What can Ardern achieve now?

Jacinda Ardern has been widely praised for how she has dealt with the Christchurch mosque shootings. Deservedly. She has shown compassion and empathy with eloquence and ease. Setting an example she has helped quell angst and escalation, and led the nationwide surge of tolrance and understanding.

She has been a star, dissed only by a few black a-holes (and quibbles).

But now what for Ardern? Her government has a lot of other challenges to deal with. She needs to lead there as well ( and she could do with more of her Ministers stepping up as well).

Peter Dunne comments at Newsroom:  She’s no Trump, but is that enough?

Jacinda Ardern’s compassion and empathy makes her an appealing antidote to Donald Trump –  but can she translate that to a genuinely new way of approaching government after decades of the same pragmatic political mantra? asks Peter Dunne.

There has been much international admiration for the leadership style of the Prime Minister in the wake of the Christchurch Mosque killings, but very little attempt so far to place it in any sort of context.

Dunne then runs through an interesting look at New Zealand and world political history since the major changes in the 1980s.

More recently:

Third Way type government has muddled along in most Western countries ever since. Its original proponents have long since left the political stage, but no substantive new way of thinking about government has yet emerged.

The Clark and Key Governments followed broadly the same pragmatic mantra, even if Clark now claims that her reformist zeal was constrained by the exigencies of politics of the time. The English Government’s dalliance with social investment ideas offered the prospect of a new way, but that was snuffed out when that government was ousted after only a few months.

Liberalism had threatened a brief revival in Britain after 2010 but that was also short-lived, and there are questions today about how liberalism can get in tune again with societies that are becoming more polarised, and consequently less tolerant.

The election of Trudeau in Canada in 2015 briefly held out some hope, but was actually less a defining step than a return to the status quo after nine years of Conservative rule.

Similarly with Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! movement. This centrist alternative sprung out of the French Socialist Party but the difficulties Macron has faced since coming to office suggest it may struggle to endure.

Ardern has been compared to Donald Trump.

The defining political event of the last couple of decades has been the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016. Whatever one thinks of his policies, his performance and his ethics, there is little doubt that he has shaken up the American political establishment unlike any other leader of modern times. In America, and elsewhere, politicians are now measured, invariably favourably, by the dubious standards Trump has brought to public office.

There’s some stark contrasts.

And here is where our Prime Minister shines, and becomes relevant. She is the anti-Trump in so many ways – female, not male; young not old; humble not arrogant; hard-working not lazy, warm not aloof; compassionate not disdainful; inclusive not divisive; a genuine person who is a unifier, not a narcissistic, egotist divider.

It is easy to see how she attracts the attention and admiration of the world in circumstances like Christchurch and its aftermath, given the absolute contrast she provides to Donald Trump.

But.

At the same time, however, it is still a long stretch to suggest that she represents a substantive new thread in political discourse. She almost certainly does not, and nothing she has said or done to date suggests any great philosophical depth, or makes clear what she actually stands for beyond kindness. But that may not matter all that much.

In her first 18 months as Prime Minister Ardern hinted at a new way based on kindness, but hasn’t really delivered much in the way of significant reform yet.

After the search for new ideas of the last three decades, and their less than stellar outcomes, it is arguable that people are feeling more left out, and their interests more overlooked in our political settlement than ever before.

So we may well be entering a period where what matters most to people is compassion and empathy, and an identity with leaders who reflect that. In that regard, the Prime Minister’s perceived warmth and concern for the suffering meets the mood of the time. That is what gives her relevance, which is really all that matters. And while that perception remains, she will continue to prosper.

The bigger, yet to be answered question, though, is whether and how she will seek to use the opportunity that will provide her to effect significant change. That will provide the ultimate insight into the context in which she is operating.

After her performance over the past two weeks Ardern has a lot of political capital in the bank.

One of the biggest dampeners on real reform has been Winston Peters. He has been noticeably affected by the Christchurch shootings – he even admitted having made mistakes in the past.

Ardern could capitalise on the current situation and socialise – or more accurately, step rather than creep towards the social care side of the governing equation.

