Back in early 2017 I wrote a blog called “The problem with Jacinda…” at the time she was the Labour candidate for Mt Albert in the byelection created by the resignation of David Shearer.
If I say so myself it was a prescient piece. Shortly after, in a whirlwind political ascendency she was Labour deputy leader, then Labour leader and then Prime Minister.
Those who so frequently lament the lack of transformation under Ardern should remember this is the person who went to work for Tony Blair in the UK AFTER the invasion of Iraq and went to hear Blair speak when he came to New Zealand some years later. It wasn’t surprising to me that, in her first big policy announcement as the person who said she went into politics to deal with child poverty, she declared Labour would halve child poverty in 10 years. She is more concerned to assure the obscenely wealthy she will never again propose a capital gains tax than she is to support the most vulnerable. Hugs without hope.
It is irrational and hopelessly naive to expect there will be any transformation under Ardern. Transformation will only come from radical political action outside parliament while the barricades are burning.
I’ll finish with a bit of that piece from January 2016.
The problem with Jacinda
People from across a wide political spectrum like Jacinda Ardern. Unlike most politicians, she comes across as personable and sincere and is often portrayed as the young face of a new generation of Labour politicians – heaven knows they need a new one.
It was Labour after all which left 175,000 children living in poverty in 2008 after nine years of government during a time of strong economic growth.
People are often surprised when I say I am much less impressed with Jacinda. I’ve heard her speak in public many times and have shared the platform on various panels with her and others (in my case to represent MANA Movement while she represented Labour) to discuss issues such as child poverty, housing, inequality and the struggles of beneficiaries etc
Jacinda is very skilled at empathising with questioners on any of these issues. “Yes, the figures are terrible aren’t they…”; “We can’t let this situation continue….”; “It’s just so awful…”; “As a country we must do better than this…” etc
However, there is never any concrete policy to deal effectively with any of these issues (although in housing Labour has begun to move strongly in the right direction – eg reforming Housing New Zealand as a government department)
To put it bluntly I think Jacinda has perfected the political art of sounding good while saying nothing of substance.
My opinion of her politics took a serious dive in 2011 when in the space of a short time she attended the launch of a book by Paul Henry – yes that Paul Henry – and then attended a presentation by none other than Tony Blair at Eden Park.
I was one of the protest organisers for Blair’s visit and while we had a good crowd outside calling for Blair to be arrested and charged with war crimes, Jacinda Ardern was inside with a bunch of big noters helping give credibility to him and his visit.