Ardern – from ‘transformative’ to conservative

In the 2017 election campaign and after taking over as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promoted herself as ‘transformative’, she promised a major focus on climate change describing it as ‘the nuclear free issue of her time’, and she promised to put a priority on dealing with child poverty.

This election Ardern is promoting as little as possible apart from her record as a manager of crises, in particular the largely successful management of the Covid pandemic.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warns voters not to expect big Labour Party policies this election

Speaking to RNZ this morning, Ardern said voters should not expect a “large-scale range of policies” from Labour this election.

“What we will be doing over this election period is adding some additional aspects [of policy],” she said.

“But I would flag to voters not to expect to see the large scale manifestos that are a significant departure from what we are doing.”

Instead, she said her “big focus” was on the Covid-19 recovery.

“Ultimately, what needs to be done, we are already rolling out.”

At the last election, Labour campaigned on a number of big-ticket policies, such as building 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, fees-free tertiary education and extending paid parental leave.

Ardern this morning suggested that new policy ideas on this type of scale were off the table for Labour this election.

Politically this is understandable – going buy recent polls Ardern and Labour could sleep walk to victory next month, and it’s quite possible they will be able to rule alone.

Last election Ardern and Labour made ‘promises’ they couldn’t keep.

This election they seem determined to make no promises despite them having a much better chance of keeping them.

Her main opponent, Judith Collins, is goading Ardern on her lack of policies.

Stuff: Judith Collins slams Jacinda Ardern for lack of election policy

National leader Judith Collins has attacked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for announcing almost no policy ahead of September’s election, accusing the prime minister of “hiding”.

Collins said Ardern was “incapable of delivering anything but slogans” and promised to have a “rolling maul” of policies herself.

“What we’re seeing [from Labour] is no policy at all. We’re going to have a rolling maul of policies ahead of the election,” Collins said.

“Hiding away is never a way to win an election.”

Ardern was asked about the relative lack of policy at her post-Cabinet press conference on Monday.

She said the next three years had been somewhat “predetermined” by Covid-19, meaning her Government’s plan to get through the economic impact of that crisis would form much of Labour’s policy.

“We have already laid out a very significant plan, including a very significant investment regime, as part of our plan on Covid recovery and rebuild,” Ardern said.

Labour’s approach is working for now, but will it sustain high levels of support through the campaign?

They have been criticised,with some justification, for not delivering on major policies this term, like housing, tax (CGT), social welfare reform, child poverty.

Now criticism of their lack of policies is gathering steam.

And most genuine concern about her approach is not coming from political opponents on right.

Bernard Hickey at Newsroom: A second term PM for crises and the status quo

Where once she campaigned as a transformer, Jacinda Ardern will ask for a second term as simply a manager of the post-1989 tax and welfare status quo, and of the Covid-19 recovery. That’s despite having the potential political power to govern without the moderating ‘hand brake’ of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

In political circles, it is known as the ‘low target’ strategy: offer little obvious change from the status quo to give your opponent few clear pain points to target you on the grounds you want to ‘hurt’ one part of the electorate or another. It is essentially a conservative strategy, often employed by conservative parties in government. 

This week Jacinda Ardern revealed herself as a small ‘c’ conservative, focused on maintaining the current shape and (historically and comparatively small) size of government, but with a friendlier face. She confirmed Labour had no plans for major new spending or tax or welfare reform in the last full post-Cabinet news conference of her first term. Instead, voters should look at the Government’s current achievements, its plans for Covid-19 recovery and Budget 2020’s debt track as an indicator of ‘steady-as-she-goes’. There is no more. That is it. 

After months of wondering if she was about to flex her new and larger political muscles to pull a big policy rabbit out of the hat, she tapped the hat, turned it upside down, asked us to peer inside at the emptiness, and put it back down on the table: a popular magician without a trick who doesn’t harm rabbits.

Ardern’s only obvious ambition is winning, despite being in a strong position to promote progressive transformation type initiatives.

It is giving Collins and National a chance of clawing back some support so they don’t lose too badly.

It is giving the Greens the most opportunity. They say that for real transformation and significant change, especially on climate change and social issues, a decent Green vote will put them in a strong balance of power position.

Time will tell whether this campaign strategy will hold up through the campaign.

