From stardom in New York, it’s back to earth (and some muckiness) for the PM

PM  Jacinda  Ardern   has had an almost triumphal  visit to  New York, rounding it off   with a  maiden  speech  which  drew   respectful applause  (rather than the laughs  which  greeted  Donald Trump’s opening salvoes) in the UN General  Assembly.  And then there  was her  celebrity status on  US  chat shows  where  she spoke and enchanted  (we hope)  millions of  Americans.

Heady  stuff – though it may take some  time  to  distill  the   after-match  reaction, in terms of achieving  positive outcomes for  NZ.

But  as  she  sets out on the journey home with baby  Neve,  she won’t be looking  forward to the  report  card to be handed to her by  acting  PM  Winston  Peters.

It’s  a  lesson which other   NZ  leaders  (Robert Muldoon, David  Lange, Jim Bolger) have learned the hard  way:  while they are enjoying  rubbing shoulders with  world  leaders, the  mice  back home  get to play,  not  always with results commensurate with the status of  global  stardom.

Each  day  has brought  headlines the government  could do without, virtually  all  with a  sting to  them.

The Curran-Handley saga erupted once more (with the strapline: “I  wouldn’t wish it on anyone”), Meka Whaitiri “bruising”  her staffer,  and a NZ Herald editorial admonition: “Serious  damage control is required”.

Other  ugly  incidents   included  a   tardy  apology   to  Handley from Megan Woods, whose  pusillanimity was also  etched  across the political spectrum  in  her performance with the oil and gas  sector.

And  it is  not  all over yet.  Almost  certainly the  Handley  saga  has  another  chapter  in it,  as   questions  have  been  left hanging  over how far  Ardern  was involved  in exchanges  on the   CTO  appointment  and its revocation.

The  latest revelations   which  brought  the Labour Party president  Nigel Haworth  and   key  staffers  within the  PM’s  office into  the orbit of the  Handley affair  put the spotlight   more  closely  on  the  issue: was it  in fact a  political   appointment?   Why  would Haworth  be  involved?   The  NZ  Herald  contended  “the public needs to be  confident there is no political  interference in a public  appointment”.

It  would be even worse   if  Handley  were  identified  as  either   a  party member or   a  donor

As  Acting PM Winston Peters  has been exemplary  in defending  Ardern  over  her  involvement in the Handley  shemozzle.  And there   will be many  who   believe Ardern’s  performance  in  New  York  will far   outweigh any  of the peccadilloes  of her colleagues on the  home front.

But it will be  hard to ignore the   questions raised about  Ardern’s leadership  and   government’s integrity in general.

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