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Jacinda Ardern – How will her five years in power be remembered?

Written By: - Date published: 7:13 am, January 24th, 2023 - 52 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, assets, bill english, chris hipkins, election 2017, election 2020, election 2023, elections, helen clark, jacinda ardern, labour, polls, privatisation - Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Originally published on Nick Kelly’s blog

Last week people in New Zealand and around the world were shocked to hear that Jacinda Ardern had resigned as Prime Minister. An unexpected end to her extraordinary five years in this role. Her exit, like everything else she had done as a leader, was on her terms.

Jacinda Ardern has surprised people throughout her political career, not least when she took over as Labour Leader in August 2017. She took the New Zealand Labour Party from a long way behind in the polls to government in just a few weeks.

I first heard of Jacinda Ardern just after the 2008 election. Labour had just lost power after nine years in office. Ardern was one of the new MPs being touted as the future of the party. At that time I was not a party member, having left in 2002 and did not rejoin until 2013. Whilst I was hearing Jacinda’s name a lot, much of the noise was from the Wellington bubble and party insiders. It was only later that I, like most New Zealand voters was to see the political force she really was.

I first met Jacinda at Labour Leadership campaign hustings in Auckland in 2014. She was Grant Robertson’s running mate and I was the campaign manager for Andrew Little, who went on to narrowly win that leadership contest. We were standing outside this hustings event leafleting for our respective campaigns. I realised just before the meeting that my cell phone was about to die, so asked if I could borrow her charger. Unfortunately, she did not have one, and for the next 90 minutes, I nervously watched my phone’s battery bar decline.

Jacinda came in as a list MP, having unsuccessfully contested the safe Tory seat of Waikato in 2008. In 2011 and 2014 she ran in the Auckland Central electorate, which prior to 2008 had been considered a moderately safe Labour seat. Jacinda was unsuccessful both times and remained a list MP until 2017 when she won Helen Clark’s old electorate of Mount Albert. Shortly after this, she became Deputy Leader of the Party.

Up till this point, Jacinda only had limited support outside the political bubble in Wellington. She was a strong performer in parliament and from 2014 onwards had started getting some very good soft media building her brand as a relatable politician. But it was once she became deputy leader that her profile really began to grow. When polling started to show her personal support was ahead of the party leader, her promotion was only a matter of time.

In August 2017, just a few weeks out from the New Zealand General Election, Andrew Little resigned as party leader as it was clear that he was unlikely to win. A few days later Jacinda was elected leader. In the days that followed Labour’s polling numbers started to bounce. As the campaign wore on, National Party (the NZ Tory Party) Prime Minister Bill English, who had taken over the role only a few months earlier, began to sound rattled. By the time of the main leader’s debates, Jacindamania had taken hold.

Despite all this, it was still far from certain that Labour could win the election. After nearly a decade of polling behind the National Party, the last-minute polling surge still felt like it could still fall away again.

In my blog post from 2020, I described the last time I met Jacinda, just one day after she became the Leader of the Opposition:

A few weeks before leaving New Zealand, my friend Rob and I were in Burger Fuel on Cuba Street the hipster trendy part of Wellington. Piko was renting an office space in the old Wellington Trades Hall and we were doing painting and renovations of the space. In our crappy paint-covered work clothes we sat in Burger Fuel when Rob alerts me to who had just walked into the restaurant. 24 hours beforehand, Jacinda Ardern had replaced Andrew Little as leader of the Labour Party. We both knew Jacinda so said hello and talked about the Stand with Pike campaign we had been working on which Jacinda had pledged to support a few hours before. This slightly awkward conversation with the new leader of the opposition did not last long. None of us, I suspect even Jacinda, knew that in a few weeks’ time, she would achieve one of the greatest upsets in New Zealand’s political history and become Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Government: Style over substance or a guiding light for progressive politics?

A few weeks later I moved to London. By the time I had left, the polls had narrowed and it looked as though the election would be close. I arrived in London on Monday 11 September, and that afternoon went down to New Zealand House in Haymarket to vote for the New Zealand Labour Party. Whilst I wanted NZ Labour to win, I still did not believe they would. As I watched the election results come in just under a fortnight later, it still seemed like the National Party would just hold on for another term. But a series of factors conspired, resulting in what is still one of the most surprising NZ political victories in living memory.

