Behind Every Good Woman Should Stand – Another Good Woman.


TOO MANY BLOKES. Those three words sum-up the burgeoning problems afflicting Jacinda’s prime-ministership. Just consider the names that dominated the headlines of the past week: Nigel, Grant, Andrew, Rob. You don’t need a PhD in Political Science to know what’s wrong with this picture. Where, in the tight circle of advisers surrounding the Prime Minister are the women’s names? Helen Clark had Heather Simpson – who does Jacinda Ardern have?

Well, there’s Megan Woods. But, at last count, the Member for Wigram was holding down four big ministerial portfolios: Research Science and Innovation; Energy and Resources; Greater Christchurch Regeneration; and Housing. Certainly, Woods is one of the most competent ministers in the Coalition Government and, deservedly, one of Jacinda’s “Kitchen Cabinet”, but she is not – and cannot be – the sort of adviser Jacinda so urgently requires.

The huge service that Heather Simpson (H2) was able to provide Helen Clark (H1) was a drone-like overview, not simply of what was happening in ministerial offices, but also of who was doing what to whom in the Wellington bureaucracy, the trade unions, and, crucially, the NZ Labour Party. The crisis that has fastened itself so dangerously about the Prime Minister this past week simply couldn’t have happened back in the days of H1 and H2. Long before the complainants had become angry enough and disillusioned enough to take their stories to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, H2 would have heard about the problem, investigated the problem, and resolved the problem – keeping H1 informed of her progress every step of the way.

Could Jacinda’s Electorate Secretary, Barbara Ward, fill the role? Probably not. Ward knows a great deal about the Auckland Labour Party, but she’s not a Wellington mover-and-shaker. Besides, a prime minister has to have someone she can trust watching her back at the electorate level. No, Ward should probably stay where she is.

That no name springs to mind as the obvious candidate to fill the role of Jacinda’s H2 is, arguably, part of the problem. Unlike Helen Clark, Jacinda has risen to the top without hauling a conspicuous number of her sisters up with her. Indeed, if one wished to court controversy, one might observe that Jacinda’s journey to the top was accomplished largely on the shoulders of men. After all, people joked about “Gracinda” – Grant and Jacinda – not “Jacingrant”. If Helen Clark was Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, then Jacinda is “Gloriana”, Queen Elizabeth I, surrounded by her glittering retinue of male courtiers.

TDB Recommends

It’s an appealing comparison, but is Jacinda really our Elizabeth I? Yes, the Tudor Queen surrounded herself with powerful and intelligent men, but she never for one moment ceased to be her own woman – the person in control. A much less flattering comparison might place Jacinda alongside Mary Queen of Scots. She, too, was a Queen who found herself surrounded by dashing and determined men. Unlike the men surrounding her English cousin, however, the Scottish nobility always controlled Mary: Mary never controlled them.

Consider the argument of “plausible deniability”: the argument which, over the past week, has emerged as the most persuasive explanation for Jacinda’s late arrival at the sharp end of this devastating scandal. In a nutshell, this argument paints Jacinda as a leader more sinned against than sinning; someone deliberately kept out of the loop by her own closest advisers for her own political protection: “Nothing that need concern you here, Jacinda, we’ve got this.”

But, just think about the whole notion of plausible deniability for a moment. Who uses it – and under what circumstances? We all know the answer to that question: plausible deniability is what the CIA gives the US President by not informing him of activities that are either unethical, or unlawful, or both.

To argue that the Prime Minister is the victim of her advisers’ failure to keep her informed may offer Jacinda some measure of exoneration – but only at the cost of casting her as a hopeless political ingénue. A star-dusted muppet, whose only purpose is to keep the punters entertained while the big boys get on with the job of governing the country.

Even worse, it casts these “big boys” as deeply cynical power-brokers who long ago lost their moral compasses. And that, in turn, casts Jacinda as the hapless little woman kept in the dark by a bunch of cold-hearted bastards prepared to do whatever was necessary to keep their mate in his job.

The truth of the matter is much more likely to involve a whole lot of people cocking things up, than a vicious band of misogynist conspirators doing the dirty. Unfortunately, those observing the events of the past week from the outside may well opt for conspiracy over cock-up as the most plausible explanation for the Labour Party’s extraordinary behaviour. That moment, in politics, when people are more willing to believe the worst of you than the best of you, is the moment when you can be pretty certain you’ve got problems. Big problems.