The economy and the Government books are in a good state, so there may be not better opportunity than now for Ardern to become a real progressive reformer, in actions rather than in rhetoric.

We may be headed towards a brand of regulated capitalism with more emphasise on empathy and kindness, if Ardern seizes the moment.

 

 

 

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19 Comments

  1. David

     /  30th March 2019

    But seize the moment to do what ? We have one of the most generous welfare systems in the world one which never requires you to lift a finger. We have near free healthcare. Every person over a young retirement age of 65 gets a great pension and we pay some of their power bills. If you ear 50k and have 2 kids you pay no net income tax. Near free tertiary education.
    You have to be careful you dont take away peoples desire and drive to make their lives better by coddling them for life, its not a nice thing to do there is no satisfaction of being handed everything.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  30th March 2019

      I’d be interested in your…’struggle’ David!

      The reality is the rich get richer,and the inequality gap keeps widening.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  30th March 2019

        I know a fair number of rich people, although I am not one, and none of them had it handed to them. The only billionaire I know began life in a middle-class family and it’s his own brains, ability and hard work that gave him a fascinating life and a lot of money as well.If these people are rich and I am not, it’s because they were prepared to take a chance and work at something and I wasn’t.

        Reply
      • David

         /  30th March 2019

        I was a single father working 60 plus hours a week and worked my butt off to finally get ahead. Its character building and now I help others. Stupid government shouldn’t help.

        Reply
  2. alloytoo

     /  30th March 2019

    “Open and Transparent government” yes, Ardern seem very similar to Trump in that respect. However Russian interference appears to have been ruled out in Trump’s case.

    Surrounded by incompetents, yes, that too. She however seems incapable of firing them.

    Economic indicators? Higher inflation, lower business confidence and growth.

    Trump wins 3:0

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  30th March 2019

      1 out of 2….the predictable…’business confidence’…i.e business,-more handouts please like the Nats used to hand out-SKC,Rio Tinto,Warners,3 Media,consultancies,cheap state assets,subsidies,grants,…

      Reply
      • alloytoo

         /  30th March 2019

        Business confidence indicates an intention to hire and invest. (come on blazer this isn’t rocket science, it’s simple economics.)

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  30th March 2019

          economics is definately not…simple.

          Intentions…to change the Govt back to a bought and paid for one.

          Reply
  3. duperez

     /  30th March 2019

    Ms Ardern can’t deliver much in the way of significant reform. New Zealanders wouldn’t wear it. Any effort to do something dramatic would be attacked tirelessly and that coupled to ‘the end is nigh if we do it’ fear and scare narratives would see her never have the security to proceed. Of course being in the type of coalition she is in presents its own problems too.
    Her party will never get an outright majority to have ‘free licence.’

    We are destined to be a ‘fiddling around the edges’ society.

    In terms of not having delivered much of a new way based on kindness, the best thing she could do is take firm, decisive, action, demonstrating the type of leadership some crave, and round up all the unkind types and gift them to Australia.

    Like the person commenting about Ardern performing amicably in the recent circumstances: “She is incompetent, a liar, a hypocrite, and has no backbone. Now the dust is settling she has a lot of questions to answer.”

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  30th March 2019

      It’s impossible to imagine any PM not displaying empathy with the victims and immediately going there, as well as condemning the events. This is not peculiar to Ms Ardern, and I think that too much has been made of it. Thousands of people have done things. We have heard of Kiwis risking their own lives to help the victims, like the woman who bundled survivors into her car. JA has had more publicity for doing less than many others have done. I don’t know how many millions have been raised by now – all done by ordinary Kiwis. Then there are the ones who have done things like cooking meals for the victims. One woman made a lot of halal meals; I would certainly appreciate it if someone made a lot of vegetarian ones !

      The PM is inevitably the public face, but her contribution pales by comparison with the others.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  30th March 2019

        Do you ever check yourself …? Its seen worldwide as finest example of leadership. meanwhile you are seen as the constant naysayer and preacher of negativism.

        many of those at Christchurch will be recognized for their outstanding bravery and service, that you try and warp yourself their courage is distressing. Muslim survivors from the Mosques have praised Ardern- learn something from their grace.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  30th March 2019

          What about everyone else who did great things ? She didn’t risk her life to save a stranger. Everyone knows who she is; they don’t know the two women who stopped and assisted people they didn’t know while a massacre was taking place across the road.