Social democratic values and policies are in fact far more aligned with the New Zealand public than the Tories. I believe the same is true in Britain, as I outlined in my blog posts on why the UK Labour Party lost the 2019 election. Yet in both countries, the Tories win more elections than they lose. In the years 2008 to 2017 when the NZ Labour Party were in opposition, Labour policy often had far more support than the Labour Party. For example the Key Governments’ partial privatisation of state-owned assets in 2011 which Labour opposed. On that specific issue, polls showed public opposition to privatisation. Yet in 2011, National was easily reelected and Labour’s share of the vote declined.

Jacinda’s strength as a leader became apparent during the 2017 campaign. She was able to bridge the gap between policy and people’s perceptions. She convince people that Labour values were aligned with their own, in a way that many of her predecessors simply had not. Her warmth, her strong communication style and her positivity gave a human face to centre-left politics, one that voters could relate to.

The results of the 2017 election were close, and whoever formed a government would need to form a multi-party coalition. Here again, Jacinda showed skill and strength by being able to build bridges with New Zealand First, a socially conservative centrist party, and the Green Party. This required compromises which disappointed much of Labour’s base, yet got Labour into Government so they could implement at least some of their policy agenda.

Over the last five years, Jacinda has held up as a model of progressive political leadership throughout the world. There are many examples of where she has shone as Prime Minister. The best example is her response to the Christchurch Mosque shooting in 2019:

Her statement immediately following the attack against the Christchurch Muslim Community was clear “they are us” , a clear condemnation of Islamophobia by a world leader. When Donald Trump asked what he could do to help Jacinda replied he could show “sympathy and love for muslim communities” Jacinda and Gun Control

They are us. Three words to the Muslim world showed compassion, humanity and inclusion after an act of evil.

The New Zealand Government’s initial response to the pandemic in 2020 was another example of strong leadership. In crisis management, it is crucial that you quickly assess the relevant information and then act decisively. The decision to close the border and put in tough restrictions was not an easy thing to do, but it undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. Not least as the health system Labour inherited when they came to power in 2017 had been badly underfunded and under-resourced for a decade. After only 30 months in power, there had not been enough time to turn this around. The restrictions were tough both for people in NZ and for people like me living overseas and unable to return. Much as people may now blame Jacinda and the Labour Government for the tough restrictions, they might also want to consider the impact of National’s mismanagement of the health system for nearly a decade. This mismanagement of the health system left it vulnerable to collapse during the pandemic.

In October 2020, Arderns’s Labour Government won the biggest majority of any New Zealand government in half a century. Jacinda’s crisis management and clear communication during Covid, the Mosque shooting and the White Island eruption all contributed to this victory.

After Labour won its second term in office, I outlined some of the challenges the government would face:

The coming term will not be an easy one for Labour, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rumble on and the world plunges into the worst financial crisis in decades. On Saturday Labour were rewarded for their handling of the crisis so far, but the hard part is yet to come. On the one hand, they need to rebuild the NZ economy at a time when international tourism is dead and export markets are volatile. But even prior to this the New Zealand economy was unbalanced and in a precarious state. Its over-reliance on dairy exports has made it vulnerable if anything happens to this market and resulted in over-intensive dairy farming which has harmed the environment – not a good look for a country that brands itself as clean and green. It also faces growing inequality with significant growth in homelessness and poverty in recent years. NZ election 2020: Labour win is a watershed moment in the country’s history

The above was a fairly accurate summary of the challenges Ardern’s government would face in its second term. What nobody expected at that time was the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the havoc this would cause the world economy, already severely strained by the pandemic. Governments around the world have struggled with this crisis, with New Zealand being no exception. In May 2022 I wrote the following:

 

In New Zealand, the opposition has been quick to blame the Labour Government in New Zealand for this, at a time when support for the government is falling fast. Having won a record majority in 2020 for their handling of the pandemic, Ardern’s government now faces a backlash over coronavirus restrictions and is taking the blame for current economic challenges. Commentary in the New Zealand media also tends to focus on inflation as a domestic issue, as such much of the commentary is often wide of the mark. The politics of high inflation – can governments do anything?

At the start of 2022 there began to be a seachange in New Zealand politics. The Government’s handling of the pandemic had strong support in 2020 and for much of 2021. But as more and more people were vaccinated, and increasingly other countries lifted their travel and other Covid restrictions, public support began to wane. The protests outside the New Zealand parliament in 2022 were a minority of anti-vaccination campaigners. This group, inspired by the January 6 Capitol attack in Washington did not enjoy widespread support. But they demonstrated that the polarisation that other English-speaking democracies faced in recent years had reached New Zealand. Alt-right, anti-science and anti-government protests caused considerable disruption outside parliament in Wellington. Those opposed to the protest became frustrated that the police and government had not moved them on. By the time these protests ended on 10 March 2022, support for the government had taken a hit.

