Ardern risks being hoist by her own celebrity PR petard

Jacinda Ardern has received international attention since becoming Prime Minister. Some of this is legitimate news, but some of it seems to be jacked up PR, usually more personal pap than political analysis.

This probably shouldn’t be unexpected, international media seems more interested in superficial celebration of so-called celebrities generally, and there is usually little interest in New Zealand politics.

But what is Ardern trying to achieve? She is receiving attention, but she risks being entrenched as a superficial celebrity without political substance.

She should try to sort out her leadership and Government in New Zealand before taking on the world.

Ardern seems to have favoured status at the UK Guardian which at times seems to be a PR arm of Ardern’s office. here are some recent efforts:

Is she planning on standing for election in the United Kingdom?

And not just Ardern, her partner Clarke Gayford is amping the PR as well.

And, suggested by some as preparation for a trip to the United States, Ardern has featured in a New York Times promotion:

SUNDAY REVIEW

Lady of the Rings: Jacinda Rules

Jacinda Ardern, one of the young, progressive leaders countering Donald Trump, talks about being only the second world leader to give birth.

Global hype continues to paint Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as a cliche

Jacinda Ardern was an MP for nine years before becoming Labour’s saving grace.

Yet a new piece the in New York Times was still focused on her shorts-wearing partner and the happiness club she founded when she was eight.

Well-known for her coverage inside the Trump White House, columnist Maureen Dowd labelled Ardern as “Lady of the Rings”.

In an instant, Dowd meshed together a retrograde label with a 15-year-old movie reference and proved we haven’t moved past the shallow caricatures that have come to define us as a nation.

It just seems the international media can’t get past our leader’s novelty value.

Dowd presents our PM as having perpetual sunniness and being someone who would call Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then yell: “OMG, Justin! Are you seeing this?”.

But where is the political meat you would expect from sit-down interviews with an international leader?

The real “Jacindamania” is not the rush of enthusiasm that swept her into leadership.

Rather, it’s the permanent psychosis that has taken hold of global media, preventing real debate of our country’s policies and role in the world.

It leaves Ardern battling a caricature of herself and New Zealand still stuck at the kids’ table where we are described through the lens of a “hip” liberal leader and, inevitably, a few Lord of the Rings references.

Based on the myriad of international media coverage, she is just that unwed working mother representing the “anti-Trump” in the Trumpian age.

Reporters with extraordinary access like Dowd should use that privilege to ask real questions to inform.

Everything else is a disservice.

So why would Ardern go along with this sort of lightweight coverage?

Gayford is a willing partner in this:

 In a sartorial triumph, Ardern wore a feathered Maori cloak to meet Queen Elizabeth at a black-tie dinner in London.

“It was highly coveted among the princesses at the dinner,” Ardern’s partner, Clarke Gayford, told me. “They made a beeline for her, and I’m surprised she managed to leave wearing it, to be completely honest.”

The boyish and charming Gayford, the 40-year-old host of a TV fishing show who smiles with delight no matter how many times he is asked “Is Jacinda your greatest catch?” would be the stay-at-home dad who would show the way for modern men.

She calls Gayford Huckleberry Finn, because he often wears shorts, even for interviews, and wanders around with a fishing pole.

On another day, when I came to interview Gayford, Ardern’s mother, Laurell, is there, helping with the baby.

President Trump will be presiding over the United Nations Security Council when the General Assembly meets in New York later this month. The prime minister will be trying to combine mothering and traveling again, this time hopefully with less ludicrous commentary. She will be juggling more than 40 events in seven days, with Neve and Gayford as part of the entourage.

Gayford also appears to be embracing the celebrity style coverage.

She (Dowd) gets what? She gets how Ardern and Gayford want to be seen, as a modern celebrity couple and parents who manage to fit in a bit of running the country when not being interviewed by sycophant reporters?

Like a significant number of Americans will support Trump no matter how crazy he seems, Ardern is sure to keep a solid level of support in New Zealand based on her celebrity (Woman’s Weekly) style coverage.

But if she continues to look subservient to Winston Peters, and fails to deliver on her promises to deal to child poverty and other ‘revolutions’ that are little more than empty rhetoric so far, and if she fails to live up to her claims of being open and transparent (she has been severely challenged on that lately), she may find that her party’s popularity doesn’t hold up as well as her celebrity status.

Ardern may find it difficult to move from celebrity saccharine to serious leadership. She may end up being hoist by her own celebrity PR petard.

48 Comments

  1. Ray

     /  September 10, 2018

    Not sure how the international media will help but I notice on Twitter that the usual suspects have started whining that the media are all right wing.
    This is in respect to Clare Curran being questioned.
    Now Labour has had a good run so far but the media do not being lied to or being seen to have been manipulated. The PM’s “misleading ” statement on Clare Curran’s status and the attempted dumping of bad news late on Friday three week in a row will have ticked them off, expect a more intensive look at the Coalition and it’s workings from now on.

  2. Blazer

     /  September 10, 2018

    priceless exposure for NZ internationally…never mind the AB’s or Americas Cup.

    Les Miserables will continue to stick pins in effigies…to no avail.

    • PDB

       /  September 10, 2018

      Unfortunately for Ardern it further paints her as being more interested in smoke and mirror PR stunts then actually doing her job properly and earning respect from the people who actually vote in this country. The tide really turned for her when her mate Helen came out and essentially criticised Ardern’s weak handling of the youth camp saga.

      You’re in la la land if you fail to realise in this country the fake gold paint is quickly peeling off the Ardern pedestal.

    • David

       /  September 10, 2018

      Agree with you Blazer the international coverage is amazing and she appeals to what would make excellent tourists to NZ and buyers of our products. Key was great especially for the Chinese and top end of town but Ardern beats him hands down for the western markets.
      I hope she keeps doing loads and loads of these puff pieces overseas with the NZ backdrop and lets face it she and Clarke are very photogenic.
      She is bloody useless at PM so we might as well get some value out of her.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 10, 2018

        I wish that she’d buy and use a hairbrush. That messy, tangled look is most unprofessional and the way that she often dresses is, too. If you want people to take you seriously, you need to look the part.Miss Ardern is a bit too old for the sloppy student look.

        • robertguyton

           /  September 10, 2018

          Whip it up, Kitty – someone will…care..take notice … notice…

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  September 10, 2018

            It is just not a good look for a PM. She looks untidy and badly turned out, and this is not the way that a PM should look if they want to be taken seriously.

            • robertguyton

               /  September 10, 2018

              John was so…neat!

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 10, 2018

              He was when he was working. He never wore the male equivalent of some of her clothes. He always looked professional/

            • Gezza

               /  September 10, 2018

              John was so…neat!

              Murray wasn’t. Dunno what it is about that guy. You could put him in a coat and tails and a top hat and he’d still manage to look untidy.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 10, 2018

              Some people just don’t pay for dressing.

              A woman I knew could make a Warehouse dress look as if it came from an expensive boutique….

              I had a university friend who used to wear old overalls and looked really good in them.

            • robertguyton

               /  September 10, 2018

              He was always…working

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 10, 2018

              Yes, he was a different style of PM to the one we have now.

            • robertguyton

               /  September 10, 2018

              She’s … human…

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 10, 2018

              So are other leaders who manage to look like professionals. That’s a feeble excuse. It looks very sloppy to have unbrushed hair.

  3. PDB

     /  September 10, 2018

    Eleanor Ainge Roy based in Dunedin is the left-wing Ardern flunkey that talks the PM up in the Guardian regardless of things going downhill fast for her in reality.

  4. PDB

     /  September 10, 2018

    • Blazer

       /  September 10, 2018

      suck it up…petals…hope she hops out this summer in a polka dot…swimsuit!

      • PDB

         /  September 10, 2018

        Considering Ardern’s reputation has been crapping out since the baby has been put away for a bit then I expect a Neve summer MSM blitz is being worked on by Labour party stooges as we speak.

        • Blazer

           /  September 10, 2018

          maybe Mr Bridges can do an Abbott and swagger about Papamoa beach in…blue budgie smugglers.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  September 10, 2018

            The puce polyester satin pyjamas that she wore were appallingly tacky, as well as being most unflattering.

      • robertguyton

         /  September 10, 2018

        She wore an…

  5. david in aus

     /  September 10, 2018

    In summary: Human interest pieces, nothing to say about policies.

    Fluff and Puff with no Stuff.

    • David

       /  September 10, 2018

      To be fair she doesnt really have any policies until the 150 working groups start reporting back. Lets just be grateful for puff and unicorns and the end of plastic bags.

      • Blazer

         /  September 10, 2018

        Q to MOF Bill English…’so what policies can we look to in the next 3 years[‘
        A-‘well theres no single silver bullet’!=got nothing.