          How on earth you see this as warping their courage shows your own warped mind. Nobody but you could see saying that someone risked their own life to save someone else as that. You seem to be one of these people who has to be disagreeable as well as pointlessly disagreeing.

          She was the public face of the NZ response, but she was not alone in rising to the occasion.

          Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  30th March 2019

          Your nastiness shows that you see only what you want to see and warp people’s words into your own mould.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  30th March 2019

            The post by PG is about the ongoing political mix. Why couldnt you maintain the obvious Ardern derangement syndrome to the general politics.
            But no, an obvious to everyone except you example of outstanding leadership, is subject to graceless comments , as though you can get away with it by wrapping your self in praise of others heroism. That may be common attitude in israeli politics but we can do without it here.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  30th March 2019

              That is really stupid,. Your second sentence makes little sense.

              People will express views that are different to yours, ducky, get used to it or start your own blog in which only toadies and yesmen are allowed to post. I am not going to pander to you.

              The heading ‘What Can Ardern Achieve Now ? is a hint that it’s about her.

              I wonder if your bile is because you are anti-Semitic. Your problem, not mine.

              You set up straw men and put words in people’s mouths, the last resort of those who can’t reason so have to sink to that level. Your trolling is pathetic. If I said that the sky was blue, it would be greeted with abuse from you, I suspect.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  30th March 2019

              I take it that you are unaware of the KiwiBuild fiasco, the $200,000 or whatever it was use of an airforce plane as the PM’s private air taxi so that she didn’t have to leave the baby for a day, the public transport non-event, the Labour Youth Camp where there was unlimited drink available to underage drinkers and the PM was a speaker, and so on and so on. Her recent actions don’t cancel those out.

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  30th March 2019

    Every generation has its demons. For this one it appears to be free speech and thought that is too hard to bear and must be regulated all the while paying lip service to the pretend bogey of climate change.

    What will Ardern do? Continue closing stable doors and increasing regulation

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  30th March 2019

      Free speech is just another rhetoric weapon of the right – here in NZ.
      As recently as 2011 or so Farrar current supporter of the Free Speech Coalition when it came to Canadian alt_right activists, said it was all about ‘right to protest’ when it was a maori man Hone Harawira who a university cancelled on him.
      Of course it campus young nats who were doing the protesting.
      https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2011/05/the_right_to_protest.html
      ‘Law student Charlotte Summers said the Faculty of Law cancelled the lecture on the basis of “there may be a breach of the peace”.
      She said the Young Nationals organisation was behind the protest.

      Reply
      • The Consultant

         /  30th March 2019

        You never tire of repeating that lie, Duker, but I will give you credit for providing the link to the original Kiwiblog article. Key points:

        The Facebook page about the protest is here. Having had a brief look I don’t see any suggestion they were going to go into the lecture and shout Hone down. They were going to protest outside, and they specifically said that if any go inside, “we will give Hone a chance to speak, we will listen and we will ask constructive questions while expressing our displeaure in his racial hatred and gutter politics”.

        So no threat of even shouting him down or de-platforming, which is all the rage with Woke Left around the world at the moment. The protest was going to be outside, as thousands of others have been there over the decades.

        It was the Law Faculty that cancelled Hone’s speech on the basis that there may be a breach of the peace. That’s their right, but also gutless and pathetic on their part, very much anti free-speech, typical of many university administrations around the world, but not the fault of the Young Nats.

        As for Hone’s grizzle about it, well he needed to direct that at the Law Faculty rather than targeting the Young Nats as “a bunch of rednecks”. But Hone is 100% political and racist 100% of the time, and of course 100% hypocrisy as DPF pointed out that Hone’s protests in the past have involved a shit load more threats of violence and disruption to speakers he did not approve of, and actual violence and disruption, than anything the Young Nats could have conjured up.

        Reply

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