At the same time as these protests and a struggling economy, Jacinda faced a new leader of the opposition. In the lead-up to the 2020 election, National managed to go through three leaders in four months. By the time of the election, they were no longer seen as a credible opposition and suffered their worst election defeat in 18 years. In late 2021 National put forward a new leader, Christopher Luxon. A former CEO of Air New Zealand, Luxon came into parliament in 2020 and was immediately touted as a future leader. Whilst in no way a match for Ardern in terms of oratory or style, Luxon could credibly challenge the Government’s record on bread-and-butter issues like housing, economic management and its slow delivery on infrastructure projects such as light rail in Auckland. Whilst Luxon has trailed Ardern in preferred Prime Minister Polls, for nearly a year National had maintained a 5-7% lead over Labour. At the end of 2022, it felt like Ardern’s government would likely face an electoral loss in 2023.

Critics of Jacinda Ardern have been quick to say that her resignation now was a way of avoiding electoral loss later in the year. Others have pointed to the level of hate and vitriol that Ardern has had to put up with in recent years, including former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark who said that “Jacinda has faced a level of hatred and vitriol which in my experience is unprecedented in our country.”

One Conservative Canadian politician, Michelle Rempel Garner argues that Justin Trudeau faced many of the same if not greater challenges to Jacinda Ardern in the last year, yet they were treated differently due to their respective genders.

Below is Jacinda Ardern’s resignation speech, I will leave the reader to decide for themselves what her reasons really are:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSUgBuSwFK8
Above link: Jacinda Ardern, announcing her resignation as Prime Minister of New Zealand

It is too soon to say what Jacinda’s legacy will be. She will certainly be remembered for becoming a mother whilst being a world leader. For her presence on the world stage as a voice for feminism and progressive politics. She ushered in a generational and attitudinal change in New Zealand politics. While internationally she offered an alternative to the politics of Trump, Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison and Viktor Orban.

Ultimately, governments are measured on their longevity. Both in terms of how long they are in office, but also how long their policies remain in place. Jacinda Ardern’s legacy will be judged not only on Labour’s successes under her leadership but also on how well Labour performs after her resignation.

On Wednesday, New Zealand will have a new Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, who will lead Labour into the October 14 General Election. Chris certainly has his work cut out for him over the next few months. That being said, the coming election is by no means a foregone conclusion. For all the challenges of the past five years, he inherits a government that has much to be proud of, not least Jacinda Ardern message of kindness, inclusion and positivity. To quote the outgoing Prime Minister, “bring it on.”

52 comments on “Jacinda Ardern – How will her five years in power be remembered? ”

  1. PsyclingLeft.Always 1

    Jacinda Ardern… IMO no other person could have Led NZ through the terrible situations..which just kept coming. And still this for her, from the fuckwits

    Jacinda Ardern will need 'more ongoing protection than any PM in NZ's history'

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/482916/jacinda-ardern-will-need-more-ongoing-protection-than-any-pm-in-nz-s-history

    Jacinda Ardern a Gem. Was, and still is, someone who I greatly admire. Be Safe. All the Best.

  2. ianmac 2

    A great summation of the whole issue(s). Thanks Nick

    I like your final sentence: For all the challenges of the past five years, he inherits a government that has much to be proud of, not least Jacinda Ardern message of kindness, inclusion and positivity. To quote the outgoing Prime Minister, “bring it on.”

    There are parallels with Aaron Smale's column today on Newsroom:

    The assessment of Jacinda Ardern's prime ministership is well underway. Newsroom’s Māori issues editor Aaron Smale says sexism, racism, fairness and missed opportunities need to be considered when analysing Ardern’s complex legacy.

    If Christopher Luxon, David Seymour and Winston Peters are so agitated about crime and lawlessness, why haven’t they spoken up about this crime, committed in plain sight against the country’s leader? They seem happy to stay silent on the sidelines while this goes on, or mumble some comment occasionally.

    I feel saddened and hopeful but woe we will be if National wrecks the gains.