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  1. David

     /  5th August 2020

    NZ is run exceptionally well, all of our legislation has an eye to the treaty and to Maori disadvantage or opportunity hence we dont have the problems other countries have where favoured groups interests are looked after to the detriment of society.
    There is really nothing all that much that needs changing and Ardern has learned that promising fundamental change is not popular in NZ. Collins is just promising basically to run the place better but changing little either.
    90% of NZers are generally happy with our duopoly its a smart move from someone with Arderns lack of ability to get her team to perform, she is playing to her strengths as a caring huggy communicator not a person who delivers well crafted legislation.

  2. John J Harrison

     /  5th August 2020

    Pete, little wonder Jacinda won’t repeat the “ transformative “ slogan this election.
    According to her , the key policy she took for herself of reducing child poverty has seen the the numbers explode by nearly 300% — a mega fail.
    Whether it be Kiwibuild, planting 1 billion trees or even having a modicum of ability in her cabinet, NZ under her leadership has been witness to her many failures.
    Leaving retirees out of the equation, the beneficiary numbers have skyrocketed with an increasing number turning our overly generous payments for staying “ on the couch “into an art form .
    They simply regard the substantial payment they receive as a hammock and not a safety net.
    Her “ transformation “ policies have thus resulted in hard working backpackers employed to do the work that our lazy beneficiaries were expected to do.
    But why should they ?
    After all they get far more lying on the couch than they would doing some good honest work which is now an anathema to them.
    Their sense of entitlement has been “ transformative “ .
    Meanwhile, the hard working taxpayers can look forward to being taxed into oblivion if Jacinda and her team regain the role of government.

  3. David

     /  5th August 2020

    Arderns policy of saying she is focused on Covid might explain the sudden reappearance of the government Covid adverts appearing everywhere. Maybe scaring the population into voting for her is part of the plan…on the taxpayers dime.

    • Blazer

       /  5th August 2020

      either that or the 2nd waves of Covid others are experiencing means we need to be…ever vigilant.

  4. Reply
  5. Barbara McKenzie

     /  5th August 2020

    Surely this has been the most transformative government in the history of New Zealand! Consider:
    – The large number of measures to bribe all and sundry to convert farming to forestry, so that purchase of pasture with intent to farm is no longer viable. The measures including allowing overseas concerns to buy farmland (designated “sensitive land”) but only on condition they convert it. One Gisborne farmer said last year, “If sheep and beef farms convert to forestry on a nationwide scale at just half the rate that has occurred in Wairoa this last year, there will be no sheep and beef farms left by 2050”.
    – Zero Carbon Act. Whether you really believe CO2 is warming the planet, when it can’t even warm a greenhouse, it makes no sense for NZers to carry China and India, ruining the economy in the process, just to set a good example
    – The large number of measures to erase private property rights, from the Indigenous Biodiversity statement to allow councils to give reserve status to home gardens, to the Urban Development Bill, which will allow developers, especially iwi, to do deals with the housing authority to compulsorily purchase private land for development – anyone with a home on a flat sunny section should look out.
    – The government’s latest statement on urban development will pave the way for our cities to be transformed into high-density living in apartment blocks next to the railway station.
    – Child abusive educational policies, including grooming children from the age of 5 for gender transition, and bullying children to becoming climate activists.

    • Duker

       /  5th August 2020

      Paris Climate accord… signed by our then climate Ministers Bennett and Bridges
      Zero Carbon Act, passed with unanimous support from national
      The farms into Forests was allowed by the previous government…why not market rules, mostly hill country anyway , and better blocks will continue being farmed.

  6. Blazer

     /  5th August 2020

    -have a look at how much forestry land was converted to Dairy….!
    -Also the big cost of irrigation to boost dairy in Southland.
    -Climate change and its repercussions are acknowledged all around the world.
    -Nationals RMA does need tweaking-yes.
    -there is more to transport than ROADS and more ROADS.
    -your last paragraph is offensive,nonsense.

  7. Duker

     /  5th August 2020

    “Now criticism of their lack of policies is gathering steam….”

    New spending is ruled out by the costs of Covid.. and a lot of things that might have been election time proposals were quickly implemented both just before and during budget time the substantial benefit increase ( more than 10% on top of cost of living as well as the growth to be matched to wages not prices)

    National seems to think spending more ( on roads as pork barrell) and reducing debt ( quietly to business groups) will somehow play out . They have had more leaders this term than policies.


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