Stardust in New York but Ardern’s New Zealand garden needs urgent attention

There has been a huge contrast between Jacinda Ardern wowing the world with her week in New York, and they stuttering struggles of her government back in New Zealand.

On New York

NZ Herald editorial: Stardust and substance – PM Jacinda Ardern at the United Nations in New York

Although embattled Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been facing flak on various fronts at home this week, there can be little doubt she has delivered both “stardust” and substance in New York.

She has certainly been in demand on the sidelines, undertaking interviews with media and talk show heavyweights CNN and The Late Show, meeting UN goodwill ambassador and actress Anne Hathaway, and generating media interest the world over with pics of her baby Neve in tow in those hallowed halls.

The images of a smiling, capable, young, progressive female leader and young mum are priceless PR. Some of the engagements may have seemed trivial, but Ardern has ensured mention of motherhood and even hobbits have presented an opportunity to highlight New Zealand as a tourist destination and a progressive, supportive, inclusive society.

She has met other heads of state, taken part in a range of substantive meetings, discussions and panels on issues such as climate change, trade and the sustainable development goals. She has talked about refugees, steel tariffs, foreign investment, foreign aid, gender equality, child poverty, compassion and collaboration.

She has been nothing but diplomatic about US President Donald Trump in the face of difficult meetings on trade and many testing questions – not to mention outright contempt from the General Assembly floor in what must be one of the most extraordinary scenes in that chamber ever witnessed.

Ardern has effectively and memorably presented New Zealand’s interests and values to world leaders and a global audience. Job done.

And generally, done very well. Good on her for that.

Duncan Garner: Jacinda Ardern was masterful in trumping the Don

The prime minister returns from New York this weekend as the big apple in the eyes of her many international admirers.

Her international stocks are high, she’s played her limited cards superbly, and she made dancing through the foreign affairs minefield look effortless.

In reality, it’s not as easy as she made it look, especially with America (well, Trump) all passive-aggressive, and isolationist. In short, Ardern smashed it out of the park.

But she also painted a rosier picture than reality back in New Zealand.

And guess what? The PM got away with not telling the world how we have failed spectacularly to curb our carbon emissions and how they continue to grow at unsustainable levels.

We also don’t punish our big polluters, we don’t punish pollution from transport, we don’t have incentives to drive electric cars, and we can’t swim in 60 per cent of our rivers.

Imagine if Ardern had told the truth about us overseas.

She wouldn’t have been so lauded and applauded if she had.

She didn’t go to Woodstock while she was in the US, but some lyrics come to mind.

We are stardust
We are golden
But we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden

Ardern now has to get herself back to the New Zealand garden, where the pests and weeds look like getting out of control.

John Armstrong:  Jacinda Ardern must stop the rot in ‘drunken sailor’ Government

Stop the rot. And stop it quickly. That has to be Jacinda Ardern’s absolute priority on her return from overseas.

The incumbent three-party governing arrangement was displaying all the coherence and co-ordination of the proverbial drunken sailor long before the Prime Minister left for the relative sanctuary of a Winston Peters-free New York.

The unwieldy contraption has since appeared to be even more sloshed in her absence as its components stumble from one mini-crisis to the next minor scandal with such regularity that you can almost set your watch by it.

This three-headed hydra needs to go on the wagon — and pretty darned soon.

Viewed in isolation, each blunder or botch-up has not amounted to very much in the grand scheme of things.

Viewed in total, however, the various mishaps and miscues add up to a fair-sized catalogue of catastrophe.

Voters will soon forget the details of who was involved in each episode of woe and what happened and when.

What will stick in their minds from this epidemic of embarrassment will be the hard-to-erase impression that Ardern’s regime is riddled with incompetence.

It will leave the public wondering whether Ardern has lost control. That is where the damage is really being done.

Ardern’s has fiddled with aplomb on the world stage, while her government shows increasing signs that it risks crashing and burning.

In her Speech from the Throne last November Ardern said something that highlights the gulf between some of her rhetoric and reality: “This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information”

NZ Herald editorial: Govt’s greater transparency vow nowhere to be seen

The Government’s domestic woes continue this week even as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continues to bask in the global limelight in New York.

First there was the fallout from Derek Handley’s released communications in the chief technology officer saga, then there were allegations in Parliament which reminded the public about the investigations regarding recently appointed Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha.