Which is why Jacinda’s most urgent priority should be getting rid of the stink of testosterone from the upper floors of the Beehive and Bowen House – as well as the upper echelons of the Labour Party. If the women of New Zealand want to keep the Prime Minister safe from more cock-ups, then they should apply themselves to the task of identifying her very own H2. Someone to keep her fully informed. Someone to watch her back. Someone whose name isn’t Nigel, Grant, Andrew or Rob.



      • Bollocks. Adern has seriously damaged her brand and rightly so.
        But to suggest that this will lead to an early election is nonsense.

        • Bollock! The media have damaged her brand. Brand Key stood the test of time because that same media was nowhere to be seen.

          • It’s hilarious that sycophantic lefties think that the media are biased against them and likewise with sycophantic righties.
            Yes there are individuals who are biased but on the whole our media is fairly balanced albeit incompetent also.
            The media certainly didn’t ignore ponytail Gareth. They may not have given it this much attention but it wasn’t sexual assault which this allegedly is.

  1. Cheap, and false. The problem with the top echelons of the Labour Party isn’t that are mostly male, the problem is that they’re mostly plonkers. Labour’s problems aren’t about gender – they’re the result of a lack of the cardinal virtues in leadership, and the takeover of the party by neoliberal hacks and devotees of identity politics.

    • Exactly. 99% of anyone with a class analysis and fighting spirit left for New Labour/Alliance and not many went back. It is amazing the current iteration of NZ Labour gets along as well as it does considering that, and how far they strayed from social democracy.

      I could advise Jacinda better than any of the self important, careerist dicks that genuinely believe The Reserve Bank Act, State Sector Act, SOEs, “Business Confidence” and the Fiscal Cap are “where it is at”.

      • Oh you nerds. I could strangle you too. The evidence for the differences between men and woman in power are so vastly different and complex that we fall back on anocdotal evidence and personal experience. Ultimately having a group of men or a group of woman in power isn’t that important.

        With out a doubt 2 people touched each other in the middle of the night and made a mess, and now we are speaking about it. That can not be denied. The main thing here is don’t freak out. This is finding love where love does not exist.

        Our spontaneous reaction is to search for a deeper meaning like a) there was a trauma and b) conservatives came along and said burn the most sinful witches at midnight. Even if we breed a catastrophe on The Labour Party it makes no sense because sex isn’t a terrifying blind force – sex has a meaning. When you’re in the middle of a catastrophe of this kind it is better to feel like you’ve been punished because that still has a meaning.

        So the problem for me is I don’t like the way that the people immediately around both the accused or the victim has acted to encircle them. Each and everyone has acted in there own self interest which has been disturbed and deranged through human hubris and exploitation. The response should have been as I would have advised is don’t kiss and tell and I hope that is a reasonable reaction for any woman to take. But on the contrary there is no privacy in the sex lives of The Labour Party.

        There fore The Labour Party must be this big long series of catastrophe because we all profit from it. That is why we are speaking about this today, not because we are concerned about the victim, that’s bullshit. None the less the victim is absolute and sex is what makes life worth living for the accused. Through this mess we will find a reason to no longer kiss and tell.

  2. helen clark also had jenny shipely and no doubt vice versa.
    May induce gag reflex.
    I’ve no longer got time for bullshit.
    I don’t care for personality politics. I don’t care if women are out numbered by men or chickens.
    I don’t care if a person is LGBQRST or AEIOU and sometimes Y. I. Don’t. Care.
    I don’t care if a fellow wears a frock or if a women can straighten horse shoes with her thighs. I don’t care.
    The reason you should not care also, specifically with regard to politics I hasten to add, is if you DO care? It will be used against you.
    You must look past the hysteria and into their hearts. What do you see…?
    Our politics is entirely about power and money. Those of us who regard those things in life that transcend power and money will be prey to those who do. That, is what they do. They hunt us down and devour us and will use any mechanism within their grasp to enable that.
    They will use sex, gender, race, intellect, ( Namely the lack of…) creative devotion to art… Anything, to get what they want for them from you. And “Fuck you!” while they’re at it.
    Our politics isn’t about women versus men in some dubious, touchy-feely, power freaky way our MSM wants us to believe it is. Our politics is about prey and predators. Kiwi-As billionaires fly over our streets in their helicopters while some of us live down in the gutters. That, is what this is all about.

