You get to a point – and Ardern must be close – where the most you can do is hang on.
Her two terms leading the country have been beset by successive crises, each apparently greater than the previous.
March 2019 saw a massacre on our streets of unprecedented scale – surely that would be the worst she would face.
June 2019, Labour’s two largest policy platforms in Kiwibuild and light rail both died, and the Minister responsible severely demoted. Light rail itself was the largest-ever taxpayer commitment in New Zealand and had seen NZSuperfund and partners actively sabotaging NZTA, MoT, Treasury, and Minister Twyford himself to get what they wanted. Two vital electoral promises just died.
But it got worse.
In October 2019, the single edifice upon which the entire government had centred a great and glorious gathering of all APEC leaders across the Asia-Pacific, well, it caught fire. Pretty much killed the conference, except for some faintly-heard digital rescue.
What was about to happen next would make that massive international diplomatic loss of face look small.
In March 2020 Ardern was essentially forced to quarantine the entire country like a reverse plague-ship and seek to save as many of us as possible by buying time to get controls organised and vaccines underway. The personal impact of the plague was such that she put off getting married for over a year.
Surely that would be the worst she would face. Ardern had the skill to ride it to great popularity.
Nope it got far worse, even faster.
In March 2022, just as the country was starting to right itself, Russia invaded Ukraine and disrupted fuel markets, shipping and trade, and set off a global inflation bomb that we hadn’t seen for decades. We know this is going to get worse, for years to come.
We are as punch-drunk as the government itself.
Our confidence that things will improve is plummeting. There is no sense that our government is in control, simply because the waves of fate are too large for any of us let alone this government to adequately steer.
The life we left in February 2020 has gone from us, and we can’t even name the grief. Relationships destroyed, careers gone, futures for our children chopped off. 20% of the population infected and rising.
We are bewildered at the loss of our old world.
We are in such circumstances going to react badly to any call for major change. Because we can’t cope. We can’t cope anymore.
The calls will get louder that any and every single reform from now on will be met with: “You’ve lost the people”, “You’ve lost the room”, “You’ve lost the polls”. That is because we are now in one of two categories of people: just barely holding on, or falling back and falling down. We’ve all lost so much we can’t bear to name it all.
Every single reform Ardern tries now will be an added punch to our collective concussion.
Ardern is a conservative by nature who has avoided any kind of major move. There are sufficient adjustments. She must not do more.
It is the left which is fundamentally conservative. So much of Labour, and all of the Greens, is about retaining that which is being lost. The lost forest, the dying rivers and lakes, near-extinct native species, retreating glaciers, dying planet. The dead unions, withered native culture and language, smashed labour conditions, weakened state, dry social services, the lost sense of community, cohesion, moral purpose, of any direction to the nation as a whole. Whatever we used to understand by our flag is evaporated into air.
There will still be a few on the very hard left for whom no reform is too great for us to bear, every policy-fuelled crisis is necessary to improve us, each faint blinking beacon on the horizon worth dragging us all towards no matter the cost.
No one is rising to their trumpets anymore.
Now it is time for Ardern to marry this conservative instinct of the left with self-preservation.
She must stop. We can’t take it anymore.