A Cabinet reshuffle must be among the options as Ardern considers how to halt growing public disenchantment

After the excitement of her US visit and White  House call, PM Jacinda Ardern is  now  engaged in  the  harsh realities of  running  a  government that  appears  to be  crumbling  by  the  week.

Ministers  are  tripping  over  themselves – this  week it  was Police Minister Poto Williams who became the   butt  of  Opposition calls  for her  to be  sacked.  Then there  were  the  polls charting  a  governing party’s  falling popularity, despite  a huge spend-up  in the latest budget.

The One News Kantar poll at the end of  May put Labour’s  support  down  at 35%. Then came the Roy Morgan poll which had Labour even lower, at 31.5%.

This is  the sixth Roy Morgan sampling to  show  there would be a change of  government  if there were an election now.  According to Ipsos polling, people rate  National as  more capable than Labour on four out of the five top issues – inflation, housing, health care, petrol prices and  crime).

Just what Labour’s own polling is indicating is being kept a party secret, but it is possibly even grimmer than the public polls because in desperation the  party has been using social media to try  to discredit National’s Christopher Luxon, who had succeeded in hitting the  government  where it hurt by drumming  on the themes  of a cost-of-living crisis and the need for   tax  cuts   in  the  budget.

The government still has time on its side in pulling itself back from the brink, but it is  not  projecting  a  coherent  messaging  as  it  did  at  the  height of the Covid pandemic.

Instead, the  headlines are  filled  not  just  with the  issues  of inflation  and taxation, but the  worsening  standards in  education, the   shortages  of skilled  labour,  the  outflow of key  nursing staff,  and  the  whole law-and-order  gamut, from daily gang shooting  in  Auckland neighbourhoods to ram  raids.

On another front Labour’s moves  on co-governance  have  aroused  deep  misgivings  among many New Zealanders.  It has put Local  Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta  in  the  firing  line, and, some  say, exacerbated  racial tension in communities  which previously prided  themselves on  being  in  harmony.

Another issue  which has antagonised major sectors has  been the government’s introduction of “Fair Pay” agreements.

Labour,  which in 2020 won  over  many electorates which normally are not known for leaning  to  the  left, now finds  its  grip  on  those loosening  and – if the  current polling  were to extend  to  the  next election – as  many  as  25 Labour MPs would  be  tipped  out.

The Green Party, which backs  the  government, by  comparison would  sail  through  the   next  election relatively unscathed.  It  has  carved  out  a  role where  it  is  often as  critical  of  the  government as  the  Opposition parties—and not  just on climate  change issues.  For  example, it  criticised  the  budget  for  failing to deliver  any  extra support for  beneficiaries to  take the  edge  off  cost-of-living  pressures.

On the  other  side  of  the House,  ACT  has been vigorous in its  opposition  to the  government  and  David  Seymour  has  matured  into a  highly  effective  politician.  But  when  it  comes  to  the  election,  it  will  need  something  distinctive  to  retain the seats  it holds  at  present.

Similarly,  National  has  work  to do, though in a  different direction:  it  has  to  find candidates of  a  higher  standard than it  put  forward  in many  electorates in 2020.

As Labour backbenchers  recognise the  unpopularity  of  the government  has  deepened  rather  than gone  away, it could  be  expected  they  would be  agitating  in caucus  for  a  reshuffle  of the Cabinet.   It  rests  on  them  if  they  are  to  extend their parliamentary careers to do  so but  they  may  not  have  the  experience or  the  technical  know-how  to  mount  the  onslaught to  dislodge  the more  unpopular or useless incumbents.

As  Ardern  and  her  deputy Grant Robertson are on their  way  to Australia today, they  may be  putting  their  heads  together to work out  what they can do  to turn  around the growing disenchantment at home with their government

2 thoughts on “A Cabinet reshuffle must be among the options as Ardern considers how to halt growing public disenchantment

  1. Labour can’t do a reshuffle. They have no-one competent to bring in to turn things around. The ones who are even half competent are already overloaded with work and covering for the bad ones.

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