actually know. And as to jobs before she was a politician? Fuck me, I would have thought that by now the idea that government is better run by a businessman would have been strangled by the Trump administration. To make progress as a politician you must understand government. Business people as epitomised by Trump – don't.

David Stone said...

When Jacinda declared " Let's Do This " she was announcing her decision to take up an offer by her leader in the middle of an election campaign to suddenly take over the leadership of the party. The suggestion came completely out of the blue, she had only a few months before unexpectedly been promoted to deputy. She had a hell of a decision to make being conscious of her own relative inexperience. "Lets do this" was the announcement of her decision to take up the challenge. I don't believe it ever had anything to do with what she planned to do as PM if elected.
She is an intelligent very presentable articulate socially oriented young woman. But that doesn't distinguish her from hundreds of thousands of similarly able young women among our population. She isn't Boadicea. She has never claimed to have a plan to overturn the neoliberal settlement or taken a particular interest in macroeconomics that I have seen any indication of. It is to be expected that she defers to the economic theorists in her party all of whom have more experience than her , and all of whom have been her mentors and seniors up until a short time ago. Expecting her to suddenly decide they all don't know what they are doing ( I would be happy to tell her that ) is unrealistic.
The best we can hope for is that she will get more confidence in her position over time , and start to see what needs to be changed in the fundamental structures to be able to implement the social outcomes she wants to implement.
But to appreciate what she would be up against to make those changes to a socially responsible administration look at what is happening in Venezuela . There is a monster out there that does not tolerate socialist governments anywhere on the planet and will stop at nothing to prevent their development. Lets give her some time.

Hilary Taylor said...

Some of us weren't sucked in at the 'Let's Do This' stage...if we were we'd deserve everything that's come since.

Sam said...

Stinks of straw in here. Lots of Jacinda this and Jacinda that. Every one is suffering from BREXIT fatigue. If no ones noticed, Mays secound deal fell through. Now may is trying to appease the Irish so the UK can remain which is the worst possible outcome. Being tied to the anvil of EU problems devastate the UK.

What's best for New Zealand is we keep seeking out the most talented politicians possible.

Alan Ivory said...

There is something in what you say, but Davos is not a glamorous cocktail party event. You get the chance to meet and talk to people like George Soros. Here’s his speech there:-

Unknown said...

Why are you surprised? I could see this 'look at me' nihilism from Jacinda right from the start. Even before Winston bribed himself a PM she was already gloating in the msm. How rude to Bill English, who hsd won more votes. And from day one in the role. it has all been about her. Exactly as expected.

pat said...

@ Hilary

Some of us were...or perhaps we projected,,,,the opportunity is still beckoning...will she seize it?

Anonymous said...

But it was only Winston Peters vote that actually gave her power...but then she did have to give him $4b for his vote.

Nick J said...

Indeed DJS, Jacinda must tread carefully. My take is that she will need to navigate treacherous waters caused by the crises of imperial over reach, international financial fraud, global warming. We need a helmsman, she may just be pragmatic enough.

Nick J said...

GS, can't remember but think it was an English soccer manager said, "If you're good enough, you're old enough". As I see it Jacinda picked herself, primus inter pares.

Geoff Fischer said...

Jacinda Ardern's comment “around four in every five New Zealanders still claims British heritage” certainly has racial undertones, but it raises more questions about her political judgement than her racial bias.
I myself acknowledge "British heritage" in the form of ancestry (more than half of my ancestors came from that part of the world), language and culture, and therefore I suspect that I may be included in Jacinda's "four in every five" who "claim" British heritage. Yet I am intractably opposed to British imperialism and I am an unequivocal supporter of tino rangatiratanga. The same may be said of scores who could have claimed British heritage but instead chose to give their lives in defence of the motu against invading British and Australian forces.
From childhood Jacinda has grown up in the cocoon of British colonialism. Her personal and political instinct is to seek salvation in the British crown. She knows very little of our history, and does not see very far into our future as a nation. She does not realize that the colonialist New Zealand which has elevated her to high office has reached the end of its time, that everything which she thinks is solid and secure is fractured, undermined and teetering on the brink of collapse.
Her comment will win nothing of substance for her from London, and will not be as well received as she might hope in Kaikohe, Onehunga, Rotorua, Johnsonville or Geraldine.
When a regime grows old, its hearing is impaired and its vision diminished. It becomes unsteady on its feet, reluctant to take risks, yet increasingly prone to trips and falls. This monarchist regime is old, even if the person at its head is young and seemingly energetic. In the international disputes of the day, on the Anglo-American conflicts wtih China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela it acts habitually rather than intelligently. Because of its fading eyesight it does not see the writing on the wall, and with advancing deafness it fails to hear the words of warning.

greywarbler said...

I know you. You are one of the NZ spoilers, a sad little whiner who doesn't have anything useful to say about our politics so naturally couldn't
make a measured comment about Ms Ardern. Your comment could equally be applied to John Key. It really doesn't get beyond the need for every
politician to have an image that encourages people to think they like the country and its people and want to get alongside them and be friendly.

As for Anonymous, another commenter lacking imagination, if Winston got as you state, $4b to encourage him to come on board, well that was money well spent. We have a government, as a result, that offers some hope for rational provision of services and direction. Which otherwise we would not have had.

O said...

Jacinda Ardern political position is exactly as I expected - centre left. I thought it was clear that was where she was both during the months before the election and since. Those claiming she was very left wing seemed to me to be either, in the case of some on the right, demonizing her, or, in the case of some on the left, letting their own hopes cloud their perception.
It is sad that some on the left, such as Chris, expected the PM to be a Corbyn of the South Pacific, and are now vocally bitterly disappointed and quick to judge the PM for not meeting their idealised standards they had of her.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Amazing isn't it, that there are still people in New Zealand who don't understand how MMP works. It'd be hilarious if it wasn't quite so tragic.

Sam said...

@Uknown. That's incorrect. Voters choose> party, party chooses> party leader. The prime minister is just who happens to be party leader of the party that gains the most party votes. That's MMP. Perhaps Wayne Mapp could give you a few civics lessons. Aroha Nui

Anonymous said...

I take issue with your framing Jacinda as a problem. She is not responsible for current affairs in Europe and the Americas, or climate change in Aotearoa. Thatcher suffered bad polls, the media playing her requiem until Senor Videla invaded the Falklands.

Ardern is not a miracle worker but a practical politician. She was simply the best choice with experience, flexibility, resilience and imagination enough to shake up political stereotypes and confound the Cassandras of Bowalley Road.

sumsuch said...

Labour everywhere is pragmatism under a guise of ideals; y'know, the liberal whose hand goes to their wallet at the last minute. Hard to get enthused by this repeated quick hands 'magic'.

Palmerston North said...

Letter sent to all MPs.

Unknown said...

We're not rich , we pay our taxes to run the countries Health Education Infrastructure etc. We don't get Working for Families or any other government subsidies. And yet you come back for more tax from us

greywarbler said...

Oh I don't think that is a personal complaint - it sounds like an amalgam put together drawn from the Whingers Bible. You should have put /sarc under it so we know it is tonge-in-cheek, or you should bite your tongue before writing out such unreasonable, unthinking drivel, and go back to your hermit hut, well away from your fellow human beings.