  3. Maurice 3

    Loved when crunching the things we hate …

    …. but not when crunching the things we love.

  4. Weasel 4

    In terms of legacy, the outstanding thing Jacinda Ardern did for Labour and the Left is that she saved the party from oblivion. Labour was staring down the barrel of it's 4th successive election defeat when she won the party leadership. Had that occurred, it is neigh impossible to present a party as a credible alternative government when no one has cabinet experience. To come back from that position takes something from the governing party, such as the UK Tory party's ritualistic disembowelling.
    Jacinda promised transformation but instead we got what Chris Hipkins labelled "radical incrementalism". https://www.stuff.co.nz/opinion/130965752/max-rashbrooke-is-the-electorate-in-the-mood-for-radical-changes
    – small steps towards a transformative goal. Discussing the concept, Max Rashbooke, said the theory holds that if people liked a small initial step, they would be “warmed up” to accept a bigger one.
    Rashbrooke notes the theory is flawed, firstly, because it was unclear Labour had a roadmap to a radical destination – or even wanted one, and secondly, he argues small steps don't necessary warm people to accept bigger one. They allow opposition to build momentum, exhausts proponents and burns up political capital.
    The reality is that Labour under Ardern's leadership did not have the will (bottle?) to truly transform. There were two opportunities to undo the foundations of neo-liberalism which Ardern chose to bypass. Firstly, when the Tax Working Group unanimously recommended a capital gains tax and Winston Peters applied his "handbrake". Ardern was then riding mile-high in the polls and should have called his bluff — either accept or face an election where NZ First will be obliterated. Instead, she blinked and doubled down on her error by taking CGT off the table "on her watch". Secondly, after winning once in a generation one party majority in 2020. She fatally chose to continue the cautionary route of trying to keep swing voters happy instead of following a path of bold transformation. The weakness of incremental radicalism was exposed. The momentum of the anti-change brigade swayed the swing voters while core supporters got grumpy because of the failure to act on Labour's clear mandate.

    • tWiggle 4.1

      This article has a thorough analysis of Ardern's administrative misses regarding economic and social health (found thru the standard's gov feed, thanks)

      https://jacobin.com/2023/01/jacinda-ardern-resignation-policies-inequality-neoliberalism

      Well worth a read. And my two cents' worth….

      Jacinda definitely has leadership nous and political astuteness. Anyone who sailed through 3 years of consensus governance with Winston Peters is a miracle worker. And clearly, like Helen Clarke, she ran a tight caucus.

      But. But. There is no coherent story to the electorate about Labour's legislative priorities this term. Some of it is, frankly, a bad idea. For example, why a government-supported Employment Insurance scheme? Those who can afford it already have it. The NACTs must be rubbing their hands in glee, as they can say, sorted, privatise this and we don't need the dole anymore.

      The Public Service is a mess in many ministries. Jacinda's governments were too trusting of top officials, many of whom are OZ- and UK-trained bureaucrats. Helen Clarke tidied up a rundown Public Service by bringing in (home-grown) quality staff at the top. The strengthened Public Service helped to buffer damage done by later governments for a while. If you can hold out to the next election…

      It's inevitable that a small-gov NACT government will run the Public Service into the ground. The UK is a horrific example of the societal wasteland that results.

      So lots of admiration from me, for Ardern's leadership and pandemic response, far too many downticks for economic and social administration.

      • Craig H 4.1.1

        Not everyone who can afford employment insurance can get it because sometimes insurance company criteria can't be met, and somehow nearly every other OECD country has it, but we seem to have missed the boat on it.

        • tWiggle 4.1.1.1

          But if most working people can access it, why go for a universal programme, why not a targetted support sytem at lower cost for the uninsurable and those on low incomes? And can employers say, 'no need for severence pay'. Another cost shifted from employer to taxpayer.

          • Craig H 4.1.1.1.1

            The private options last longer once you qualify (minimum of 2 years is standard), but take longer to kick in (3+ months) and pay less (up to 60%), and don't usually apply to part-timers – it's not just a matter of targeting, the main private product is quite a bit worse in most areas. There's also the general point that if, for example, a government scheme is only available for those who have been refused private insurance (as one way to target it), essentially the government is subsidising the private insurers by taking the riskiest customers off their hands.

