Keeping Us Listening


WHEN MY DAUGHTER was in her tweens, the trip to school was considerably enlivened by “Polly & Grant”. The often inane – but always entertaining – banter between Polly Gillespie and Grant Kereama taught me a lot about the skills required of a successful commercial broadcaster. It didn’t really matter whether you were whip-smart or really dumb, so long as you kept your contributions inside the lines of your audience’s colouring-book. I remember Polly discoursing with real passion on the situation in Iraq. I also remember Grant waxing eloquent on the relative merits of the many varieties of toilet paper. Sublime or ridiculous? Beside the point. Polly and Grant kept us listening.

That’s why Jacinda Ardern should give heed to Gillespie’s latest foray into political commentary: “Jacinda, I like you, but please shut up about the team of five million”. Far from being an unforgiveable betrayal, Gillespie’s light-hearted critique of the Prime Minister’s rhetorical style should be read as a gentle warning that her verbal crayon is beginning to stray outside at least a slice of the public’s lines. Not everybody’s, obviously, but of an appreciable number of the voters who used to hang on “Jacinda’s” every word. (The column’s also a pretty good job application letter – but that’s another story!)

Not that Jacinda is likely to be among those frothing with rage that Stuff dared to publish such an egregious example of lèse-majesté. As a graduate in Communication Studies, the Prime Minister will undoubtedly take Gillespie’s professional feedback extremely seriously. She will understand that while the vast majority of her supporters are a long way from growing weary of her “Team of Five Million” rhetoric, people like Gillespie are akin to the proverbial canary in the coalmine. What “Polly” is sick to death of today, there’s a better-than-even chance the rest of us will be sick to death of tomorrow.

“It’s been a wee while coming, but I’ve finally had enough of the platitudes, and sentimental psycho-babble ….. Yes, she’s a great person, an incredible communicator, and could spin any spin doctor. I like Jacinda and have a particular affection for Grant Robertson and Andrew Little, but I’m just finding it irritating being spoken to like I’m a slightly IQ-deprived child. It’s starting to wear very thin. If anyone says “we’ve got this” one more time I will squeal!”

There’s some real meat buried in all this over-sweetened pastry. Translated into hard-core political-speak, Gillespie’s message reads like this:

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“At the beginning of Covid, Jacinda, we were all frightened and in need of reassurance. We needed to know that your Government was taking a whole-of-country approach: no exceptions. So, all that “Team of Five Million” stuff was perfectly pitched – exactly what we wanted to hear. On this, the second time around, however, our mood has changed. We’re pissed-off now. Impatient. We want this bloody nonsense to be over with, and we really don’t appreciate discovering that the things you told us were being done weren’t being done. We’re looking for straight answers now, Prime Minister. Grown-up answers. We’re not your children, Jacinda. You’re not our mum.”

Like a pack of hyenas with the scent of blood in their nostrils, the National Party, as they always do, have picked up on this new mood of frustration and impatience. Their solutions may not be particularly credible, but they don’t have to be – not really. So long as National can convince people that they get the new normal: that their crayons are staying inside the new lines; the electorate will respond. What’s more, National now has someone whose demeanour is perfectly suited to this new mood of straight-talking seriousness. Dr Shane Reti is really good at colouring-in the Covid-19 picture.

Regardless of whether Gillespie’s right-wing “lover” is real or imaginary, by introducing him to her narrative she is conveying another important message to the Prime Minister. Ironically, it’s the radio celebrity’s very own version of the despised “Team of Five Million”. Gillespie’s salacious ménage is all about the reality of New Zealanders’ common predicament. Regardless of whether we hang to the right or to the left, our Covid experience cannot help but be a shared one. We all have an equal stake in the people in charge doing their jobs properly.

Gillespie’s final sentences make the sale:

“Look, Polly,” he said affectionately (not kindly), “we just need to vote for balance. We don’t have to like our leaders. They don’t need to be saints or fairy godmothers. We just need people who are doers not just communicators.”

Like it or loathe it, “Polly’s” commentary kept us listening.

If this afternoon’s little speech announcing the four day extension of Auckland’s Level 3 Lockdown is any guide, Jacinda was listening, too. Her address was a clear and sober affair, which told us straight and without unnecessary embellishment what her government has decided to do.

The expression “Team of Five Million” did not pass the Prime Minister’s lips.



  1. If National were running the Country many elders would be dying without any love and compassion so remember National were always lying before elections for instance remember the king lying toad who promised before the 2011 election that he would not to raise taxes and then when he got his second term he raised GST and sold our assets too, – so be warned.

    • Cleengreen you wouldn’t know fuck about what National would do if they were in power. Collins has already said she won’t tolerate community transmission, which whether achievable or not shows intention. It’s what the Coalition trades on all the time. Intentions. Your picture painting of dead elders lying all over the place is complete unsubstantiated bollocks. As far as lying goes this labour lead government promised the world to get itself elected. Lies by another name albeit intention. One thing about Chris, he’s prepared to give any party or politician a bit of stick if deserved. It’s called balance. Not the one eyed bitter bullshit you serve up.

    • Wow if you had such great insight to see into the future to know exactly how NZ would look now under National, how come you didn’t predict Covid in the first place?

    • Cleangreen: “If National were running the Country many elders would be dying without any love and compassion…”

      Oh for god’s sake…. In the first instance, you cannot know the counterfactual. In the second, we elderly die in considerable numbers from the flu and other winter bugs every single year (except this one).

      I cannot recall any of you having an attack of the bleeding hearts over that fact, ever before. Where were the masks, the handwashing, the quarantining of rest homes, in previous years? Can’t remember it? Me either.

