Friday, January 20, 2023

Josie Pagani: Jacinda Ardern resigns: What was the point of all that?

It was meant to be the most transformational government ever. Now, Jacinda Ardern's Labour government has ended. There was no transformation.

It took courage to resign from a job that is a privilege, and hard to walk away from. She deserves full credit for making the tough call, and extra credit for doing the right thing once she knew her heart was no longer in it.

It's unclear why she made the call now. Polls showing her approval rating steadily dropping can’t have helped. No one enjoys being disliked.

Her reputation internationally will remain high. An undefeated leader who delivered the first majority MMP government sounds a lot better than the leader who lost a third term.

Maybe she will get an international job, though the gossip that she has one lined up is only speculation. The simplest explanation is to take her at her word: She no longer has the energy for it. It's been a hell of a five years and the personal toll must be enormous.

Her accomplishments are well rehearsed.

She handled the shock of the March 15 Christchurch attack, the arrival of a historic pandemic and a volcanic eruption with decisiveness and compassion.

History will show a leader who locked the country down early in 2020 and avoided the rash of Covid deaths that we saw overseas before vaccines were available.

Voters rewarded her government for that with a huge win. We felt that the government didn’t mess it all up, however frustrating the whole thing was.

She picked up the leadership when the Labour Party wasn't ready for government, and single-handedly stormed them into office. Without her, the party was heading for an historic defeat, potentially even coming fourth.

I hosted a group of political strategists who came here to learn lessons about how she won in 2017. No one really found an explanation other than her personality and ability to communicate our values.

For everything accomplished, we must weigh what wasn't.

Child poverty. One of the core issues she stressed in 2017 is, at best, the same as in 2017, even though she told us it was her reason for being in politics. We never saw a compelling idea for fixing it.

The social housing waiting list has grown by the thousands. Families are living in motels for years on end.

She leaves a divided country.

Sixty-four percent of Kiwis, across all ages, believe New Zealanders are more divided than ever. Particularly problematic for the Prime Minister, women feel this more than men.

The priorities of traditional Labour supporters, working people on low incomes, were put lower on the agenda than Three Waters and merging TVNZ and RNZ.

Jacinda Ardern was willing to spend $678 million to subsidise businesses to decarbonise, but says free dental care is an unaffordable dream. The 2020 estimated cost of free dental care was $648 million.

We are a more unequal country than when she was elected.

She ruled out the chance to swap it for a cut in income tax. Her government could have given a tax cut to working people, and paid for it with a fair tax on those making a tax-free income from houses.

A TVNZ poll showed 54% of us now support a tax switch, and slightly higher taxes for those who have already made their wealth.

When challenged on her government's priority list, the PM ‘’refuted’’, and ‘’rejected’’. The irritability was getting worse. It jarred with kindness.

Labour will be at much longer odds to be re-elected now.

The new leader will need to turn the narrative around and reset the agenda. Re-focus and sort out the underperforming public sector, jettison the identity politics, and deliver a greater share of the economy to wage earners.

For now, Chris Hipkins must be the front runner. He is sensible, likeable, tough and capable, and appears the most likely to reimagine Labour.

Transport Minister Michael Wood is thoughtful, but his likely public appeal can be guessed from his media release over summer calling on New Zealanders to have a safe and emissions-free roadie over the holidays. Most people can't afford a new electric vehicle, and don’t want to ride to the camping ground on a bike.

Justice Minister Kiri Allan is a wildcard. She could be a superstar and disrupter with a different life experience, or a maverick who needs a strong leader.

There's an old saying that all political careers end in failure. Both John Key and Jacinda Ardern have looked ahead and bowed out on their own terms......

Josie Pagani is a commentator on current affairs and a regular contributor to Stuff. She works in geopolitics, aid and development, and governance. The full article is published HERE


Anonymous said...

Comprehensive and fair thank you Josie. There was no transformation, thank God.

Anonymous said...

Jacinda's government has been the most transformational government in the recent past. But the transformation has been in law and in social attitudes. We are now a more divided and damaged country than during any time in history. Cultural marxism is thoroughly embedded in public attitudes. Our common law foundations and the legal foundations of governance have been severely undermined. The principles of eugenics have been thoroughly embedded into our criminal law code.

Anyone who believes the country hasn't been transformed is blind to the reality of what is most important for a nation: the immaterial things like justice, fairness, basic rights and freedoms and free public discussion of ideas. New Zealand has most certainly been transformed.

Anonymous said...

This article does not clearly identify the achievements Jacinda Ardern’s government has made but instead makes generalised statements that lack any facts. There is no reference made to the extreme challenges that COVID presented and no reference to the fact that our Government made decisions that were synonymous with other countries. I am disappointed that the many politicise implemented to help those on lower incomes have not been mentioned. Some fact based analysis would be helpful