            Redundancy compensation is part of the total employment package (in particular, including redundancy compensation is usually agreed at the cost of something else e.g. slightly lower pay rises), but also is not common outside unionised employers, nor is it always worth 1 month wages/salary + 6 months at 80%. Employers might attempt to buy it out with an offer to trade it for higher wages or a lump sum, but they could (and do) offer that at any time – the existence of income insurance doesn't automatically make a compelling argument to agree to the trade, although no doubt some employers will offer it as rationale, and some unions will accept it if the offer is good enough. Likewise, some employers offer income insurance currently as a benefit, so there could well be a negotiation to trade that for something else of value or provide it as a top up if necessary after the government scheme runs out.

            All that said, other options exist around benefit improvements and expansions – this was selected for ease of implementation and understanding since it's similar to ACC.

            This also shouldn't preclude improving the rest of the social security package – benefits should be increased, eligibility expanded, Working for Families and Accommodation Supplement abatements combined and reduced (and amounts increased), more state houses built, cheaper/free dental and primary health care etc. The economy is big enough that we can afford all of that – just have to implement a higher tax take as a proportion of GDP.

    • DS 4.2

      Lack of cabinet experience didn't stop Labour in 1972 (hint: Hugh Watt was the only one of Kirk's ministry to have previous cabinet experience). Eventually, voters do actually get sick of incumbents, so Labour would have returned to office at some point.*

      There's also much to criticise Winston Peters for, but his decision to choose Ardern over English in 2017 (he didn't have to, and one suspects that a narrow majority of voters preferred English) rather gets ignored these days. That decision had real consequences, so far as Ardern's excellent Covid handling.

      *A more spectacular example is Australia in 1972. The ALP won office after 23 years.

  5. observer 5

    Of course, alternative histories are never lived, therefore not analysed in the same way. But it's worth a moment to remind ourselves what didn't happen.

    Bill English did not form a Cabinet with Jami-Lee Ross and Simon Bridges as senior Ministers. They did not spend 3 years lying about what good mates they were, or (alternatively) fight like rabid dogs, in the headlines every day. Judith Collins did not hold a Minister's portfolio where she could behave like she did as opposition leader, except with real power to harm. David Seymour was not a Minister during Covid. Steven Joyce was not Finance Minister, so the 2020 unemployment riots didn't happen. Winston Peters was deputy PM, as with Ardern, but he either went along with National's right wing agenda, or the government collapsed (as in the late '90s).

    And that's only scratching the surface. I don't think we'll ever really appreciate what horrors Ardern saved us from.

    • PsyclingLeft.Always 5.1

      Woah Insightful..What could have been . Gives Dystopian..a particular NZ flavour. brrr

      And aye… Jacinda Ardern. : )

  6. psych nurse 6

    I went looking for an online letter of support for Jacinda, there doesn't appear to be one.

    Does any one have the IT skills to set one up.

  7. Jacinda Ardern's legacy.

    1. Taking Leadership.

    Uniting various groups in Labour, leading negotiations with Winston Peters to form an MMP 51st NZ Parliament, and at the next election winning a majority MMP 52nd NZ Parliament.

    From the Party scrapping over the Labour Leadership to a united team who accepted her decisions and Team building and they all valued her greatly.

    They accepted her resignation with aroha, and quickly rallied round their most effective Minister to choose him as their new leader. They are a team, taking forward the unity that she encouraged.

    1. Crises Management….. of

    a. Micoplasma bovis incursion. b. Fruit fly incursion. c. Terror attack. d. Eruption e. Flood events. and f. the ongoing Pandemic of Covid with the management of MIQ and the Vaccination Programme and its resulting fallout.

    All of these extra to the normal expected pressures. (and latterly we learn of ongoing dangerous online abuse and threats to kill her and her family which she silently carried.)

    1. Building programme, improvements for workers beneficiaries and the retired. Health Programme and Education Programme funding. Abortion Law, Public Services and the overhaul of the IRD. Coastal Shipping. etc. (Advantage wrote a great post on the reforms of this Government.) Plus the Labour Facebook has 100 things listed.
    2. International Profile.

      Lauded for her clarity of message, management skill, socially progressive ideas, and ability to "open doors" and engage at all levels. Creating links Trade Deals and Expos for NZ our products and people.

    4.Personal Relationships and Qualities.

    Keeping her personal life and relationships going in the face of horrendous pressures. Being a good friend and colleague, being decisive when it was needed.

    Her honesty in calling time when she could not do the role to her own high standards.

    Others may think of things I have overlooked.

    She is a wonderful person, and we have been blessed. imo.

