Refreshing taking fight to Ardern’s celebrification

Jacinda Ardern has taken ‘celebrity politics’ to a whole new level since. This began before she became Labour leader and Prime Minister. Her media management had already included celebrity style magazine coverage. That has continued, with the latest example being Ardern featuring in a US magazine, Vogue.

In general the New Zealand media has both lapped it up and egged it on, and this looks to be increasing with the pregnancy of Ardern being given far more importance than governance of the country.

It’s bit of a big deal in New Zealand politics that Ardern became pregnant while taking on the most important role in the country. Pregnancy and giving birth is a big deal for any mother – but in the whole scheme of things having babies is very routine, it has been happening for a lot longer than the New Zealand has had Ardern and the world has had princesses.

For New Zealand how Ardern functions as a Prime Minister running the country should be of far greater importance than what she names her kid and other mundane trivia outside immediate family.

Fran O’Sullivan writes against the current: Time Jacinda Ardern eases back on celebrification?

Jacinda Ardern can thank Judith Collins’ incisive political attack for reminding her of her biggest job: get on her game as Prime Minister.

The media-endorsed “mother of the nation” celebrification — which has been wall-to-wall since Ardern announced her pregnancy — could (if she is not mindful) undermine her impact as NZ’s political leader.

Opposition politicians have since tip-toed around Ardern. They have not wanted to be seen to land blows on a young pregnant woman who happens to be enormously relatable and popular.

Most have played into the “generational change” meme without pointing out that the only reason we have a 37-year-old female Prime Minister is because a septuagenarian put her there.

But when Collins — some 20 years Ardern’s senior — launched her campaign for National’s leadership, she took a different approach by taking the fight directly to the Prime Minister.

It was refreshing.

After weeks of media coverage suggesting Ardern’s pregnancy meant she was now a shoo-in to lead the Labour-NZ First coalition to win another term at the 2020 election, an Opposition politician had finally broken cover from their self-imposed PC straitjacket.

Others might have a problem taking on Ardern out of concern that they would look heavy-handed or be seen to pick on the young, pregnant woman.

But Collins said: “I have been pregnant running a law firm and studying as well. As a young mum I understand exactly how tough it is to do that. But she understands that too.

“That is not the role she’s asked New Zealanders to support her for.”

“She has asked them to make her and keep her as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

I think that’s a fair call.

“And that is the role I would hold her to account for.”

Collins’ forthright attack has clearly resonated within the ninth floor of the Beehive.

It was notable that when Ardern addressed senior members of the Auckland business community at breakfast yesterday, she was completely on song in delivering a speech that set out the Government’s focus for the next three years.

She gave a polished and confident delivery.

Notably, there was no mention of her pregnancy. Nor were there any jokes about Clarke Gayford — the upcoming stay-at-home dad. Her Vogue cover was not mentioned (apart from a closing comment by Westpac chief executive David McLean that some of his staff were lining up for selfies with the PM who had been in Vogue).

This shift in key enabled the business community to focus on what the Prime Minister had to say.

It was an important speech that conveyed important messages. It did not warrant being buried by distraction — nor was it.

Ardern has been a quick learner and an astute reader of public sentiment. She has played the celebrity card with aplomb, with the help of a more than willing media.

Here she seems to have switched to serious Prime Minister. Are the media able to switch off the celebrity button as easily? I doubt it.

Ardern — still establishing her prime ministerial platform — must get runs on the board while maintaining her relentlessly positive approach.

It is a balance.

Vogue called Ardern the anti-Trump. She plays the media differently, but she still plays the media bigly like Trump.

What New Zealand needs is an anti-celebrity.

Ardern’s positioning as Prime Minister is at times also undermined by a media fascination which borders on being fatuous.

This was embarrassingly obvious last weekend, when Julie Bishop was questioned about the shoes that Ardern wore when she popped in on a dinner that Winston Peters hosted at his home for the visiting Australian Foreign Minister.

“Seriously?” asked Bishop.

Seriously, New Zealand’s media is at severe risk of collapsing into cringe.

We would benefit from an anti-gaga media.