Now, the Department of Internal Affairs is set to investigate how the draft report of the investigation into the Meka Whaitiri incident was leaked to the Herald.

The draft report finds it was agreed Whaitiri did have words with her press secretary for not alerting her to a photo opportunity with the PM during a function in Gisborne. It showed the staff member was allegedly left with bruising to her arm.

Although Whaitiri denies touching the staffer, David Patten, the lawyer who conducted the inquiry, found on the balance of probabilities the staff member’s version that she was grabbed was the more likely explanation of what happened.

That is damning — and clearly what led to Ardern’s sacking of Whaitiri as a minister last Thursday, a day after seeing the draft report.

So why the ongoing secrecy?

At the very least it raises questions about anger management and suitability for public office. And, for those who believe the alleged incident is minor, teachers now have strict new rules that prohibit manhandling pupils.

The public had the right to know exactly why Whaitiri was stripped of one of her roles. It would still be helpful to know why she was deemed okay to remain the Māori caucus co-chair, or whether there was any thought of expulsion from the party.

This Government promised to usher in a new level of transparency and openness. But there has been little evidence it is any more transparent than any other administration it seeks to better.

So returning from the euphoria of a very successful trip to New York Ardern has a lot to do in her real job, as Prime Minister in a government that looks lacking in leadership beyond Winston Peters’ wagging of the Labour dog, with the Green flea clinging on.

Ardern only had a temporary gig at the United Nations, for now at least.  She will return to a far more difficult job as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

The stardust of New York won’t keep masking the garden back home looking increasingly unkempt.

Out with the not very old Aussie PM, in with the new

Our relatively) close neighbours the Aussies have a new Prime Minister that most Kiwis are unlikely to have heard of (Scott Morrison, after two leadership votes in a week. The deposing of Malcolm Turnbull adds to the procession of Australian Prime Ministers who have failed to see out a term in office, earning Canberra the label of “the coup capital of the Pacific”.

Guardian: Australia’s new PM is Scott Morrison as moderate Malcolm Turnbull is forced out

Australia has a new prime minister in Scott Morrison – the socially conservative architect of Australia’s hardline anti-asylum seeker policies – after he mounted a late challenge during a drawn-out struggle for power in the governing Liberal party.

On Friday, incumbent Malcolm Turnbull failed in his attempt to stare down a challenge from hard right MP Peter Dutton, with insurgents in his party gathering enough signatures to call for a “spill” – or leadership contest.

There appears no end in sight to the civil war consuming the ruling Liberal-led coalition government. The country may be headed to an election, with Turnbull saying he will not stay in parliament. His resignation in between general elections would erase the government’s single-seat majority in the House of Representatives.

Australia has now had five prime ministers in just over five years. Since 2010, four prime ministers have lost office, not at the ballot box, but torn down by their own parties, earning Canberra the unhappy appellation “the coup capital of the Pacific”.

So who is Scott Morrison?

Morrison was treasurer in Turnbull’s administration, and before that, as immigration minister, he was behind Australia’s controversial hardline asylum-seeker policies – including indefinite detention on remote foreign islands.

So that stain on Australia’s reputation may not end before the next election at least.

The son of a policeman and an active member of a Sydney Pentecostal evangelical megachurch, Morrison wears his political ambition and his conservative credentials proudly.

He voted no in Australia’s plebiscite on same-sex marriage, listed “church” as one of his interests in his Who’s Who report, and regards former prime minister John Howard as his political inspiration.

Before his election to parliament in 2007 he was a factional kingpin in the rightwing of the New South Wales Liberal party.

Maybe less right wing than the twice-in-a-week unsuccessful Peter Dutton, but Morrison looks like a move right at a time when they might be heading into an election that may be determined by voters in between the major parties.

Turnbull has sounded some warnings.

In his valedictory speech, Turnbull sounded a warning against the rising tide of populist anti-immigration political rhetoric, promoted from within his own party. “We are the most successful multicultural society in the world, and I have always defended that and advanced that as one of our greatest assets,” he said. “We must never allow the politics of race or division or of setting Australians against each other to become part of our political culture.”

Turnbull also made another thinly veiled swipe at actors “outside the parliament” undermining his leadership – widely interpreted as an attack on the influence of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation newspapers and TV channels, which have consistently campaigned against him.

We are likely to go back to largely ignoring Aussie politics until the next democratic dumping, be it by general election (that mightn’t be far away) or by caucus.

