Let’s just get this out of the way. It’s inevitable that there will be focus on Jacinda Ardern’s looks. Also a given is a certain amount of sexism that frequently goes with that because women get treated differently in politics, and because of, you know, sexism. For the men who don’t want their sexism to be so visible, ‘flakey’ is the word du jour. I’m sure this won’t be news to Ardern herself, and there will of course be a bit of extra load for the left to push back against, especially women. If you don’t yet understand where the line is on this kind of sexism, start listening to the analyses of politicised progressive women, this is feminism 101 stuff.
So let’s just get it out of the way. Whatever people think of her politics Jacinda Ardern is a competent, skilled, intelligent politician just like the dudes. She’s got the optics sorted, so instead how about we celebrate that she absolutely nailed her first press conference as the new leader of Labour in ways we haven’t seen for a long time. It’s worth watching for the joy of seeing politics transform, and it’s a must watch for anyone who wants to have an opinion about Ardern and to understand where many of her skills are.
Beyond that there are some emerging new issues in this election. Bill posited yesterday that with the change of Labour’s leadership to someone likely to reverse their downward slide in the polls, the left needs to not let Labour capture NZ politics again and hold it in its neoliberal embrace. Nor detract from the new ground that the Greens have been gaining for a real chance at an actual progressive government and the shifting of NZ towards social democracy again.
So the question becomes how to work to change the government given that both a strong Labour and Green Party are needed? How do we reconcile this with the likelihood that Ardern will lift Labour in the polls but won’t necessarily break left?
As an aside, Ardern has said she wants 72 hours to get to grips with the new job and then bring her ideas back to the public. That takes us to Friday, so this looks like an opportunity for Labourites to be phoning, emailing, and doorstepping their MPs and party officials to encourage Labour to make the bold moves in this election.
Meanwhile in an interview with John Campbell, Green Party co-leader James Shaw gave this resounding endorsement of Ardern and what she brings not only to the Labour leadership but to the election and the chances of the left to change the government.
Jacinda turns this election into a real competition, there’s a real fight on now.
I think she’s got the skills, she’s got the leadership capability, she’s got the connection with the public.
On Labour raising their vote and not needing NZF,
Nothing is impossible. [Ardern] is quite the politician. She is a very unusual character in the NZ political landscape, I wouldn’t put it past her.
You saw that performance on TV just before… she was outstanding. I looked at that and I thought there is a future Prime Minister. She’s got charm, she’s warm, she’s funny, she’s incredibly intelligent, her values are rock solid. I think you are looking at someone there who is going to change the fortunes of the Labour Party, lift the vote, and change the government. I really do.
On Labour and the Greens voters,
Nobody takes votes from each other, votes are earned.
The whole interview is worth a watch (video below), because this is no longer bitter enemy politics, this is the election of co-operative politics. Shaw explains how this will work, the Greens and Labour campaigning as separate parties and the responsibility to grow the left vote. This is the Green Party who shook up the election 2 weeks ago by daring to talk about welfare, and they’re being very clear that they want a strong, competent Labour to govern with, and that the goal is still the most progressive government we can get. We need to get past the idea that Labour and the Greens have to be the same, and understand that it’s possible to think differently and still work together.
It’s the most solid I’ve seen the incoming Labour/Green government, but it’s still on a knife edge because of, as Campbell puts it, the elephant in the living room that isn’t even in the living room and nobody knows where it is. The irony for those seeking social democracy is that Labour may just have given us a new chance at forming an actual left wing government without NZF. Labour can probably get away with the Ardern factor alone and get to form government but to do so without NZF they need to show that their core values are backed up by good solid policy that competes with NZF’s. A few days ago Little pointed to the need for Labour to earn votes back from NZF, so I’m hoping we see some strategy from Ardern on this.
A few more thoughts about her. Ardern has mojo. Combined with her skills as a politician that makes her a potent force. This is important because some people will confuse her ability to use that mojo to lead with her physical looks. They’re not the same thing at all and it’s probably worth pointing out the differences as often as we can.
I hope she can sustain that mojo during what is likely to be a harsh campaign, and I hope she gets supported. Notable was the way that many left wing/progressive women swung in behind Ardern yesterday. That’s another force to be reckoned with.
She’s also talking about compassion. This is the woman who didn’t want to be PM but wanted to be Minister for Children instead. Labour still need to be pushed left on policy and positioning, but NZ has in too many ways become a cold heartless place and having a Prime Minister who says it’s not only ok but imperative to care for others has the potential to change the culture, especially when their major coalition partner is already leading the way on this. We now have a government in waiting that oozes social intelligence, which may be just as important as the policy shifts the left is waiting for.
A few choice bits about Ardern from the commentariat,
WILD KATIPO, (on Ardern to journo),
‘Would you like to tell me why I can’t’ ?
Woohooo !…. give em a bit of mongrel and you’ll do well !!!
I could imagine that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Ardern drinks Winston under the table.
— Will de Cleene (@ZippyGonzales) August 1, 2017
— jared mackley-crump (@onethirdway) August 1, 2017
Labour will surely be hoping TV news shows *lots* of this. It’s the best media conference I’ve seen a Labour leader give in years.
— Russell Brown (@publicaddress) August 1, 2017
My pick: Jacinda genuinely connects with people and that's what voters want. Nats would prefer Little
— lindaclark1 (@lindaclark1) August 1, 2017
She needs to not take advice from media cos so far not many calling it right. She needs to be herself. All. Day. Long. Cos genuine is gold
— lindaclark1 (@lindaclark1) August 1, 2017
53 days is over 7 weeks. The same time it took @uklabour to go from polling mid 20s to record to 41% at the ballot box. /7
— Alastair Thompson (@althecat) August 1, 2017
— Marianne Elliott (@zenpeacekeeper) July 31, 2017
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