  1. Zedd

     /  February 18, 2018

    Politics is part policy, but a big part is ‘Image’ too; remember Mr Smile & wave (JK) 😀

    • Corky

       /  February 18, 2018

      Key has nothing on Jacinda. It’s hard to beat a huge smile, heaps of ‘comrades’ and a designer baby ..until the novelty wears off….and the comrades get pissed off.

  2. Blazer

     /  February 18, 2018

    did O’Sullivan have her eyes and ears closed for 8 years…when ‘Key mania’ was in vogue?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  February 18, 2018

      Don’t be so silly.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  February 18, 2018

        KDS is incurable.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  February 18, 2018

          I was afraid of that.

        • PartisanZ

           /  February 18, 2018

          Not as incurable or as intransigent as Key Reverence & Adoration Proclivity or KRAP.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  February 18, 2018

            Really? I think you’ll find that KDS sufferers have out-symptomed your alleged competition by a huge margin since he retired (and will continue to do so).

            • PartisanZ

               /  February 18, 2018

              It is true that ‘bad food’ has a habit of repeating …

              Then again …. Lest we forget …

          • Trevors_elbow

             /  February 18, 2018

            Parti, parti, parti..

            The bad man has gone away… its alright now to focus on the present….

            If Jacinda had achieved half that Key did before entering politics she might be slightly credible. But she didnt… she did nothing but be a pollie.

            Lets focus on Jacinda and her ability not her looks or her baby bump… lets see if she can stand up to real scrutiny without playing I’m a girl or I’m preggies card…

    • ” Key made his money….” Does your envy have no limits? Does your jealous know no bounds? Market makers take a lot of risk… but they provide a service in terms of taking the other side of a trade when someone wants to transact, they provide liquidity…. The mistake is in poor regulation and allowing Merchant & Investment Banking type operations to occur off of limited liability companies balance sheets when those balance sheets are based on standard retail and commercial banking activities. Makes banks to big to fail which means risk takers don’t get punished as they should when things go pete tong…

      • Blazer

         /  February 18, 2018

        what I said is factual,and you know it…all banks made money with the Greenspan ‘put’…Key worked for Merrill ,it was once an honorouble firm…it collapsed and was bailed as were many failures of the ‘free mkt’.

        • No you have smeared Key by association with the sequence of comments. Grow up…. leave your obsessions at the door bol.

        • Replying to yourself with little snipes aimed at makes you exactly what I thought – a bit of a tosser….

          “sock tucker”?? what a dick comment Blazer…

          as for cliches! My god you are THE classic cliche tosser… surely you should seek out Murray Horton and the Seatoun letter writer for a group hug and a wail about the dirty capitalist system…

          • Blazer

             /  February 18, 2018

            yes it is a ‘dick’ comment…you have earned it..though.You are…dust.

            • Blazer….. you are truly are the lamest troll on blogs. And I note you just hang out here and hide…. when you going to come out… and plaaaayyy…. somewhere with a few more commentators??

            • Blazer

               /  February 18, 2018

              bring it on…you are a magician…troll and then…vanish.

  3. duperez

     /  February 18, 2018

    And to really tie the beginning up to the end, “Time the media eased back on celebrification”?

    Will they? No.

    And if I were in the business I’d be forward planning. You know, working out the logistics for the exclusive shot, the different approach. You know, how to get an All Black jersey altered to fit around an abundantly stretched puku for the cover of the Rugby News (so that AIG still shows out) and there was space for the big question, “Is it a boy?”

    And that would nicely carry things for a few months with the intergenerational thing, equality in sport, New Zealand relationships with Australia, using New Zealand fibre, reference to eyeliner and Ma’a Nonu, and, well, anything. 🏉🍼💄🙂

  4. Bring it on Judith. Let’s ground this celebrity pilot

    • Blazer

       /  February 18, 2018

      Punchin …Judy ..the Iron Butterfly…’inna garda…Oravida’..out

  5. PartisanZ

     /  February 18, 2018

    Yep, sure is “refreshing”! Like a swim in molten lava …

    A “refreshing” change from politicians constantly attacking the other side’s policies to attacking the people themselves … ‘ad hom refreshment extraordinaire’! …

    To paraphrase Fleetwood Mac –

    Drowning … in a sea of blood …
    Where everyone … would love to drown …