A frustrated champion of transformation will retire – now let’s wait for Peters to declare his intentions

The  Labour-led  coalition  may have to generate  a  second  wave  of  Jacindamania  if  it is to  win another term in the Beehive.

Re-election  is   not  an   impossible  dream, despite  the failure of   Labour to deliver   what  many of  those  who  voted  for it  in 2017  expected.

Retiring   Green  MP   Gareth  Hughes  summed it up when he  told reporters  the government  had not  delivered  “transformation”.

The pace of change, he reckons,  has not matched what he sees as the problems facing the country.

“Across my 10 years here, things have actually got worse. Emissions have increased, homelessness is growing.  I don’t think the government has been transformational.  There’s been pockets of transformation, but I don’t think historians are going  to look back and  say ‘This was a turning point on the scale of the 1930s or 1980s’.  And I think that’s desperately needed. It’s a disappointment that we aren’t seeing the change I think we need”.

Whether  voters    actually  want   the  revolution  Hughes  believes is  necessary  is  less   certain.

Nevertheless Hughes’  frustration  is  understandable.   He has spent  10 years  in  Parliament,  with  not   a  lot to show  for  it.   So it won’t  raise an eyebrow  he  is retiring   at the  age of  38.

Nearly  twice  his age,  Winston Peters  appears  determined to  serve  another   term —even   though in the  past   fortnight the revelations in the court  case  he mounted  against two  former National  ministers and  two senior public servants   have  done  little to  enhance  his reputation.

The  party   he  led  into   coalition  with  Labour is  now hovering around the  5%  threshold.  There  appears to  be  little gratitude  in the electorate   for the role   NZ   First   has   played in  acting   as a brake  on the  kind  of transformatory  policies   favoured by  Labour and the Greens.

NZ  First’s  re-election  worries  are  compounded   by indications that those   who  voted for  Peters  thinking  he would go into  coalition with National  are  now so sour they  will not  do so  again.

There is, too, the perception   NZ  First  treats  the revenue the government  collects from hard-working  taxpayers  as  a  kitty  it  won  in   the game of electoral poker,  which  can  be  disbursed in   giant boondoggles  like the  $3bn provincial  growth fund or the  move to shift the port of  Auckland  to Marsden  Point  in Northland.

But   all is  not  lost  for  the parties in the  governing  coalition:  there remains   the star  quality  which  Jacinda  Ardern has  brought to the role  of  Prime  Minister.

New Zealanders  admire  that  quality,   most  visible   when  she   steps  on to the  international  stage.

She is   unrivalled    among her contemporaries  in how  politically cool  she is  on  social  media.

That  was   reflected in  the  reaction to a   Facebook  video   in which  the narrative focussed on  the  achievements of  her  government.  The video  turned  out to  be  her  most popular ever, edging  out  an  earlier video  of  the speech in  Parliament  she  gave following  the Christchurch  mosque  attacks.

One  ecstatic  report  indicating  it had  2.6m views on   Facebook, with versions of it on Twitter  recording  another  2m  views, suggested  it had been seen by more  people  than  are eligible to vote  in  NZ.  Certainly   it  had a  large  number   of  views across  the ditch,  where  many  Australians   express  envy  that   NZ  has  such a  remarkable  leader, particularly  in  contrast to their own.

The   video  may  have claimed  for   Labour  triumphs  that  hardly  fell  into  the  category  of  “transformative””.

But  the difficult  issue  is  whether  the  645,000  “likes”    on Ardern’s  Facebook  page   will  translate  into  the  Jacindamania wave  strong enough to  roll Labour and its allies  back into  office.




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