- Date published:
8:28 am, July 13th, 2023 - 28 comments
Categories: chris hipkins, Christopher Luxon, election 2023, greens, helen clark, jacinda ardern, james shaw, labour, national, The Standard line - Tags:
Hipkins being himself is his election-winning attribute.
It’s never going to be about policy, nerdlove the old manifestos as one might. 2023 is a presidential contest of personality and believable leadership traits. We haven’t seen Chris Hipkins and Chris Luxon side by side and it’s a mistake. Let Luxon be Luxon; shiny-smooth executive-leadership sheen yet without the depth of confidence that propelled John Key upward. Luxon has seven houses and reeks of assurance-in-depth that only anointed males of elite Pentecostal churches can get.
Show us the Hipkins dream.
Hipkins can underscore that he’s as ordinary as they come. He’s not going to attract women under 50 like Ardern briefly did. He’s a pudgy Tinder profile. He can focus on ordinary people who like him are no policy genius. He has no tight circle of Cabinet colleagues. He compresses the whole package into the ‘boy from the Hutt eating sausage rolls and pies’ because he’s a suburban guy as much a loner as we mostly are in this lonely country. So make suburban ordinary a virtue. Like, lose the suit except for the debates, and just agree with us life is damn hard.
Hipkins wants a country for ordinary people who can be what they aspire to be in this country. Just like him. That’s what he needs to sell: he’s on $450k and ordinary people really can do this. That is the core of his education-focused meritocratic drive.
Show us his rightness for the job.
Hipkins has undersold mastery of politics, both in the operational sense of Parliament and in the tactical sense of delivering confident lines to Cabinet in which decisions are made and to the media to frame things up. Just needs to remind people that Luxon as a naif can never approach that kind of confident Parliamentary command. Actually government is a skill, and few have it. “Day in the life of the PM” is hardly the newest idea, but it’s an untold story.
What the job really is: to be a political operator at the peak of their game. We almost never hear what the actual job of Prime Minister is, so tell it. For example there’s a whole untold story of the decisions made in March and April 2020 that now probably only he can tell. The documentary story of crisis turned down into just another managed risk.
Build us the texture of a believable man.
And to the basics of campaigns: like Helen Clark did over two decades ago, Hipkins ought to feature the stuff he likes doing like mountain biking, hiking, and swimming. Tell us what we can relate to. What bones he broke doing what, favourite childhood pets, toughest downward bike.
We need to meet his mum and dad. Outside their ordinary house. Talking what he was like as a kid, what they like about New Zealand: put Hipkins deep into being an ordinary New Zealander. Right now the prices of everything are forcing us to be more and more ordinary: so show you are us, were brought up, even if it’s not that comfortable. It’s called empathy.
And yes, bring out the children. Talk about the toll that work takes on family, being separated, just tell people what it’s like being a New Zealand guy now. Be the stark contrast to the fairytale romance nonsense of Ardern. Being a guy is work and children and trying to make a tiny bit of space for yourself. What you carry and have to keep moving with; again: being a guy now.
Hipkins also can do a far better job of selling the actual successes of this government. Whatever James Shaw did, he was basically a small scale subbie in a large project. Sure, just work in Hi Viz with the East Coast alliance, but even better if you can show all parts of government working to build, and rebuild, and rebuild.
Sure, he was likely to lose from the start. Ardern the feckless wonder who was gifted two elections gave him no warning, no plan, and very little time after deliberately overcooking the economy, to enable any replacement leader to stabilise the country again. Ardern was by the end so weak she couldn’t even face ZB radio. We don’t have to worry about that with Hipkins: he takes, he gives.
Give us sufficient charm and energy to underscore you’re younger than Peters, less divisive than Waititi, a superior leader of Parliament than Luxon, more practical than Shaw, and in tune with getting the basics right for the real us.
Get the man on the first plane home. Hipkins is actually better at real political dialogue than anyone since Helen Clark. His skin is as thick as hers. We won’t see that hardscrabble witty debater unless his Chief of Staff and Megan Woods pull their heads out of their ass and get him back in the country and regain the full media cycle, talking with us again and again and again.
Nothing Special Is The Kiwi Superpower.
Forget policy. Wear really ordinary clothes. Tell fewer policy-compressed moves and more real-person anecdotes. Show us where and who you really came from. Be an ordinary 2023 guy. Nothing Special really is special.
Do the above meat-and-two veg Labour politics well for two months, then Hipkins can then regain the Preferred Prime Minister which really is the ballgame. Then he wins.
Right now Nothing Special is a superpower.