Ardern – different style, but out of her depth?

Since the highs last year of a stellar riser to Labour leadership, and later to Prime Minister, and a PR friendly start to the year – the annual Ratana ritual, a full week getting positive coverage at Waitangi, and then a cruise through Pacific islands – the realities of being in charge have exposed Jacinda Ardern to some testing situations.

The Young Labour camp scandal, Russian trade and undeclared spies, Curran/Hirschfeld and RNZ, and the odd NZ First/Jenny Marcroft approach to Mark Mitchell have created a succession of awkward situations to deal with. None of them are over, except perhaps the Marcroft muddle.

This has raised real concerns over the competence of Ardern and her government (and the Peters problem).

Illustration / Guy Body

Ardern will be learning from this, or she should be. It is a real test of her character as leader, and a test of the coalition with NZ First and the confidence and supply agreement with the quirky Greens.

Questions are being asked, as they should be.

Duncan Garner: Government’s Easter report a B minus and increasingly worrying

Jacinda delivered on her genuine promise last year and it was a pleasure having her leading this country.

But in recent weeks she has struggled to stay on top of things and her usually sharp radar is not what it was  –  have you noticed?

But Ms Ardern impressed us greatly at the end of last December. She led the pack. She was by far the best and most articulate among the place.

But since then things have got loose.

The prime minister needs a short chocolate break then she should return and read the riot act to her caucus and kick their butts. Then she should send Grant Robertson and H2 (Heather Simpson) over to NZ First and the Greens and remind them what usually happens when they cause trouble for a PM.

Heather du Plessis-Allan: The buck stops with Jacinda Ardern

You have to question the Prime Minister’s judgment. How good is she at running this ship? It’s now impossible not to ask that question.

The Government has had three weeks of car crash problems and Jacinda Ardern dropped the ball virtually every time.

The list of cock-ups in three weeks is astounding. International headlines over the PM’s refusal to kick out Russian spies. National headlines over the Radio New Zealand snafu. Allegations of blackmail threats over regional slush fund money. The PM’s mixed messages on the future of oil and gas exploration. The Labour Summer Camp stuff up.

The impression is the new Government is at best naive, at worst (in at least one situation) potentially corrupt. Every crisis has created the sense Government MPs are still trying to figure out how to be in Government, still acting like they’re in Opposition.

At times like these it’s easy to blame those who give the PM advice. Her officials, her media people, Winston Peters. But again, the buck stops with the PM. She must take advice, then decide the right course.


Audrey Young: Ardern Govt not on the ropes yet but not match fit after just one round

Today marks the end of the first quarter of the political year, or the end of Round One if you like, and the red and black team of Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters are not as match fit as they looked just three months ago.

They look relieved to have the respite that Easter offers.

Ardern has lost her smile in the past few weeks because of the burden of events she is dealing with on a daily basis, most recently around the Russians and Clare Curran respectively.

It looks set to get worse before it gets better.

Some of these problems will fade away, but Winston Peters won’t.

But it is Winston Peters’ ambivalence towards Russia – as evidenced in the coalition agreement to a free trade deal with Russia- which has left the Government exposed to accusations of being ambivalent towards old allies.

There is no great public clamour to show solidarity, or expel a Russian.

But amid the heat on the issue, the Government has lost the narrative because the simple perception is that it has been soft on the Russians because of Peters.

What has gone unnoticed is that in a few short months, any notion of bipartisanship between Labour and National on issues of foreign relations and intelligence matters has been shattered.

Labour and New Zealand First are reaping what they sowed on that score.

They are not quite on the ropes but they will need to show some improvement for Round Two.

Stacey Kirk: Government comedy of errors belies serious questions of credibility

There was always a risk of NZ First-induced migraines when the Prime Minister signed on the dotted line to form a Government with Winston Peters.

And political soothsayers have all had short odds on Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran being one of the weaker links within Labour’s own ranks.

In a triple bill of unnecessary political dramas this week, Jacinda Ardern has been forced to battle two fires that go to the heart of her Government’s transparency and one that has left New Zealand the butt of international jokes. They’ve likely exacted a toll in the currency of Ardern’s political capital.


So the weekend opinion pieces are highlighting a number of warning signs.

There will no doubt be some positives and wins, but there is a danger that Ardern may get bogged down by the growing number of negatives.

Ardern has shown some competence at times, but there are growing concerns her main strength is  PR posing – see Ardern does more homely interviews. That worked for a while, but there is a risk of a glaring gap growing between celebrity style superficiality and decisiveness and strength as a Prime Minister.

Ardern has time to turn things around – she can’t prevent Ministers mucking up but she needs to be seen to be dealing with their messes much better.

She has obvious strengths, but her weaknesses or winning at the moment.



  1. chrism56

     /  April 1, 2018

    The problem with the Prime Minister (and many of the other MPs) is that she has had no real world management experience. The job isn’t about PR opportunities. Most of the time it is trying to corral people (often who don’t like or respect you) running their own agendas. It is also being able to be clear and decisive. For this, they need a good grasp of the basic facts and rules or where to find them. That is where she is being caught out.

  2. NOEL

     /  April 1, 2018

    I dunno I’m prepared to stay judgement until after the birth leave, If She comes back?

    • But she can’t afford to go on leave with messy issues unresolved. They are unlikely to improve while she is away.

      • PDB

         /  April 1, 2018

        The sexual assault investigation will be wrapped up and swept under the carpet whilst she is gone.

  3. David

     /  April 1, 2018

    Another not so flattering summation of our under performing PM

    • David

       /  April 1, 2018

      Sorry link is already in the story.

    • Blazer

       /  April 1, 2018

      mickeysav at the Standard sums it up pretty well…

      • Fair comment questioning the concentration of media on just a few stories – that’s nothing new. In an end of week review 1 news journalists admitted that meant the Marcroft story didn’t get the attention it deserved, a story that mickysavage missed mentioning for some reason.

        But he’s wrong claiming it is “the manufacturing of a narrative”, it’s just a weakness of media that include journalists from a number of private companies, state owned enterprises and state funded broadcasters – to suggest they all conspire to focus on some stories and ignore others is ridiculous.

  4. David

     /  April 1, 2018

    While she has been pretty bad at handling most things there is also the problem that the government is not actually doing anything, after the ludicrous media driven 100 days there is little sign of a “progressive” government enacting generational change.

  5. She’s supposedly captain of the ship of state.
    So how about she actually gets the motley crew under control or delegated the drunken dwarf to get out of Bellamys bar and lay down the law.
    He’d love that

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  April 1, 2018

    Baby talk becoming a habit already.

  7. PDB

     /  April 1, 2018

    Say what you like but a National led govt but one led by Bill English and the experience he had around him would not have appeared so disorganised, factionalised, out-of-their depth and dictated to by Winston First. It hasn’t taken Winston long to take advantage of Ardern’s lack of substance, the low quality MP’s within her own party and a piss-weak Green Party lacking in principles and seemingly with no identity in govt.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  April 1, 2018

      What it will be like in a few months when she finds that her talk about how she can do both things is just talk, I hate to think. It’s bad enough now. Even the people for whom she can do no wrong must be able to see this, surely.

  8. My wife, on each occasion of pregnancy, became quite doolally. So much so that she actually predicted her second pregnancy long before the gadget did, just by observing her mental state beginning to wobble. This apparently is not at all uncommon, and I am surprised it has not been mentioned in this context.

    • Gezza

       /  April 1, 2018

      Hmm. Interesting, Sailor. 🤔

      This doolalley. What were the symptoms? Can you recall? 😳

  1. Ardern – different style, but out of her depth? — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition