Ardern battered by difficult week

‘Below the Beltway’ only lists some of the problems faced by Jacinda Ardern this week:

Curran – Um, ah, um….um. 
Her response to questions about her use of a personal email address wasprobably the most woeful performance ever by a minister in response to questions in the HouseShe has paid the price.

Ardern – After raising hopes, Ardern avoided ruffling diplomatic feathers and found excuses not to meet refugees detained on Nauru.

Winston Peters – He pulled the rug out from under Ardern on the refugee quota at a time when he knew it would get maximum exposure.

These weren’t the first difficulties Ardern had to deal with – she got some criticism (and quite a bit of support) for requiring a special flight to Nauru so she wasn’t away from her baby for too long.

Peters throwing his political weight around and making Ardern look impotent may have been one of the most damaging in the long run.

Newshub:  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern caves to Winston Peters after refugee remarks

The Prime Minister appears to have caved into Winston Peters over the Government’s pledge to increase the refugee quota – putting the plan to take an extra 500 every year in jeopardy.

That’s despite the government already funding two new accommodation blocks to house them.

Ms Ardern arrived in Nauru to an environment of confusion over her Government’s refugee policy, courtesy of Winston Peters.

Fran O’Sullivan: Jacinda Ardern faces growing challenge of Winston Peters

Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern are in danger of moving towards a co-prime ministership in all but name.

It won’t be formally described that way. But the New Zealand First leader — who is officially Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister — is demonstrating that he is prepared to go against Ardern if she announces policies that are either not already announced in the Speech from the Throne or are not contained in the coalition and support agreements which Labour signed following last year’s election.

She appears to have caved in to Peters over the Government’s pledge to increase the refugee quota.

Not only did this not look good this week, Peters is not going to go away, and neither will his fondness for pushing his political weight around – or more accurately, getting away with more than he deserves with a 7% share of the vote (so about a 14% vote in Government).

Meka Whaitiri is an ongoing awkward situation too – she appeared in parliament this week when it suited her, but avoided Question Time scrutiny all week.

On top of this Ardern also appeared weak over the Clare Curran meltdown. Her half demotion two weeks ago was questioned as not going far enough for what looked like an ongoing problem. She stood by through Wednesday’s embarrassment in Parliament, and Labour’s fumbling after Curran failed to show up on Thursday.

And Ardern was almost the biggest story on Friday when Curran resigned as a minister – the resignation was no surprise as it looked inevitable.

But Ardern’s misleading comments before the resignation became official received a lot of attention.

Technically Ardern may be ‘correct’ in what she said, but she must have known she was leaving an erroneous impression with what she said and more importantly, what she failed to say.

Her ‘openness and transparency’ took a hammering, with some justification.

NZH: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told two radio stations she was not firing Clare Curran

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave two radio interviews this morning without revealing that Clare Curran had resigned from her position as a minister.

On Newstalk ZB, Ardern said she had not considered firing the Broadcasting Minister over a series of mis-steps.

“No, because I think she’s paid her price.”

And in a light-hearted interview on the entertainment-focused Radio Hauraki, when asked, “Are you going to fire … Curran,” the Prime Minister said, “No”.

When asked to elaborate, Ardern said Question Time in Parliament “is a pretty heavy environment … ministers have good days and bad days”.

Describing the core of the issue in Curran’s case, she said: “When you strip it back she neglected to put something in her diary. There are not many places people would get such a backlash over that.”

When asked by reporters about her comment to Newstalk ZB, Ardern said: “The question that I was asked this morning was whether I’d asked her to resign, and the answer was no.”

Officially at least Ardern didn’t ask Curran to resign, Curran offered her resignation and Ardern accepted it. But Ardern failed to disclose the resignation.

When the resignation was announced later in the day media reported that Ardern had lied. The Prime Minister’s office must have got busy getting them to ‘correct’ this. David Farrar, whose Kiwiblog must be considered significant media by Ardern’s media team, details how this played out, which includes the sending out of an edited transcript:

Ardern later tried to explain her misleading responses. NZH:

Talking on Newstalk ZB tonight, Ardern said that if she had said yes to the questions asked of her this morning, it would not have been a fair representation.

“The question I was asked, to be fair, was whether I was sacking her”.

“I hadn’t received her resignation at that point. I hadn’t moved the warrants on. I hadn’t called or even spoke to the ministers who needed to take over the job. I hadn’t informed the cabinet office and so that would have been absolutely premature.

Premature to advise on those aspects, yes. But

“Once all that was in place I was in a position to make clear what she had decided to do.

“Making it sound as though I had instigated it would have not been a fair reflection.”

“I don’t like to mislead. I like to be accurate in my language, but at that point, I’m not even clear the minister had told her family.”

If she had been clear and transparent and explained that Curran had offered her resignation and had not been asked there would have been no problem – except for Ardern’s spin team perhaps.