MP’s pay frozen pending ‘fairer system’

The Prime Minister has announced that MP’s salaries and allowances would be frozen for a year “while developing a fairer formula for future pay increases”: MP pay frozen and fairer system for increases developed

“Today Cabinet agreed to freeze MP Pay till July 2019, and to reassess the funding formula used by the Authority to ensure it is fair and in keeping with this Government’s expectations and values,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“I have notified all party leaders of this decision.

The  Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway said the Government needed to take action before the Remuneration Authority initiated new pay rates.

“Because of the timing of the annual increase process set in the Act, we need to use an urgent legislative process, aiming for introduction in September.

“This means we need to amend the Remuneration Authority Act 1977 to suspend new Determinations by the Remuneration Authority and restore the 2017 Parliamentary Salaries and Allowances Determination until 30 June 2019,” Iain Lees-Galloway said.

Ardern spoke more about it at yesterday’s weekly media conference.

RNZ: MPs’ salaries to be frozen for a year

The Remuneration Authority recently determined an increase of about three percent for the coming year, which Ms Ardern said did not feel right.

Urgent legislation will have to be passed in order for the freeze to take effect before the Remuneration Authority’s increase comes into force.

Jacinda Ardern said she has told other party leaders about the changes.

“They were brief conversations, obviously [government support] partners and I had an earlier conversation with and they are totally supportive.

“I’ve just got off the phone to [National leader] Simon Bridges and [ACT leader] David Seymour and the general sentiment I sense from them was complete understanding of the situation, and reading between the lines I think they probably agreed with the move as well.”

Ms Ardern said the move was about the government’s values.

“We are focussed on lifting the incomes of low and middle income earners and we also acknowledge that there has been an increasing gap between those income earners and those at the other end.

“We are at the other end. It’s just not right for us to have an increase like that currently and so we want to change the way that our increases are calculated in the future.”

This looks like a symbolic gesture, and a vague one at that.She gave no indication what the ‘fairer system’ would look like.

Ardern seems to think it wouldn’t look right to get a wage increase of about 3% while wage negotiations for 10-16% are taking place for teachers. It certainly looks like an odd move by her.

Is it fair for the Prime Minister to decide when MP salaries should rise, or whether they sshould rise, or what uis fair?

The Remuneration Authority is required by law to determine a pay increase which is in line with rises across the public service, but the prime minister has asked the funding formula to be reassessed, she said, to ensure it is fair and in keeping with her Government’s expectations and values.

More vagueness.

Would it be fairer for MP’s salaries to fall behind public servant salaries?

Would it be fairer for public servant salaries to be frozen pending the introduction of ‘a fairer system’?

Would it be fair to say that Ardern is making a symbolic gesture that will be nothing more than a delay to suit her purposes?

Stuff: Government freezes MPs pay amid multiple pay negotiations with educators, police

MPs’ pay is set by the independent Remuneration Authority – a process that deliberately keeps the annual pay review at arms-length from the politicians.

However, the Government has the power to set the criteria that the authority applies and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a review of the act that governs the process.

Another review, with scant details.

The 2016 decision of the Remuneration Authority saw MPs get a 2.5 per cent pay rise across the board. Ardern earns $459,739, with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters on $326,697.

Ministers inside Cabinet earn $288,900, with those outside Cabinet on a $243,841 wicket. As leader of the Opposition, Bridges is on $288,900, and for other party leaders, a base salary of $175,398 is supplemented with add-ons depending on the size of the party.

A backbench MP with no additional responsibilities earns $160,024.

Allowances were awarded on top of those figures, which took care of “out-of-pocket expenses” related to the job.

Quite generous salaries, but they are jobs with huge responsibilities and especially for the PM and ministers, heavy workloads.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said MPs should eventually only get the same pay rise as the average worker, “in dollar terms”

“MPs are paid well above the average worker, so giving them a percentage rise accentuates their higher pay. When it is right for MPs to get a rise, they should get the same in dollar terms as what the average worker receives.”

So MP salaries would gradually fall behind public servant salary levels.

Would Davidson also want that same system applied to public servants and government workers?

Graeme Edgeler suggests:

Automatically index to inflation just before the election to cover the whole next term

Then it wouldn’t be a political decision, nor a political embarrassment during the term.