        • David

           /  September 10, 2018

          Blazer that is very naughty of you, taken well out of context when he said there was a suite of policies. English sure had his faults but policy detail and implementation wernt one of them.

      • PDB

         /  September 10, 2018

        The supermarket is covered in plastic but no ‘one-use’ bags to be had when you leave. You can buy the ‘more than one use’ plastic bags though but people were having all sorts of issues with these at the self-checkout counters where people were having to constantly ask for assistance as items couldn’t be picked up by the sensor when packed.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  September 10, 2018

        I have a cupboard full of plastic bags to last me till sanity returns.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  September 10, 2018

          Like many people, I reuse and reuse plastic bags until they split and need to go into the recycling bin at the supermarket. But I still have a large supply on hand, just in case….

          If people put things IN the white Countdown bags and then scan them, what do they expect ? What’s the POINT ?

        • Blazer

           /  September 10, 2018

          if you’re talking about your own sanity…you’ll need alot to head off the grim reaper.

    • Blazer

       /  September 10, 2018

      make this of it…she has some from from boutiques and alot of gifts that it would be rude to speculate as to where they were ..purchased.

      • robertguyton

         /  September 10, 2018

        What a thoughtful and considerate woman Jacinda is…

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 10, 2018

        The tacky puce ‘satin’ outfit didn’t look like anything that Kmart would sell.I can’t imagine who would sell something so ghastly and badly cut. It was hideously unflattering as it strained at the seams as if it was about to come undone and a total embarrassment when she wore it overseas. It looked as if she’d come out in her pyjamas.

        • robertguyton

           /  September 10, 2018

          Yeah! ‘Coz we criticised Key’s clothes rabidly

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  September 10, 2018

            Well, if he had turned up in cheap polyester clothes that were badly cut and looked as if they were a size too small, strained over a prominent puku, he would have deserved to be criticised.

            One expects the person who represents the country to look professional, not as if they are wearing their pyjamas stretched over their belly in the most unflattering way.

            • robertguyton

               /  September 10, 2018

              One does, does one?
              I don’t. Key’s expensive suits and watches were repulsive to me.
              You?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 10, 2018

              Not at all; why should they be ?

              There is no virtue in dressing badly. It;s an affectation when someone who doesn’t need to look like a frump does so.

            • Gezza

               /  September 10, 2018

              If Key wore expensive suits & watches I wouldn’t even notice or be bothered by either. I wouldn’t spend more than I needed to on either a business suit or a watch. But what kind of twisted pervert would find a suit or a watch “repulsive”?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 11, 2018

              No idea. But a good suit doesn’t draw attention to itself; good tailoring takes itself for granted. Badly cut suits are noticed. For someone like a PM, an expensive suit would be an investment, My grandfather (not a PM, I hasten to say) had his suits tailormade.

              Good tailoring’s one of those things where you know it when you see it….

              There’s a shop I know where the clothes are very simple in line; the sort of simplicity that has to be good to look good.

              A man I know has a watch that I really like; square, flat links and face, elegant but not attention-seeking. I saw it in a jeweller’s window,, it cost thousands….oh, well….

  6. Blazer

     /  September 10, 2018

    Jacinda to nitpicking,desperate haters…

  7. David Cormack: Is Jacinda Ardern a weak leader?

    He concedes mistakes were made and political management was ‘very poor’, but despite he still rates Ardern’s leadership

    There’s no doubt that Clare Curran made some serious mistakes. At best she was incredibly careless, at worst she was deceitful. There’s also no questioning that some of the political management of the whole situation has been very poor, but the Prime Minister doesn’t want her team to think that she’s going to crush them instantly without consideration. This is good leadership.

    But he makes some sweeping claims:

    There have been columns written by people who should know better. Columns that say that under-performing Ministers, or Ministers who make mistakes, should be fired instantly by the Prime Minister.

    I haven’t seen an columns claiming anything close to that.

    Nobody stays perfect either. All throughout the rugby season a lot of people said that Beauden Barrett should be dropped from the All Blacks.

    Of course no one is ever perfect, but I also haven’t seen anything like ‘a lot of people’ (or anyone) saying the Beauden should be dropped from the ABs.

    A weak column.

  8. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  September 10, 2018

    Great Post, P.G.
    I’d been following some of the Elinor Roy fluff on the Guardian, but I hadn’t realised how totally empty of substance all these pieces are.