  3. Not sure it’s a gender issue. After all, the ruthlessly effective Walsingham was probably more helpful to Liz’s aims than the four Mary’s were to Mary Queen of Scots, loyal and lovely as they were.

    • All queens had – and have – ladies-in-waiting, Olwyn, but they’re not quite the same as Privy Councillors and trusted political advisers. Oh, and while “The Four Marys” is a lovely folk-song, I’m not so sure they played a role in history remotely equal to their role in the ballad! Walsingham, though, and Cecil, Elizabeth’s right-hand men, they were very real!

  4. “TOO MANY BLOKES. Those three words sum-up the burgeoning problems afflicting Jacinda’s prime-ministership.”

    What? Surely nobody believes that sex scandal business? It’s a Dirty Politics caper: Paula Bennett’s involvement says it all. Fiction from beginning to end.

    Ardern needs a female advisor? Sez who? She needs an advisor who’s astute, discreet, and with their ear to the political ground. No reason that I can see why that person would have to be female.

    This sounds like an outbreak of identity politics: most unexpected from this author. And – in the current environment – unwelcome.

    • Indeed, D’Esterre. Trotter blaming men for the current imbroglio does so from the privileged position of being one of them. If a woman wrote his words she’d be shot down and labelled with one of the burgeoning number of gender acronyms or categories which we are all subject to now by what I hope are not what they appear to be: hate groups.

      The person who could most benefit from having rational and competent advice is MP Paula Bennett. Freud could have something interesting to say about why Bennett now resembles an inverted scrubbing brush, but I’ll say it for him. She needs to clean up her act.

    • “What? Surely nobody believes that sex scandal business? It’s a Dirty Politics caper: Paula Bennett’s involvement says it all. Fiction from beginning to end.”

      Were that to be true d’esterre but too many have come forward with similar stories

      If if were just 1 person you’d have a point

      But not with the multiple stories swirling around that disgraced staffer

      Me, I’ll wait for the QCs findings

      • Mjolnir: “But not with the multiple stories swirling around that disgraced staffer”

        What? He’s Casanova now? Right… For the life of me, I fail to understand why you’d believe a furphy like that.

        As Martyn has noted elsewhere:

        “Reporters have been sent photos of entirely blameless men with red circles drawn around their faces; falsely identified as being involved, solely due to their ties to Labour.”

        This is a witch hunt; when a story looks too fantastical to be true, that’s usually because it is. It’s the corollary of “too good to be true”.

    • @ D’Esterre If I’d been her older woman advisor, and if she’d listened to me, I would have advised the PM not to make that secret visit to Meghan Markle last time she was in London -it’s getting a bit girlie-girlie – but a chappie might be all for it, being what they are.

      The PM may have to consider a gender-neutral advisor.

      • Applewood: “…I would have advised the PM not to make that secret visit to Meghan Markle last time she was in London -it’s getting a bit girlie-girlie…”

        Heh! I’m inclined to agree. She’s PM, after all, not a celebrity. Steering clear of the most recently-arrived member of the royal family seems to me like a wise strategy. Pity that she apparently wasn’t so advised.

  5. It’s important to understand why Jacinda is there. In a nutshell:

    1. Andrew Little was not liked by voters, so they promoted Jacinda.
    2. Winston Peters typically put his personal antipathy with some in the National Party ahead everything else and anointed Labour by forming a coalition.

    So what exactly did these two random events lead to?

    A Prime Minister with no leadership experience, no business experience and who had never been a minister of the Crown. Never even assembled a competent private members bill! I said at the time that it was way too early for her and she would ultimately regret it.

    A weak cabinet with little talent. Thanks to Clark’s removal of all the moderates within the Party some years earlier, all that was left were single issue radicals. You ask what is backing Jacinda, and I would respond by saying “not much”.

