An in Vogue Prime Minister

Written By: - Date published: 2:32 pm, February 15th, 2018 - 52 comments
Categories: jacinda ardern, labour - Tags: ,

There’s an article and photo shoot of Jacinda Ardern in the latest (US) Vogue, and various commentary is starting to be made. The Vogue article is online.

Photo from Vogue Magazine

Myself, I don’t have a problem with this, or the whole Women’s Weekly thing. I want a PM who makes time to connect with different parts of the electorate. Lots of women read fashion and women’s magazines, including women who have no other connections to politics.

Where there might be an issue is are there parts of the electorate that Ardern isn’t making time for? I found the Greens’ appearance on the cover of North and South in May last year culturally jarring.

But the issue isn’t them doing PR to well off Auckland millennials, it’s that I didn’t see the party put the same intent and effort into normalising to the mainstream an association between the Greens and the underclasses (despite their actual pro-safety net policies). There’s a connection between that and what happened with the attacks on Metiria Turei after her speech on transforming welfare last year: NZ still hates on parts of the community, and our politics reflect that. It also sanctions it, vicious circle. Labour and the government run this risk too.

There’s also criticism along the lines of is this a good use of the PM’s time? Apparently the interview and photo shoot happened on a Saturday late last year and not during the political week. It’s clear that Ardern is working hard and sacrificing much, so I can’t see the problem here.

The support for NZ designers will play well in many circles. This is Ardern doing something good and building political capital. I think this is smart if we want a second term Labour-led government with a higher majority. It’s not enough on its own, obviously we need the Labour government to do some serious politics and change, but it’s not hurting Labour’s ability to do those things.

The anti-Trump framing is very US looking for hope, but I think they are close to being right. She’s not a Sanders, but she is the liberal inverse of Trump. For the left that’s a boon (we should be making use of the fact that Ardern can pull the popular vote), but it’s also a risk. Will NZ settle for neoliberal-lite, or will we keep moving left?

There’s also a certain amount of schadenfreude with regards to the right, who endorsed nine years of Smile and Wave PR as cover for plundering the country. They have no leg to stand on in criticising Ardern or Labour for the increasing likelihood of three terms from the whole photogenic baby thing. National made this culture of politics to suit their own ends, now they can get fucked.

Even better, Ardern’s popularity comes as across as genuine. From Vogue,

Later that day in November, we head to the campus of Auckland’s Unitec Institute of Technology, where Ardern is addressing the crowd at an event dedicated to women in leadership. On the way, a schoolboy in his early teens, dwarfed by a backpack, ambles by. “Big fan, Jacinda!” the boy shouts. Her security guard doesn’t blink.

You can’t fake that feel good.

We have a feminist, progressive, very smart, articulate, young and PR-savvy Prime Minister who is leading a government that is now doing good things. On it’s own that’s not enough, we still need to move NZ left or greenwards, but it’s not nothing either,

She thanks the party faithful for all their work over this momentous year and asks them to “reflect on how exciting it is we have this opportunity for change in New Zealand.” Ardern has always maintained that she wants her brand of politics to be kinder—and you can feel that energy in the air, a kind of gracious optimism. “It’s going to take some time,” she says, “but in the meantime I hope people feel differently about their government.”

Many people have been feeling this keenly. The need for kindness has for now transcended the need to move beyond neoliberalism. NZ is catching its breath and recovering mentally somewhat from the past decade. However, while we need kindness, but we also need more than what Labour are currently offering.

Stephanie Rodgers has pointed to the need for values-based politics. It’s not enough to have a strong set of values, you have to act on them in real ways. I don’t see Labour getting that yet, and I think this is a better point of critique and holding Ardern accountable than positioning her photoshoot against perceived Important Politics.

Labour are intent on signing the TPPA-11 and they’re not going to raise benefits, to name two pressing issues.  Ardern is talking up climate action, but the government is still dragging the chain on making the big important moves. They’re happy with those things, many of us are not. The task here is to build a movement that will pull Labour left, and figuring Ardern’s positivity and PR skills into that will be important.

52 comments on “An in Vogue Prime Minister”

  1. cleangreen 1

    Correctly said Mickey,100%

    “We have a feminist, progressive, very smart, articulate, young and PR-savvy Prime Minister who is leading a government that is now doing good things. On it’s own that’s not enough, we still need to move NZ left or greenwards, but it’s not nothing either,”

    We need a warm, caring,softer,transparent, inclussive government that will give a voice to all and be n heard, but so far littlwe of this has been seen yet.

