You have to commend Jacinda Ardern for the cabinet line-up she’s managed to pull together, given all the things she’s has to balance in that party.
Finally, we’ve seen the backbone we’ve been hoping for. Finally, Ardern has been brave enough to get Phil Twyford out of cabinet after wasting three years defending him and his lack of delivery.
She’s also been brave enough to give the deputy prime ministership to Grant Robertson over Kelvin Davis. Maybe it’s true that Davis told her he didn’t want the job, maybe that’s just a convenient excuse for dumping him from a job that would normally be his. But either way, that’s a loss for the very strong and very pushy Maori caucus, so regardless of the real reason, that would’ve created quite the balancing act for Ardern who would likely have had to compensate them.
Which may bring us to Nanaia Mahuta as foreign minister. That’s a surprise. Not a good surprise. For an MP who’s been in parliament since 1996 she’s managed to achieve remarkably little. She does seem to have found something akin to a work ethic in the last term given the work she’s done on the three waters reform so at least we can say she can do some work if she wants to. Still, a very clever appointment. Because, Ardern has managed to get another member of the Maori caucus into cabinet and can say she appointed New Zealand’s first ever woman foreign minister, but she’s cunningly done it at a time when the borders are closed so the foreign minister won’t be going anywhere for a while.
Pulling together this cabinet wouldn’t have been easy, given that Ardern still has a lack of depth in her team. That’s obvious from the fact that she’s had to include Willie Jackson in cabinet. That guy’s a liability, the way he gets himself into trouble with his mouth. Any cabinet that includes him is a cabinet running out of warm bodies.
But credit to Ardern: she’s managed to put smart people into key roles – like Andrew Little into Health – managed to bring in some promising new talent in – like Ayesha Verrall who’s now an Associate minister of health, Michael Wood who’ll take over transport – and yet balance all the competing forces.
And more importantly, she’s shown she does have the backbone to make tough calls.
Heather du Plessis-Allan is a journalist and commentator who hosts Newstalk ZB's Drive show.
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