    Jacinda, have a great life after NZ politics. You did your best at every turn. When you couldn't do that any more you called" time."

    The Bremner Family thank you and wish you every happiness.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    Even though she is from the other side of the political spectrum as me I still think she will be remembered as one of our great leaders. Probably up there with Lange, Clark, and Key (probably not many here would agree with Key I expect).

    It is a bit sad that the wheels started to fall off for her a bit towards the end of her tenure.

    The abusive side of things has already been covered, and I am sure that had an impact.

    I think her main strengths were her compassion, and her ability to communicate ideas. I am not so sure that implimentation was her strength, and she may have been let down a bit there by some of her colleagues.

    However, I do wonder if she experienced a major conflict between her compassionate nature, and the quite uncompassionate government restrictions towards unvaccinated people. She may have found the conflict quite draining. I noticed she seem to lose her mojo a bit from thereon, and was on the defensive a lot.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 8.1

      Those "quite uncompassionate government restrictions towards unvaccinated people" might have saved a few Kiwis lives – maybe that was the purpose od the restrictions?
      It was alway going to be a difficult balancing act for our Government – everyone was learning and responding on the fly.

      Personally reckon the only 'restriction winners' are those who are alive because of restrictions/limits, and people who wanted those people to live – Plan B was not for me.

      Covid-19: Pandemic measures saved 2750 lives, caused life expectancy to rise [2 March 2022]

      Covid 19: How many lives did NZ's pandemic response save?
      [24 August 2022]

      COVID-19 deaths analysis shows importance of vaccines in saving lives
      [30 September 2022]
      An analysis of deaths from COVID-19 in New Zealand shows being up to date with your vaccines is the single best way to reduce the risk of dying from COVID-19.

      Covid-19 update: 13,880 new cases, 79 deaths and 242 in hospital [24 January 2023]

      • tWiggle 8.1.1

        Agree with you there. tsmithfield has commented on this theme of loss of compassion for mandated people in a general way before. But it seems more personal for tsmithfield than that. I am genuinely interested in hearing about which of tsmithfield's experiences, or the experiences of those near them, make them so focussed on mandate harm. Not with the aim of trashing them, but of better understanding their viewpoint.

    • bwaghorn 8.2

      I can't think of a single great thing Lange, Clark or key did, ?

      Clark's greatest work was to let cullin setup kiwisaver other than that I got nothing.

      Lange unleased rogernics.

      Key achieved nothing other than running down hospitals and exploding housing costs.

      • Legacy is lasting. "The Cullen Fund" and "Kiwi Saver" yes

      • SPC 8.2.2

        The ECA to ERA (Employment Relations Act 2000)

        Provides the legal backdrop for all relationships between employees, employers and unions. Promotes the concepts of good faith and fair process. Promotes mediation as the first step when resolving employment relationship problems. Governs the personal grievance process.

        The 99 Labour-Alliance government ended market rents for state housing introduced by National in the 90's/they did this as part of a drive to sell off state housing to private owners or offload to social housing by non government agency (see Wairarapa). They also created the Ministry of Economic Development – now called MBIE, Kiwibank and eventually KiwiRail.

        There was the MW increase (miserable levels in the 1990's) and then the 2005-2008 agreement with NZF for significant further increases (the other side to the 2005 election campaign policy of WFF tax credits).

      • tWiggle 8.2.3

        To be fair, the Key government did roll out cable broadband. This had a huge positive impact on business and educational resilience during Covid. Apart from that, a half-completed national cycleway is all I can remember.

        That's the danger of such governments. Ardern's first term in the Coalition apparently introduced more legislation than in all the Nats' 12 years. The damage is done in cutting budgets, contracting out government services and changing policy, not in Parliament. So the electorate thinks 'everything's OK, it's just business as usual', when actually it's not.

    • tWiggle 8.3

      But NECESSARY government restrictions on people who CHOSE to be unvaccinated, and which were driven by public health needs, and not some arbitary political whim.

      • Maurice 8.3.1

        And still, though 'vaccinated' people are continuing to be infected, reinfected and dying. The effects are continuing and yet to fully play out. We will have little idea of what the ultimate consequences may be for a number of years yet. First and second 'booster' levels are only 54% and 15% respectively and it appears that many are no longer 'protected'

        It may be that ‘vaccination’ wil not induce Herd Immunity – though China authorities now seems to think that the massive infection of their population may achieve that state.

        https://theconversation.com/covid-is-running-rampant-in-china-but-herd-immunity-remains-elusive-197454

  9. Descendant Of Smith 9

    <

    blockquote>;”She has been thanked for her handling of Covid-19, noting that the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic filled the urupā there.

