Wellington’s newspaper, The Dominion-Post, gave it to its readers straight: “I’m no saviour”—Ardern rejects saintly status”.
But would the crowd of 500 attending Labour’s Congress have believed it? They had stamped and cheered when, in opening the event, Peter Samuel Jackson (no, not the film director) had said:
“We have witnessed a masterclass in leadership and communications. We have a very special leader. Your leader, our premier, our prime minister, and NZ’s saviour”.
Not to be out-done, the event’s host, Michele A’Court ( as the Dom-Post went on) told the crowd:
“She has the best instincts of anyone I have ever met. She’s kind, compassionate and empathetic. She has a spine made of steel. And in moments of chaos, she has given us clarity. On our worst days, she has been her best self”.
Ardern was there to deliver the keynote address detailing the party’s “five point” economic recovery plan —- important stuff, surely, but reporters couldn’t resist asking her whether she too saw herself as “NZ’s saviour”.
She was quick, in her empathetic way, to deny it:
“I would disagree with that….I wouldn’t describe myself in that way. I’m here to do a job on behalf of all New Zealanders and I will give my all for that”.
It’s clear, though, that the party’s strategists already believe Labour will win the September election convincingly as the nation joins in the deification of Saint Jacinda. They are already pitching for votes with the line “Join Jacinda and our movement” plus the slogan “Let’s keep moving”.
Given the mood of the nation, the formula may be unbeatable, although there may be a minority of voters who will pause, and question “Moving to what?”
NZ may have escaped the worst effects of Covid-19 as much by good luck as brilliant management, but the future for those who have lost their jobs — and the many more who may lose their jobs when government subsidies come to an end — is bleak: they will be “moving”, for sure, but not in a direction anyone will like..
Whether Ardern and her team have the competence to pull the NZ economy out of the tailspin the pandemic has engendered is the question voters will have to ask themselves.
The list of ministers who have failed to measure up has been lengthening, from the first (Clare Curran and Meka Whaitiri) to Phil Twyford, and Iain Lees-Galloway, then to Kelvin Davis and David Clark.
That record lends strength to the argument of someone like Kerry McDonald, one of the NZ’s outstanding business leaders, who contends that – among post-1960 NZ governments – Jacinda Ardern’s
“ … has already shown itself to be one of the worst”.
“Two talking heads are not a viable full-game team, and after a plausible first quarter, the wheels fell off, starting with tracking, border control, isolation, half-truths, evasions and prevarications—with three-quarters and the critical economy still to come.” .
He is deeply worried NZ is becoming increasingly reliant on the government to manage our daily lives and futures.
The incompetence is not limited to the politically elected government: it is also widespread in a “subservient, ineffective and unreliable public service/state sector”.
So there may be something more to think about besides “let’s keep moving” in lockstep with Labour’s wunderkind leader