    Thanks to the factional division within the party that Clark had previously presided over, and being nine years out of government, the party had not ever got to grips with policy detail. I suspect that discussion of policy detail just caused argument, so it was generally avoided. As a result none of the incoming government’s policies had any meat behind them, and were essentially just slogans. Kiwibuild, GST etc were all doomed to go on the bonfire.

    So now we have a moribund government heading into an economic recession with no plan other than to smile and pretend to care.

    • Indeed. Auntie Helen was almost TOO effective as leader because she crushed all semblance of dissent and ensured no natural successor could emerge.
      Key didn’t do this, but National are likewise bereft of leadership talent.

      • It’s textbook organisational behaviour theory: Strong charismatic leaders are so dominant they leave no heir to the throne.

    • Your last paragraph sounds like Brownlees response to Christchurch earthquake victims… “smile and pretend to care”

    • You have nailed it .Jacinda is on the way out and with any luck Winner will sink like a stone and the Watermelon Greens will go and come back as a real green enviromental party perhaps with a blue tinge

  6. Nanaia Mahuta is a Labour female MP with class, mana, intelligence, leadership and a cool head, with experience on how Labour and the electorate work. Plus she carries respect.

    Nanaia would be my pick of a woman to stand behind Jacinda.

  7. True. I admit I was being a bit flippant, but still, the calibre and commitment of a leader’s political backers is no doubt more significant than their gender.

  8. In my humble opinion its whats between your ears that matters in any organisation. Sadly in politics in general in many instances the aforementioned seems to resemble a small rather sad walnut.

  9. Next week the world’s biggest misogynist will be standing behind our good woman, when Jacinda meets Donny. He might even have some political advice on how to hose down a sex scandal. Reach in for that big sloppy kiss Jacinda mmmmphhhphmm

  10. Out of all this I am now more supportive of Jacinda and the government than ever before.

    I have seen the hatred and venom expressed by so-called journalists in the tabloid NZ herald(deliberate lower case applied to the herald which over a period of time has demeaned itself to being more likely the Mouthpiece of the NZ National Party).

    At least Jacinda has admitted there have been mistakes. Unlike the previous National government that had a prime minister(yes again deliberate lower case applied here)smirk like a Village Idiot and say that ‘he is comfortable with what happened….. blah. blah. blah….”

    Unfortunately it does appear that the mainstream NZ media is thoroughly and totally in the NZ National Party pocket.

    Whilst there is this hypocritical backlash on Jacinda and the current government I can see how quickly and conveniently through selective amnesia the mainstream NZ media has forgotten all the nasty and dangerous antics of the previous National government.

    But like I have said it does appear the mainstream NZ media are in the National Party pocket and whilst there is this unparalleled type of media there will be no true and believable news from say the tabloid NZ herald, etc.etc.etc

    And so the result for me when it comes to the NZ herald is all I look at in the paper now is the Horoscopes, the weather and of course who has died. The NZ herald has relegated itself to being compared to say those stupid Womens magazines eg New Idea, Womans Weekly etc.etc.etc.

    Way to go NZ herald. You have become a shadow of your former self because you have allowed the NZ National Party to control you. It must surely be sickening to be compared to a ridiculous womens magazine after over a 100 years of being in existence????!!!!!

  11. Hard to get enthused about this — surface foam. But good argumentation, Chris. Not as so I believe in HER. Just prefer her to the others, outta unparadoxical pragmatics. Why does it matter? Is there someone to the Left …. hahahahaha. This doesn’t matter. Unless you think it’ll overturn ’84?

  12. A bit patronising Mr Trotter?

    This isn’t about gender. It’s about incompetent people. And not learning from past mistakes.

    • People dont like competent people with no charisma because people are stupid

      To have a competent leader with no charisma you must first have an intelligent electorate?

  13. There are certainly many truths in your arguments Chris.
    In a sense, many women gain, or believe they can gain, prestigious jobs (like PM) by being low key about their
    feminity, because frankly there is still a prevailing societal attitude that it should be men who make the important decisions.
    Well Jacinda has well and truly blown that theory out of the water!
    She is the elected leader of New Zealand, she has had some hard decisions to make in some harrowing moments, and yet has not sacrificed her femininity. She has given birth to a child, you can’t much more feminine than that, I wager.
    It used to be said that behind every good man stood a good woman, but I don’t suppose that would be a popular notion in the 21st century.

Comments are closed.