    “You have been the right person to lead our nation during terrible times,” the Rātana speaker said to Ardern.”

    <

    blockquote>;

    This for me is her most satisfying achievement. That this did not happen again. Thanks to to all those in Maoridom who looked after the elderly in particular – both Maori and not – during this time. Food parcels, firewood, phone calls and sacrificed normal protocols as they had to do in 1918.

    There is something to be said about the verbal histories rather than the written ensuring knowledge gets passed down through the generations (this can be both positive and negative of course).

  10. Stuart Munro 10

    I expect that efforts to counter disinformation campaigns, together with quantitative analysis of the hate posts, will show what a tiny minority are threatening the integrity of our institutions.

    The perpetrators will try to make it a free speech issue, but ultimately, after the first few deaths, the judiciary will lose patience with all the Trumpist hallmarks – sovereign citizens, convoys, NWO, and Soros conspiracies.

    In the longer term, it will be like Sheridan .

  11. Mike the Lefty 11

    The sad truth is that whilst a huge majority of New Zealanders approved of how the government (and by implication Jacinda) handled the first COVID epidemic, they quickly got tired of the restrictions and lack of "normality" and wanted to return to the good life whatever the fatality cost, and rejected any notion that would not be possible in the short term. Too many started to believe the false prophets of National and ACT promising salvation and manna for all.

    All of this built up to – if you pardon the expression – "The Perfect Storm" for Jacinda and a snarling resentful population came to see their former benefactor as their present persecutor and blame her for everything that went wrong, most of which were beyond her or her government's control.

    I have heard Jacinda compared with Winston Churchill in the sense that she successfully led her people during times of crisis and was rewarded with scorn and rejection. People can judge that for themselves but I maintain that Jacinda was actually a much nicer person all round than Churchill. She worked herself to a frazzle for over 5 years to try and keep our country safe and sound and discovered that New Zealanders were only fair weather friends.

    John Key resigned at the top of his game, when National was still riding high in the polls, because the nation had rejected his flag and he decided being PM was no fun anymore – in effect he felt he was too good for us. Jacinda resigned because, sadly, she no longer felt she was good enough.

    New Zealanders should thank her for having the guts to carry on in the face of adversity and uncertainty instead of throwing in the towel like her right-wing opposition urged her to do.

    But they won't because so many of them are deluded ingrates.

    • tWiggle 11.1

      Agree 100%.

      • tWiggle 11.1.1

        Just to note, JA is of much better character than Churchill.

        There's a bit of tosh about Churchill's effect on morale in wartime Britain. I read in a book of Churchill's wartime speeches that public response to them was more nuanced than the rapturous reception we hear about. Mind you, they're great speeches. Where he shone was in the administration and provisioning for war. I think people grew to respect his results there, as many did with JA.

        But Churchill was hugely classist, imperialist and entitled. After the war, he rabidly opposed reforms to help the working class, who then made up 75% of the population. Not surprisingly, servicemen and those who worked hard and suffered in wartime Britain wanted more of the social pie, and kicked him out. He also had some pretty dodgy financial practices, running up enormous personal debt.

        So no, JA is not at all like Churchill in many, if not most, respects.

  12. Typo in headline: "Adern" should be "Ardern"

  13. Ad 13

    So how would we rank Ardern against, say:

    – Seddon

    – Savage

    – Fraser

    – Clark

    – Key

    – Muldoon

    – Holyoake

    – Kirk

    – Bolger

    I can't see her in our top ten.

    I view her as simply made lucky by fate, rose to it like many have and made people feel good for a bit, but from lofty rhetoric otherwise vastly underperformed.

    • PsyclingLeft.Always 13.1

      But hey..thats your opinion. And youve pretty much (on many occasions) said how you didnt like her.

    • weka 13.2

      rank on what basis? Muldoon was a bully and an arsehole. Ardern while tough also spoke and, more importantly, demonstrated compassion. That is gold at this point in history.

      • Ad 13.2.1

        Why is "compassion", "kindness", or indeed any other virtue necessary in successful politics? Just because it feels good doesn't make it useful. Maybe it was useful in a crisis, but in reality those elements were just the stuff Ardern did well, not whether it was useful.