 

Back to Parliament, back to business for Ardern

Jacinda Ardern took back control as Prime Minister last week after six weeks maternity leave, and returned to Parliament yesterday. After a few days of media fawning and puff pieces it was finally back to business.

Tracey Watkins: It’s a business as usual return for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

It hasn’t exactly been business as usual with all the baby distractions, but Ardern needs to get back to business quickly.

If plummeting business confidence was the thorn in Labour’s side before Ardern went on leave, it’s now a knife that keeps being twisted a little deeper each day.

Treasury is the latest to feel the knife’s edge. Its latest report on the economy admits rosy growth forecasts in the May budget might have to be revised downward due to the drop in business confidence and a cooling housing market. But Treasury is arriving at this party late. Nearly every bank economist has already come to the same conclusion that falling business confidence may have some very concrete effects.

Ardern’s return offered an opportunity for a reset – a gesture to business that the the Government has been listening and is willing to try and meet them, if not halfway, then some of the way.

But there was no olive branch from Ardern – just push back on the disconnect between business confidence and New Zealand’s economic performance.

So a challenging time for Ardern.

And she is being challenged. Barry Soper: ‘Trade for All’ agenda another announcement without substance

It’s a bit like putting the produce-laden cart before the lumbering Clydesdale as the Government tries to bring the public on board with free trade deals and what they’re calling a ‘Trade for All’ agenda.

This soft sell to the public was Jacinda Ardern’s first big announcement after putting her feet under the Beehive’s Cabinet table yesterday.

And just like all Government announcements without substance they’re setting up a board to advise on how to woo the great unwashed when it comes to trade. And as usual they’ve appointed the chair with the boardroom chairs to be filled later, or as the blurb said “in due course”.

Their blurb was stating the bleedingly obvious, they want trade benefits to flow to all New Zealanders, they want them to be felt throughout the country, not just in the major cities. Like the last Government did, trying unsuccessfully to sell the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they’ll be holding meetings and hui around the country over the next couple of months.

It’s a government’s job to govern and those who run this trading nation from the Beehive should get on with the business rather than engaging focus groups and crowd sourcing to make everyone happy about what is after all New Zealand’s bread and butter and always has been.

It seems to be a kick the can down the advisory board government.

Ardern has had a break. She now needs to step up and show that she can lead the Government and lead the country, more so than she has done so far.

And business is a big issue for her to deal with – as soon as possible, not waiting for the results of an inquiry.

 

The Prime Minister and baby balancing act

Jacinda Ardern ‘returned to work’ in her role of Prime Minister yesterday. Sort of. She took over prime ministerial responsibilities from acting PM Winston Peters, but remained in Auckland (she will return to parliament next week).

Ardern released selected photos of her, Clarke Gaygord and baby Neve, and gave some media interviews that focussed a lot on the baby and how that would affect her work.

It may have been laid on a bit thick, and it was slammed by some (the types who would slam anything done by Ardern, but I think generally this was a reasonable way to start. There was always going to be a lot of attention given to the mother-baby stuff, so best to give the media something.

As long as it mostly stays at that. That is up to the media to be reasonable, and also up to Jacinda not to exploit it with orchestrated distractions – she pulled a stunt like that on Sunday which appeared to be a deliberate attempt to distract from Simon bridges at the National Party conference.

Ardern is extremely lucky to be able to integrate parenting with her work. Most parents are either not able to do that, or choose to devote work time to work and make arrangements for baby care. I’ve done that (quite a while ago), being responsible for night time feeds with expressed milk while the mother was away working.

Teachers, nurses, police, fire, ambulance, retail, hospitality, court, construction – most parents who work know that it simply isn’t feasible (or professional) to care for a baby during their work hours.

So highly paid prime ministers and MPs are a very privileged minority when it comes to this.

Ardern wants to change attitudes to mothers and work. It may change how mothers can work as politicians, but it is unlikely to change the practicalities and realities for most parents.

It will now be up to Ardern and the media to get the right balance of work versus parent coverage.

I’m fine with Ardern giving occasional stage managed coverage of her family – so long as she doesn’t exploit this for publicity and political purposes.

She still has a very important job to do, a job she volunteered to do and negotiated her way into. As a mother of a baby she should be cut a bit of slack, but she has a challenging balancing act ahead of her.

There is no way she can escape the spotlight. She may well shine as a working mother, but she risks a voter backlash if she abuses her family situation politically.