    The bloody media is still twisting the truth for the national Party and we have no voice on Radio NZ or our public TVNZ network either.

    Us in HB/Gisborne have no local reporter inside RadioNZ to meet with our groups about transport and environmental issue that they worry about so we still ahve no voice.

    Come-on Labour; – where is our voice and support for you to hear us????

    Give the power back to Clare Curran to get the Radio NZ network fixed to cover our rail issues here in truck gridlocked HB/Gisborne communities please and meet with us to discuss how we can fix our transport issues to make our environment far safer and better too.

  2. Exkiwiforces 2

    Give poor old Jandals a break, given the shit fight that the National has run down the public service, the government departments and the budget is stills some months away. Its slowly, slowly catch the monkey as i’m waiting for the next two mths budgets and remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  3. Carolyn_nth 3

    On the Greens, Marama Davidson, over the last year or 2, spent time outside Sth Auckland Work and Income, talking to beneficiaries and posting about it in social media.

    Mainstream media, and others just didn’t seem to pick up on it.

    • weka 3.1

      true but I was talking about the Greens doing specific work to place themselves alongside the underclasses in the eyes of the middle classes and mainstream NZ. That hasn’t happened. Labour even less so.

      • Carolyn_Nth 3.1.1

        That is a more difficult task. And there needs to be more thought on how to do that. At the moment, I think the mainstream will be hard to shift.

        Turei focused on the underclasses in some key speeches and launches over the years, but failed to get much take up from the MSM or mainstream generally.

        But, I think Davidson may have more ideas on how to get that attention.

        I think it needs stronger pressure from the margins. It’s all our responsibility.
        I’ve been on a couple of hikoi for homes focused on the areas of Auckland out towards Glen Innes. Lefties don’t come out in numbers for such demos, unlike some others like the TPPA and some environmental protests.

        • weka

          I think that’s all true, but I’m talking about something else I think. I think Davidson is doing really good work (and fingers crossed she will be co-leader). I trust the Greens policy wise. Shaw is still making it clear in his speeches that welfare and fixing poverty are GP priorities. So I’m not worried about that.

          What I was more getting at is the visuals around the GP and who they are. I guess they needed North and South on board, so I’m not suggesting that they try and do a cover with a group of beneficiaries (although that would be awesome). I’m saying that neither Labour nor the Greens are presenting themselves to mainstream NZ as on the side of the underclass. So the mainstream can keep ignoring what Davidson is doing for instance.

          Had the Greens won the battle over welfare last year, I think it would have been different this year, a new door would have been opened for real change to the bludger rhetoric/cultural stuff, including normalising being on the side of poor people. Instead the Greens are still committed but too thin on the ground to make big in roads and they didn’t get enough power in govt. So I agree about the pressure from the margins, mostly on Labour but on the Greens too.

          As for Labour, seriously unimpressed with the tweet from Sepuloni today, and it makes me think most of us are right about where Labour is going on welfare.

          • One Anonymous Bloke



            The responses say it all.

            Change all their job titles to “servant”.

            • weka

              Lol. So tempted to use that in a post.

            • McFlock

              It would be an interesting experiment in nominative determinism…

              but yeah, ever get the feeling of politician capture?

              Oh hi, minister, every year we bring our most sincerest case workers to wellington to … (what? A reward, or give them training for a promotion that takes them away from dealing with people in need?)… would you like to meet them for an hour or two and have a piccy with them?

              Seriously, how were these servants graded?

          • Antoine

            > seriously unimpressed with the tweet from Sepuloni today

            WHat was that tweet please?


          • Psycho Milt

            As for Labour, seriously unimpressed with the tweet from Sepuloni today…,

            That was bizarre. Praising case managers who are “top” because they have “high expectations of clients?” That’s like praising customer service staff for having high expectations of their customers. Ur doin it wrong, noob.

            • Antoine

              I think this goes with her objective of “supporting [welfare clients] and their families to realise their potential”.


              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Then you need to “think” some more about how such expectations play out on Earth.