        Typical measures to evaluate performance in politics which are well polled for good reason are:

        – Is the country going in the right direction?

        – Do you feel more or less safe than you did a year ago?

        – Are public services notably more responsive to you and your family this political term?

        – Standard economic matrices like: how many are employed, how many off long term unemployment, how many beneficiaries versus how many employed, how long are the queues for housing, or for operations, or speed at which crimes are solved.

        You will probably argue that the Greens practise those Ardern-style emotional virtues, and one would easily respond that the Greens apart from the carbon trading legislation have delivered even less.

        • observer 13.2.1.1

          There's been some world news in the past 5 years, you know.

          Could you tell us which leaders in comparable democracies have delivered against the global background? Nobody in the UK, USA, Australia, France, most EU countries in fact.

          So who?

    • observer 13.3

      "made lucky by fate"

      As opposed to which politcians? All of them?

      You might as well argue that Clark was "lucky" that Moore didn't win in 1993 and then after she rolled him she barely held on to her job despite terrible polling, then after a poor election result in 1996 she still held on, and finally the Bolger/Shipley/Peters crew fell apart.

      Clark turned out to be a very accomplished PM, but if being lucky with timing is the measure, so were many others. Brash very nearly won in 2005, and if he had then Key would not have been opposition leader in a 3rd term, but a very unpopular Finance Minister in the GFC. Step up, new PM Phil Goff in 2008!

      And so on, and so on …

    • Mike the Lefty 13.4

      Curious labeling of "lucky".

      I think she was unlucky, got dealt with two big problems that were unprecedented in NZ but dealt with them instead of bailing out and making excuses.

      If she got plaudits for that it was because she earned them, not because she was lucky.

    • Hanswurst 13.5

      I love how you conclude that she wouldn't make the top ten by a demonstrative comparison to (drumroll) nine who were supposedly superior.

    • "I view her as simply made lucky by fate"

      What an odd thing to say.

    • Mac1 13.7

      "made lucky by fate".

      In a slight rewrite of the words of the song, "What's luck got to do with it?" Rather I'd cite another aphorism, "Cometh the hour, cometh the woman".

      Mayor Brown got lucky with fate, too, didn't he?

      The way we deal with opportunity is down to how we are constituted morally, spiritually, and physically.

      I always think of what Gary Player's quote when accused of being lucky. He said, "It's funny but the more I practise the luckier I get."

      What's luck got to do with it when compared to what actually works in a crisis? Here's what the Harvard Business review says.

      https://hbr.org/2020/04/what-good-leadership-looks-like-during-this-pandemic

      Four things to look for; act with urgency, communicate with transparency, respond productively to missteps, engage in constant updates. One final advice from HBR had to do with empathy- tapping into suffering to build meaning.

      How will I remember the leaders you mention? I have lived under Holyoake- remembered for his fruity voice and shonky deals over land. Kirk for his stance on Nuclear weapons, for withdrawing troops from Vietnam, for his vision regarding race and even the alternate life stylers in their communes. Muldoon for his homosexual hatred remarks. Clark for avoiding warmongering with the US. Key for flags and ponytails. Bolger for his recognition of race issues and need for tolerance and his acknowledgement of the danger of societal inequality.

      How did these leaders go in terms of empathy?

  14. After all the shrill malcontents have left the scene; the whinging business lobbyists; the opportunistic Opposition politicians; the idiot mayor of Queenstown; the uninformed, click-chasing media commentators… after all those misquided people have had their time in the public glare, and then vanished – we'll be left with history judging Ardern as someone who probably – did – save thousands of lives when covid broke out.

    Like Churchill in 1939, she was the right person at the right time. She made the tough calls which so many infantile "adults" couldn't or wouldn't accept.

    The greatest of all ironies is that we'll never know how many of her detractors are still alive because of her decisive actions. How many aren't rotting six feet under, or lost loved ones. That's Jacinda Ardern.

    When history looks back on the 2020s, we'll see an exceptional woman who we were damned lucky to have.

    The alternatives? Boris Johnson? Trump? Bolsonaro? Judith Collins?

    We dodged one almighty huge bullet.

    And she did it all gracefully, with compassion, humility, and sometimes a bit of humour.

    If we have daughters, point to Jacinda Ardern and tell them, "there's a real super hero. Be like her."

    Thank you, Prime Minister Ardern.

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