Ardern in action as Prime Minister again

Most of New Zealand will probably notice little if any difference, but Jacinda Ardern has resumed her duties as Prime Minister after taking six weeks of maternity leave.

Ardern will have to be careful to keep as much focus on her public role as possible, and keep her private life and baby as private as possible – unless she chooses to play the baby card as a distraction from issues facing the country.

And Ardern has a lot to try and get on top of.

A key cause of concern should be dropping business confidence, and warnings and symptoms that the New Zealand economy may be heading for tougher times.

Ardern’s Government has a number of poorly performing Ministers, so will need to show more leadership, and give some indication she can manage the ship.

Conveniently Winston Peters is disappearing overseas for a while, avoiding any chance of an awkward handover. This week Peters was showing signs that he had had enough of trying to appear like a respectable statesman, slipping back into his habits arrogance, petulance and combativeness.

So it’s now up to Ardern to show that she can focus on leading Government and running the country.

And the media should also focus on the important issues and the conduct of Government without getting dragged down into an obsession with baby stuff. I don’t know if they are capable of getting the balance right here.

Ardern needs to show that leadership is her priority. That could be challenging for her.

We will find out over the next few weeks how she manages being Prime Minister for the country alongside mother for her family.

 

Winston’s winter of disarray

The country has survived six weeks of Winston Peters as acting Prime Minister, but it has left a number of issues in limbo, And it has not been without some controversies.

Peters isn’t wholly responsible for ongoing disarray in Government that he largely inherited from Jacinda Ardern, but he hasn’t helped it either.

Peters’ disdain for parliamentary processes was on show yesterday – see Bridges versus Peters – a surprise conclusion. One notable feature of the last few weeks has been deteriorating business confidence, and Peters tried to laugh it off.

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff):  Peters may have prolonged the uncertainty surrounding the Government

History is likely to remember the winter of 2018 fondly, whatever discontent is being shown by business now.

For Peters, the spell as acting prime minister appears to fulfil something of a career-long dream, and the NZ First leader appears to be winning plaudits for his performance. At the least, it seems it could have gone worse.

The end of his time in the chair appears designed to be dramatic. As he departs for an international trip as foreign minister – a relatively rare thing compared to the travel schedules of his predecessors – Ardern will resume duties at midnight tonight.

In reality though, there is less to his stepping down than meets the eye. With a new Government already struggling to explain to the business community what it is about, the past six weeks have simply prolonged the uncertainty.

Ardern is certainly returning to some significant challenges.

Peters hasn’t messed things up, but he has left a number of messy and unresolved issues that really need leadership – business confidence for one, also the cannabis issue, Kiwibuild and others.

But nor has this winter helped build familiarity in the new administration at a time when the economy is facing a tricky transition, with the boom in the construction sector behind us and the growth in tourism slowing.

In many ways, for business, uncertainty is worse than bad news, as there is almost nothing which can be done to adapt to it or plan for it.

Jacinda Ardern has made restoring business confidence one of the Government’s priorities.

Whether or not she can convince employers to share her vision, her return will at least give better direction on what it is her Government stands for.

We are yet to see what Ardern’s return will mean. So far her Government has suffered from a distinct lack of direction and leadership from when she took over last November.

She has had some time out from politics. perhaps that has given her an opportunity to look at the bigger Government picture and see how she needs to step up.

Prime Minister PR plans, if the baby plays ball

The all important PR plans around the birth of Jacinda Ardern’s baby have been announced.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s plans following the birth of her baby

The Prime Minister’s Office has released details of arrangements around the birth of the Prime Minister’s baby.

The baby – the first child for Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford – is due on June 17.

While the couple are happy to share with the public some moments with their new baby they ask that media respect the family’s privacy in the weeks set aside to be together after the birth, and during private family moments.

The following details outline plans for the birth, and the following six weeks:

  • Jacinda Ardern is planning to have the baby at Auckland Hospital.
  • The couple will announce the birth. A formal announcement from the Prime Minister’s office will follow.
  • There are contingency plans in place for the birth in the event the Prime Minister is not in Auckland.
  • They will not be making other announcements or conducting any one-on-one interviews related to the birth prior to the birth.
  • They will not be giving any exclusive media interviews, or offering any exclusive photo opportunities, prior to Jacinda Ardern’s return to work.
  • There will, however, be an opportunity for media to take photos as they leave the hospital and the Prime Minister will answer a small number of questions.
  • Due to the high level of interest, the Prime Minister will also give one round of interviews to major domestic media outlets close to the time she returns to work. This will be the only formal media opportunity in relation to the new baby.