              • weka

                “supporting [welfare clients] and their families to realise their potential”

                You think National didn’t have such slogans? Or Clark’s Labour? Those of us in the system know how hollow those words can be, or worse, the weapons they can be. Sepuloni either doesn’t get it yet, and wants to take a paternalistic approach to beneficiaries, or she is like previous Ministers from both parties who think welfare is a necessary evil and the main difference is a matter of degrees (and presentation admittedly, Labour are much better at not being so overt with the anti-bene stuff).

                Her tweet is a major signal of what is about to go down with WINZ and beneficiaries. I think there will be improvements, but this is the whole point. Labour are very good at picking out the bits they want to focus on and convincing the mainstream culture they are doing something good but still entrenching poverty and bigotry further. It’s actually never stopped with Labour and here we are again. I expect Sepuloni to do better than Clark’s Labour, and certainly better than what we would have got if Shearer had been in charge, but it’s still hugely problematic because of the underlying values.

                • Antoine

                  I share your view.

                  (BTW, I was on here last year expressing some doubts about Sepuloni being likely to bring much improvement, and a number of the regulars were quick to inform me I was full of s&^t)


                  • weka

                    Me too. Not sure what your point is.

                    Sepuloni isn’t the major issue here. It’s Labour. And the fact that NZ had the opportunity to vote for a better welfare system and chose this instead.

          • patricia bremner

            I think we need to sell the idea that “Greed is dangerous”

            Planting ideas of what Greed looks like. Making middle NZ want to be for generosity.

            The old question. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

            Having a plan!!

            The Right sure have one, and their’s is overarching.

            • Antoine

              I can see that as a long term plan (sustainability an’ all).

              In the short term, I can’t see it flying. Middle NZ already feels it’s being quite generous enough and is in no mood to be exhorted to give more


              • weka

                There’s not such thing as middle NZ, except as a myth to make arguments about how we can’t do anything.

                Mainstream NZ is made up of people with a range of politics and values. That we just had a change of govt suggests more of them are wanting to move away from greed.

                • Antoine

                  Hey, by all means fight the good fight against greed consumerism etc, I wouldn’t expect anything less from you or the Green Party.

                  This Government won’t come out with a ‘greed is dangerous’ slogan this term, though, I am quite sure of that.


            • weka

              Good ideas! Greed is dangerous alongside different ways of being that benefit the middle classes as well.

              I can see Green is dangerous fitting in with climate change action too. But it would need to be framed well. People don’t like being called greedy 😉

            • Incognito

              Nah, danger is not off-putting enough. In fact, danger is attractive to some; it promises excitement, thrills, adventure & new experiences, risks, and, of course, rewards. The emotional impact of greed needs to be something like a maggot-invested rotting corpse emanating a stench that will never leave your nostrils and that you will never forget, so bad it is. Or greed is like a flesh-eating cannibalising parasitic disease that is like a gangrene that results in amputation and severe loss of tissue and/or life; greed is like the Black Plague. You get the picture. Desperate times need desperate measures.

  4. mary_a 4

    @ TANZ (2) … FYI Jacinda Ardern was elected by the people of Mt Albert.

    “Bring back a real PM, who cares less about empty celebrity, photo ops and magazine covers …!”

    Like John Key you mean?

    Seems like you still haven’t got over the fact National didn’t have the numbers to govern last election. Accept the result of the election and move on.

    • veutoviper 4.1

      For clarity, Tanz’s comment originally at 2 here was moved to Open Mike with a moderator warning. Took me some time to realise this; not trying to step on mod’s toes, just though I would share me findings.

  5. patricia bremner 5

    Personally I am holding judgement until after the first budget.

    The Labour Government has two partners, a coalition and a support party.

    As we are in Government courtesy of Winston Peters’ NZ First and the Greens, decisions are incremental rather than sweeping.

    It is hard to be patient after 18+ years of austerity politics. It is also easy to see some actions as frivolous, and forget theirlasting impact on the young.

    I have a clear memory of Savage and Kirk in photos, as I know some here do.
    Why is it frivolity when a woman is photographed? A little gender bias?

    We all want more for our beneficiaries and the low paid. I have not had responses to my queries as yet.

    I hope certain things haven’t gone into “the too hard basket”

    • Exkiwiforces 5.1

      Fully agree with your comments.

    • Carolyn_Nth 5.2

      Incrementalism hasn’t worked over the last couple of decades – things just keep getting worse for the underclasses long term. Something more out-there is needed.

