It may be almost with a sense of relief that the PM flies off to New York this weekend and leaves behind her all the internal discords within her government.
Jacinda Ardern is going to the UN to strut her stuff on the world stage, making the case for global co-operation on combating climate change and inequality, supporting the rights of women and children and promoting fair global trading rules.
She will be promoting multi-lateralism and New Zealand’s interests at a wide range of speaking engagements, bilateral meetings, and media appearances.
Whether her key message for the week — the need for world leaders to recommit to global rules — makes much impact remains to be seen. But almost certainly Ardern will command so much media attention she will be the envy of most of her peers.
During the week she will engage in a range of bilateral discussions with fellow leaders and representatives including the UN Secretary, General António Guterres, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Anne Hathaway to advance issues around women and children and sustainable development.
Overshadowing all of this will be Ardern’s media appearances: she will be appearing on the Today Show, undertaking a long form interview with Christiane Amanpour, and sitting on the couch on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about NZ country to a combined television audience of over 7 million people.
Fabulous publicity for NZ and Ardern. Almost certainly it will do much to erase the political horrors of the past month at home.
Those horrors have been contributing to a questioning of how the PM has been performing as leader of the coalition government.
Former politician Peter Dunne, who has long experience of working within coalitions, has been commenting this week that the claims of dysfunction against the (Ardern) government arise not from the method of its election, nor even its composition, but from its performance.
“At the core of that is a perception that the Labour Party and its leader have become hostage to the demands of NZ First and its leader and that the Greens are being marginalised.”
Dunne says the Prime Minister
” … has to be seen to have dealt to the factors given rise to the negative public perceptions. Asserting her leadership, and more importantly, being seen to be doing so is a critical part of that.
“To that end, a public rebuke, albeit well orchestrated, of her coalition partner on a particular issue might also be in order.
“Her decisiveness to date seems to have been limited to dealing with her own party. She needs to demonstrate unequivocally that she is the head of government, not just head of the largest party in the government.
“Her apparent unwillingness to ruffle coalition feathers is starting to work against her, especially since NZ First seems to have no such compunction about ruffling Labour’s feathers.
“Her stoicism to date is admirable, but cannot continue. She needs to be seen to be in charge, rather than just turning the other cheek”.
In his role as Acting PM, Winston Peters will be on his best behaviour, ensuring he doesn’t give a resurgent Opposition any fresh ammunition to fire while Ardern is enjoying the global spotlight. He’s as conscious as are those in Labour that the next round of political opinion polls need to show a bounce in support for the coalition parties.
There’s one shadow left hovering over the government – that’s whether the Curran affair has been successfully buried.
The government has been fortunate that Derek Handley has taken his $100,000 compensation and faded from the scene. But there is still lingering some difficult questions in those yet to be published emails not only between Clare Curran and Handley but from Handley to the PM.
And if Ardern stood back from the Handley appointment, who was it that made the decision he was not the man for the job?