While the local right have spent the last week nit picking at Jacinda Ardern something significant has happened internationally.
Jacinda Ardern has emerged as the western leader who is the antithesis of every thing that Donald Trump stands for.
Check out this Guardian video if you need proof.
The differences are jarring. Yesterday’s man verses tomorrow’s woman. Inward looking and reactive verses outward looking and proactive.
And Jacinda talked about kindness, whereas Trump talked about force. I know which leader I would want in charge of my planet.
It did not stop the wreckers and haters from trying to manufacture a scandal out of Ardern’s office’s decision to hire a PR firm to take some photos and film of her trip.
Jacinda Ardern hired an advertising agency to photograph and film her New York trip.
In the past, New Zealand Prime Ministers have had a staffer from their offices take photos, but Ardern had a crew of three from agency Augusto’s New York office.
They have been used on social media and Ardern told the Herald on Sunday some would also be used for campaign purposes.
This morning the Prime Minister’s office clarified that the images would be used for “stock footage and social media content that the government would be using in the future”, which they said is inside the rules.
But the Opposition has accused Ardern of breaching the rules around campaign spending.
Ardern defended the decision to contract the agency. She said Augusto’s fee would be paid for out of Labour’s Leaders’ Budget, a pool of taxpayer-funding which political parties can use for communications purposes.
“They did social media for us, they did a bit of work on the last campaign and so they’re doing work for us now, helping build up our stock footage and stuff. Campaign stuff.”
The footage and photos – including for some occasions to which media had no access – were also made available for media to use, including the Herald.
The Augusto crew were not part of the formal delegation, Ardern said, and because they were based in New York, the costs did not include air travel or accommodation.
Ardern said she did not know what the fee was for Augusto’s work.
“I haven’t looked at what the cost is, but we have a limited Leader’s Budget so it won’t be excessive. We wouldn’t have done it if it was significant. It was cheaper than bringing someone here.”
National went to town and the Herald for some inexplicable reason thought this was front page news. Again from the article:
National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett said the filming would be an issue if the footage was used for campaign purposes.
“What stands out here is that the Prime Minister has said she is using her Leader’s Budget and the footage will be used for political campaigning.
“This is against the rules and I would urge the Prime Minister to clarify whether taxpayers’ funds will be used for the Labour Party to campaign.”
She said it wasn’t unusual for a leader to document their travels with photo and video footage, but former Prime Minister John Key would use a staffer to do so.
“When John Key was PM he would occasionally have a photographer on international trips, but only if they travelled on the Airforce 757 where there weren’t additional flying costs,” she said.
A National spokeswoman said no one in her office recalled Key hiring a local photographer in another country however sometimes a local New Zealand embassy would do so.
I am really struggling to see the problem here. Hiring someone based locally was considered to be cheaper than flying someone over so why not do this? And it is not as if Key never used Taxpayer money for similar purposes. Like paying $10,000 to secure him a slot on the David Letterman show. Or how about his hiring a photographer to take flattering pictures of National MPs? And if you want a real dodgy use of the leader’s budget how about paying off Todd Barclay’s victims? Or how about finding out who National’s caucus leaker is?
And my facebook feed is inundated with ads pushing me to like National MP’s pages. Tell me that is not funded by some sort of public money.
But to go from the picky to the banal National is trying to manufacture a meme that Ardern is paradoxically like Trump. Simon Bridges repeated this yesterday on Morning Report and maintained that the comparison was valid. He thinks that a political leader speaking directly to supporters makes her Trump like. I guess they also both breathe and eat and drink. This is a farcical comparison.
But it did not stop occasional Standard reader Matthew Hooton from repeating the proposition. But he also fell short in his analysis. Although I agree with him when he said this:
National’s recent scattergun approach to victims of the meth contamination hysteria, the protection of imported Himalyan thars, and its attitude towards Trump himself has looked more like a midnight tweet-storm than a serious strategy to win back the Beehive.
It makes you wonder who is actually in charge of Bridges’ twitter account.