Jacindarella – the challenges include reconciling an urge for radical change while keeping centrist voters happy  

In  an insightful  essay   on the New Zealand  elections,  the  London  Economist  noted  polls  suggested  a  fairy tale  outcome  for the  incumbent  prime  minister.  It  carried  the  simple heading  “Jacindarella”.

The article recounts  how  Jacinda  Ardern’s staff ran   into  a  problem   after she  declared NZ  free of the coronavirus in June.  It  was  impossible  to keep   the prime minister  on   schedule, they  griped,  because she was  constantly  mobbed  by supporters.  One eulogizer   at the  party’s convention declared her  “our  nation’s  saviour”.

Even  after a  modest  resurgence  of the  disease, New Zealanders  continued to  commend Ardern for  averting the worst.  She  closed  their borders  to  foreigners  and  rallied  “a  team of 5m”  to  support one of the toughest  lockdowns  in the  world.  As  a  result NZ  has recorded only  25 deaths  from Covid-19.

All  this  puts the prime minister on  track  for a   big  victory  in an election  on  October  17….What makes this  all the  more striking  is that  before the  pandemic,  Ardern  was  on  track  to lose the election.  She  came into  office with  lofty  plans to build a fairer,  better  NZ  by  reducing  child poverty, ending  homelessness  and erecting  100,000  cheap houses,  none of  which  she managed to do” .

 The  Economist  ponders    whether  – if  things  go  well  for  her – Ardern will pursue a  radical  agenda.  But it  sees   a  potential   conundrum.

“Ardern positioned  herself  as a  transforming leader.  But to win  enough seats  to bring  about sweeping  change,  she  must secure votes  from centrists who are  wary  of grandiose  ideas. The  more  successful  she  becomes,  the  less  radical   she is  likely  to  be”.  

Point of  Order   finds   little  to   disagree   with  in  this  analysis,  except  to   suggest   that  if  Labour   does  end  up  with  the  kind  of  outsize  caucus  polls  suggest  it  will have  after  the  election,  there  will be  immense  pressure   from  within    to  begin  the   transformatory reforms  promised    three years  ago.

Ardern    will  have  to  find   a  broader    range  of  talent   to  fill  the  ministry  so  that  it   can devise    the  complex  measures  need to  implement  those  reforms  at  the  same time  as  Finance  Minister    Grant   Robertson  is  trying  to  reconstruct  the  economy  and  create the  jobs he has promised.

There  will  be  the  portfolios  left   vacant   by  NZ   First  ministers   (assuming  the  polls  are  correct in  charting  support  for that  party  hovering around 2%).

Audrey  Young  in  the  NZ  Herald  has  pointed out  the  fish-hooks  awaiting the PM  over  the  appointment of a deputy prime minister,  without  NZ  First  on the  scene.  Kelvin   Davis  is  theoretically  Labour’s  deputy  leader;  Finance  Minister  Grant  Robertson  is the de  facto deputy  leader.

Labour   in  full  control   of the political   agenda   can’t  contemplate  a  figurehead   as  deputy  PM,    just  as  it  will  need   highly  capable  politicians   stepping  up  to  be  frontline  ministers.

But  where  exactly  will  Ardern    find them?

The  top   Labour  ministers — Ardern, Robertson, Hipkins, Parker, Woods, Little — are  already heavily  loaded.

Hipkins  is   fully engaged   in  Education and  Health:  some  would  say  he   will have to shed one or the  other.  Will  Ardern    bring  back    David  Clark?

So  too  is  Andrew  Little,   though  he  may  be    first  choice  as  Foreign  Minister.   Would he want it    when he has  so   much unfinished   business  in his  current  portfolios?

Ardern   is  also  faced     with the  problem   of    finding   someone    with  the  credentials  to take over  the  Defence  portfolio,   given    that  the  country’s friends  and  allies  expect  NZ  to  play   its  part   in the   Pacific  framework.  Phil  Twyford  perhaps,  or  Willie  Jackson?

So  if    the   polls    are  predicting  a  fairy-tale   outcome  for  Jacindarella   in the election,  the  Prime   Minister  may  soon   be  confronted   by the   harsh  realities of  her own  slogan   “let’s  keep  moving”.

Will  it  be   case   of a  hard  landing  for  NZ,  as poverty    rises,   dole  queues lengthen, house  prices  climb into the  stratosphere,  and  the deficit  falls  into  an ever deepening  pit?

Or  is  there  another  fairy-tale  ending to  all  that?

2 thoughts on “Jacindarella – the challenges include reconciling an urge for radical change while keeping centrist voters happy  

  1. At least half the electorate is in the grip of COVID-derived Stockholm Syndrome which, along with her enthusiastic cheerleaders in the media, will likely ensure an Ardern victory. She has manipulated the public’s fear around the COVID crisis nakedly for political purposes, using the daily updates as her bully pulpit. The $50 million slipped to the media in April was also money well spent. But what happens next? Labour’s economic “plan” appears to be to enlarge the role of the State in the economy rather than facilitate a recovery led by the private sector and especially small business. It is the economics of the Polish shipyard 70s-style, and it is likely to have the same dire outcomes.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.