Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Barry Soper: Jacinda Ardern needs to learn how to deal with talent and potential trouble

Jacinda Ardern's unknowingly become an expert at doing the dance of the unveiled - the seven have long since been shed even though she clearly believes she hasn't missed a step and they're still in place covering her embarrassment.

So did she directly tell Louisa Wall - one of her most talented MPs - that she wouldn't have a place at her Cabinet table?

Wall makes no bones about it: "The Prime Minister told me I would never be in her Cabinet. It wasn't just that she didn't want me in her Cabinet, she was obviously very clear she didn't want me in her caucus."

Getting a direct answer from Ardern though and the music starts playing and the dance begins.

"The fact that she was in our caucus, she had a strong list position, she now has a role where I think she'll be using her strengths, which speaks to the fact that as a caucus, and as a Labour Party, we've seen her strengths, we've acknowledged her strengths," the PM opined.

Ardern says she didn't want to get into dissecting the statement Wall made because it detracts from all the good work she has done. Wall now goes into a role, Ardern tells us, where she'll be able to serve New Zealand incredibly well.

Now to dissect that waffle is pretty easy.

Wall had a strong list position alright - not because Labour loved her, quite the opposite. It had brokered a deal with her over her sacking from the Manurewa seat before the last election; back off, stop complaining, drop the legal challenge and accept it. In return you'll get to stay on in Parliament until we find a job for you, she was told.

The role found for her was created through Foreign Affairs, Pacific Gender Equality Ambassador, which will see Wall, by the job description, develop partnerships and programmes "that support the full and effective participation by women and LGBTQI+, and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life in the Pacific".

Now in this country, few of us would take issue with those objectives, but in the morally ultra-conservative Pacific? And what does it say for our often-espoused diplomatic banter that this country never involves itself in the domestic affairs of other countries?

Still Labour's got rid of an irritant, but was clearly not expecting that thankless irritant to leave a festering sore. Wall's laid bare that they're not all on the same team and the captain's not in total control of the Good Ship Lollipop as she would have us believe.

The door's clearly not open to all in the captain's cabin, testified by one Cabinet minister who sought me out at a social function recently to enlighten me about disharmony in the ranks.

Perhaps Jacinda Ardern should have learnt at the knee of Helen Clark when she was a junior apparatchik in her office of the way to deal with those who get up your nose.

When Clark was derided as being Miss 3 Per Cent, a delegation comprising the late Michael Cullen, Phil Goff and Annette King went to her office and told her she should step aside.

Clark of course refused and instead promoted them to her front bench, never to hear a murmur from them again.

Now that's how you deal with talent and potential trouble.

Barry Soper, the political editor at Newstalk ZB, is one of the country’s most experienced political broadcast journalists.

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