      Labour pulled back from anything too drastic before the election. Robertson seems to have an approach of appeasing the mainstream media. e.g. when there was some negativity around tax proposals during the election campaign, Labour pulled back on it.

      I said a few times last year, before the election, that Labour centrists favoured NZ First over the Greens. They got the election result that they were ambling towards.

      • weka 5.2.1


        I’m putting up a post on the TPPA for tomorrow and feeling very angry with the more left leaning Labour voters who could have voted Green. Next election is going to be a big bloody pick a side day for the voters of NZ. We need to be prepared.

      • Ad 5.2.2

        With the Greens it was shambling.

        Anyone from the Greens who says Labour should have done better in the 2017 election might want to reflect on the percentage of the vote they each got.

        • weka

          Has anyone from the Greens actually said that? I don’t think Carolyn was either. Afaik, she’s pointing to NZF having a higher vote and the Greens having a lower one, and that suits Labour centrists.

  6. UncookedSelachimorpha 6

    Yes, looking like neoliberal-lite so far. Which is a huge improvement over the failed Key government.

    The rise in the minimum wage – a fundamental for fixing problems – was also underwhelming.

    Not ready to make brave and necessary change, and to lead, but maybe it is the coalition arrangement that limits Labour more than rotten neoliberal beliefs, not sure.

  7. McFlock 7

    It’s a bit of a puff piece, but the pic isn’t as obnoxious as the pool-key one. So that’s an improvement in that area, too.

  8. OncewasTim 8

    “National made this culture of politics to suit their own ends.” Now they can well and truly go get fucked!
    Cudda Shudda Wudda.

  9. Tiger Mountain 9

    at least the new PM is clearly of this century, unlike flabby coot in a suit Mr Key, and his populist forays into shower urination, ponytail pulling and such like

    and yes, the political requirement of the next couple of years is to militate for breaking the neo liberal consensus with Nats initially-a big ask-and then developing a new Corbyn style programme

    it would be disasterous if people sat back and just criticised the parliamentary politicians, rather than acting

  10. Ad 10

    Her Facebook posts are excellent.

    “Look here’s my kitchen – 3 mins
    “Look here’s some policy – 30 seconds”

    Ardern is a new comma genius.

  11. Stuart Munro 11

    I think it’s potentially helpful – embattled leaders struggle to get real change, popular ones can achieve more with less effort. But of course there is a separation between image and function that could become a worry. Where she chooses to act however, Jacinda has proven to be both astute and progressive. Think of Waitangi, and tell me that Goff or Shearer would have tried as hard or as successfully to heal the wounds. Naturally there are issues that are dear to me I’d like to see addressed – but this kind of thing is not at their expense.

    Could it be interpreted as a backhand against aspiring National leaders? Only if they’re prepared to admit they’re conspicuously lacking a certain je ne sais quoi.

    • weka 11.1

      I tend to agree. There really is no way to argue that Ardern is fluff unless one is misogynist or one is a RW spinner. One might not like her politics or her policy position but she’s not a superficial or unskilled politician. She’s also very socially intelligent hence Waitangi.

      The danger I see is that it will probably cement us into having to have charismatic or populist leaders from now on. Until the climatic shit hits the fan I guess.

      • chris73 11.1.1

        “The danger I see is that it will probably cement us into having to have charismatic or populist leaders from now on.”

        Yeah thats my worry too

        • Stuart Munro

          That’s not unreasonable – but it’s rock paper scissors. Charm is easily defeated by superior performance.

          The problem for the Gnats is that Rogergnomics meant Labour stopped fighting their corner. They’ve come to believe they can say and do any damned thing they please.

          Nick Smith is not the kind of minister you can have if you’re serious about reelection – made a mess of housing and rivers without so much as a word against him.

          The Gnats should have been proving in every ministry that they deliver a better democracy – certainly not the impression they left where I live. My mild respectable neighbours were absolutely furious with them.

        • SpaceMonkey

          Mine too

  12. newsense 12

    TV3. Run this after a piece on Christchurch protests with the lead-in “Has the honeymoon ended for the Prime Minister?” FFS. The mess in Christchurch is her fault and her talking and listening to protestors is the sign of the end of her popularity. Or completely not FOXNEWSHUB.

  13. National made this culture of politics to suit their own ends, now they can get fucked.


    Well said.

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