Tacked on to the end of this New Zealand Government Press Release is a minor bit of information:

Transition to Acting Prime Minister

At the point that Jacinda Ardern arrives at hospital to have the baby, Acting Prime Minister responsibilities will begin for Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

Not sure what will happen if the baby is born in the taxi before getting to the hospital. The probably have a press release prepared for that.

It’s worth nothing that ‘due date’ is not a promise. It could be up to a couple of weeks later than this.

I’m sure the media will be well informed about it when it happens.

A pointless poll on pregnancy and politics

1 News got Colmar Brunton to do a pointless poll on Jacindas Ardern’s performance as PM while being a mother. It is likely to be a month or two before she becomes a mother, so how does anyone know?

1 News: Becoming a mum won’t have an effect on Jacinda Ardern’s performance as PM – 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll

Political commentator Jennifer Lees-Marshment says in an ideal world it would not be a topic for discussion.

Media commissioning polls to create populist ‘news’ is not ideal either, but it has become normal click-bait creating practice.

Experts say that the Prime Minister is a role model for working women.

Global Women board member Felicity Evans says “seeing her adequately and brilliantly doing her job whilst being a mum and being pregnant. It’s perfect.”

That sounds like just one ‘expert’. Using terms like ‘brilliantly ‘ and ‘perfectly’ doesn’t sound like objective expert assessment.

In response to that Ms Ardern says, “I’m no superwoman and I wouldn’t want to give that impression.”

“The fact that I am able to do what I’m doing and be a mother at the same time is because I have a huge amount of support around me.”

Support is very important, and it will be particularly important once Ardern has her baby. It will still be a big challenge for her – she may take it in her political stride, but there is no way of knowing how it will go until it happens.

By then 1 News will have probably moved on the more important polls, like what the baby’s name should be.

Big overseas trip for Ardern – and for the Government

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has set off on an international trip for a couple of weeks. It began with a visit to the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast yesterday. She then goes to Europe to meet with the leaders of Germany and France, and then on to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London.

She is also scheduled to visit the Queen – that’s right up Ardern’s celebrity PR style alley.

Trade will be high on Ardern’s political agenda.

It will be interesting to see how things play out here in her absence, given the difficult last month for the Government.

Craig McCulloch (RNZ): CHOGM great chance for PM to be gone

The trip comes at a pivotal time in international relations – roughly one year ahead of the United Kingdom’s final departure from the European Union. Much of the focus then will be on trade.

New Zealand is ready to jump into bed with the EU as soon as the member states hit the green-light on negotiations.

Officials here hope that could come in the next few months and former Trade Minister Todd McClay understands a date is set for late May.

As for the UK, it’s already signalled New Zealand will be one of the first cabs off the rank for a trade agreement.

But official negotiations can’t Bregin till Britain formally Brexits (sorry) in March next year.

At that point, the UK will go into a 21-month transition phase during which it can finally start negotiating deals.

CHOGM has always been regarded as one of the less-important global events – a bi-annual gab-fest between former British colonies.

…it’s the first since the Brexit vote and the first in London in more than three decades.

Leaders from all but two of the 53 Commonwealth countries are to attend. In previous years, as many as half didn’t turn up.

CHOGM is unlikely to hit many headlines.

The photo opportunities too will be priceless for the Prime Minister. Her media team will be hanging out for that shot of her alongside the similarly-youthful Emmanuel Macron. And don’t forget the Queen. Never forget the Queen.

The media are unlikely to let anyone forget the Queen, who is old enough to be Ardern’s grandmother. Irrelevant pap is likely to get the most attention.

Both Ms Ardern and Foreign Minister Winston Peters will use the opportunity to do the rounds and meet some new faces.

With both Ardern and Peters overseas (a problem when you have the deputy PM as Foreign Minister) who will be fronting up for the Government here?

Labours deputy leader Kelvin Davis? he has been virtually anonymous since performing poorly after his sudden promotion during the election campaign last year.

He may have done some homework since and be able to answer the occasional question. It will be interesting to see how he shapes up. he may get to be acting PM a bit over the next few months with Ardern out of action for a few weeks and Peters in charge but still with international duties.