So the week started of challenging Ardern, and the succession of issues she had to deal with were relentless.

There is a positive for Ardern. Under just her own pressure Curran crumpled, but Ardern weathered a much wider storm, battered perhaps but not broken.

Claire Trevett: Clare Curran the canary in the mine for Jacinda Ardern

As with cats, ministers resort to fight or flight responses when the pressure goes on.

On the fight side are those who emerge tougher than tungsten from the pressure. They ride things out as best they can, take the consequences handed down, whether justified or not, and wait for a better day to dawn.

Judith Collins is one exhibit, Bill English and Helen Clark are others who have the intestinal fortitude to forge through hard times and ultimately triumph.

John Key also.

Ardern hasn’t forged through and triumphed, but she appears to have the fortitude to deal with adversity and carry on leading – as much as Peters allows her to lead of course.

Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  8th September 2018

    Ardern governs at Winston’s pleasure. How humiliating.

  2. lurcher1948

     /  8th September 2018

    Shouldn’t the correct term be “Prime Minister Adern”,PG as i dont think you should stoup to the low levels of the tired NZME political hack Soper…its all about standards

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  8th September 2018

      Or Prime Minister Ardern.

      We don’t usually say that in NZ, so I don’t see it as stooping in any way. First name Second name is polite enough.

  3. PDB

     /  8th September 2018

    “To be fair, she was asked if she would fire Curran. She said no. And that is true, she didn’t fire her, Curran resigned.

    But she also said: ”I think she’s paid her price”, which was probably designed to make it sound like Curran’s job was safe.

    Probably just to buy time. Just to be able to release the information when it suited her – late on a Friday afternoon when everybody’s started thinking about the weekend already.
    So much for Ardern saying her Government was going to be the most open and transparent the country’s ever seen.

    Hard to expect your government to do it when you can’t even, right?
    It’s also made the Prime Minister look weak.”

    “Ardern looks like she can’t bring herself to sack someone, even someone tearing up her Government’s reputation

    It makes you ask: if the PM doesn’t have the spine for an obvious and easy sacking, what other tough decisions does she not have the spine for?

    And as for Curran’s exit statement, she told reporters that the pressure has become “intolerable” because the current heat being placed on her is unlikely to go away.
    Come on, that’s blaming everyone else!

    Curran’s not in this position because people are chasing her. She’s in this position because she kept stuffing up.”

    • PDB

       /  8th September 2018

      Comment on that article sums Ardern up well;

      “She’s never been a leader.

      She was given the safe seat of Mt Albert, because it was embarrassing for labour that neither their leader or deputy could win an electorate.

      She was given the labour leader role without having to fight for it and previously saying she didn’t want it.

      She was given the PM role by Peters.

      Never before have we seen such an indulged politician. She is no more than a docile mascot at the moment and I’m not sure she has it in her to step up, because she’s never had to – she’s just waiting for everyone else to make the decisions.”

      • Blazer

         /  8th September 2018

        bit rich seeing as the Nats front line had English and Joyce ,both list.

        • PDB

           /  8th September 2018

          “neither their leader or deputy could win an electorate.”

          English had already won an electorate seat many times over before becoming PM.

          • Blazer

             /  8th September 2018

            and Joyce! …couldn’t win a chook raffle.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  8th September 2018

              Joyce’s CV against Ardern’s is like an Exocet vs a pop gun.
              Very stupid comparison.

            • Blazer

               /  8th September 2018

              in your opinion…so he has a degree in Zoology and started a radio biz…Ardern is P.M of NZ…case closed.

            • PDB

               /  8th September 2018

              And doing such a great job of it Blazer…simply put she’s Winston’s sock puppet.

              I note that since she put the baby away for a while public relations have gone quickly downhill.

          • PDB said:
            “English had already won an electorate seat many times over before becoming PM.”
            Biggest laff, EVER!!!
            English stood in… Clutha Southland!!!
            PDB, you wag!!!

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  8th September 2018

      She’s shown us who’s boss. It’s Winston.

  4. Zedd

     /  8th September 2018

    MMP politics.. “lets do this !” 🙂 😀

    more Tory denial Rhetoric !

    • PDB

       /  8th September 2018

      Even old biased lefty Bryce Edwards has had to face up to reality: “For Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, however, it has left a huge mess to clean up. The problem is, for this week at least, she needs to share the blame.”

      “Ms Curran’s immediate misery is now over but the prime minister’s poor decision making in this goes beyond failing to sack her last week. Ms Ardern’s answer yesterday that she did not intend to sack Ms Curran, when she had in fact already received Ms Curran’s resignation, was true by technicality only and a lie of omission that was going to be exposed within hours.”

  5. adamsmith1922

     /  8th September 2018

    Mr George, you are too kind


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