      So give it up with the Natz already.

      • D’Esterre and New View…we got away lightly with CleanGreen there. Only 5 lines of text, phew! Normally that would have been off on some odd tangent with 30,000 words! I wonder if CleanGreen and all the other so-called ‘greens’ actually really care about environmental issues, or if they are just socialists in green outfits? I know the Green Party hasn’t done anything of consequence for the planet for a long time.

        • Herman Shovel Ready: “…we got away lightly with CleanGreen there. Only 5 lines of text, phew! Normally that would have been off on some odd tangent with 30,000 words!”

          Hahaha….yes, I’m only too well-aware of that! As a rule, I collapse exhausted by the wayside, long before I’ve reached the end of CG’s comments. Many of them are press statements, by the looks. I doubt that they’re read by anybody else much, either.

          When I did media training, we were urged to keep press statements as short as possible. Evidently, CG hasn’t got that message.

  2. Well tbh , – that cheesy little ‘team of five million’ turned me off as well. As do other Americana B.S phrases like ‘we can do this ‘ or ‘ we got this’.

    And I’m not your bloody ‘family’ as well . Nor do I want to be part of the ‘team player’ shit either, – especially when I’m getting paid what amounts to B.S slave labour wages. You can stick your team , you can stick your ‘family’ and shove it hard up you’re bloody arse!

    But that aint Jacinda’s fault, – for that we must go back to Labours Roger Douglas for the origins of these tacky little Yankee inspired slogans. But she sure hasn’t really done a damn thing about purging that despicable 3 decades old mentality. Or at least, – nowhere near enough.

    I think Adern’s govt has done remarkably well. I will support Labour and the Greens. They are far from the Keynesian ideal, but there are some small signs… with a small ‘s’. I furthermore believe that the skulduggery regarding the recent covid outbreaks in Auckland was caused by non compliant governmental dept officials ( esp in the Health depts) who are tribal National /Act party people. They would know only too well how a little bit of tardiness, a little bit of turning a blind eye could release this crap into the community and be political dynamite.

    Yeah so lets not hear anymore shit about being the ‘team of 5 million’, ‘we can do this ‘ ( what ?!? exactly?) ‘we got this’ ( a dose of covid?- then do your jobs correctly then ! ), that we are ‘team players’ (nameless, faceless patronized plebs tantamount to just political bums on seats?), – and dont ever , EVER call me ‘family’.

    I’m not your bloody ‘family’ and the only thing you can ever call me is late for breakfast. And I’ll make my own bloody breakfast and it’ll be twice as good as yours.

    And I’m sleepin’ in today. So stick it.

    The Kid (He Swears a Little Bit)

    • I completely concur. It really was becoming tiresome. I mean did the P.M. really think Hosking, Seymour, Joyce,Jays, et al are part of a team of 5 million.
      Her jingle was wasted on their ilk.

    • 100% WK Couldn’t say it better.

      Ministry of health is crap and must be torn down and put back as a ‘public health department’ as it was in the 1960’s.

  3. Good points.

    Thought I preferred music, but missing the old team. They had a way of making you feel included in their lives imho.

  4. Never mind “Team of 5 mill” fatigue, I am over the Nats endless “poor business is suffering” memes. Cafes and hospitality are substantially gone for all money–get used to that you selfish “I am my own boss” SME bastards. Now how about the thousands of working class people doing it hard to the extent of using food banks and Sikh kitchens? I would like to see their situations all over the media till we do something meaningful about that.

    I am one of the few on the left that seems to think the PM made a substantial error by moving the General Election date out a month. Just more opportunity for Covid to explode or National Dirty Tricks Dept. to really wind up their effluent sprayer.

    • Tiger Mountain: “I am over the Nats endless “poor business is suffering” memes…… how about the thousands of working class people doing it hard to the extent of using food banks and Sikh kitchens?”

      You do realise, don’t you, that the working classes, whose plight so concerns you, are the ones who were employed by those businesses, many of which are now on the skids? National is exactly right to be concerned about them.

      Who are you to criticise small business owners? They’ve been making shift, like everyone else. They gotta eat too. And – as I’ve already pointed out – they employ people. Or would if they could open.

        • Tiger Mountain: “So far up Nashnull’s rear only the shoes are visible…”

          Is that the best that you can come up with?

          Well: who knew. Lots of lefties run small businesses. That’s also true of this household, along with many others we know.

          Enough with the callousness and the lack of empathy. SMEs provide WORK, and contribute to the economy. Business owners are as entitled to consideration as everybody else. Or are we really not all in this together?

  5. Jacinda may be a bit maternalistic/paternalistic in her approach and language, but would you prefer being spoken to as if you are just one of the great unwashed as you would if it were a National Party leader there instead?
    I thought so.

    • Mike the Lefty: “…would you prefer being spoken to as if you are just one of the great unwashed…”

      That’s exactly what she’s been doing. The great unwashed, without agency and incapable of making decisions for ourselves.

    • Absolutely mike the lefty.Or spoken to like you were shit stuck to the bottom of his shoes,as Bill English used to. ”All NZer’s are drug addicts …”etc etc.National can fuck right off. They are thieves and liars. And as a lifelong leftie and long suffering self employed employer I reckon when National gets there they can fuck off some more.National did nothing but abuse denigrate and deride kiwis for 9 long years , They destroyed our environment turned a blind eye to the pollution of our waterways and overpopulated the country with unwanted unneeded immigrants to create a house of cards economy.Fuck em.

      • Good opinion with the correct vernacular for the National party, – however could you not have slid in a few ‘odious’ ‘abhorrent’s’ and ‘obnoxiousness’ ?

        I think you let them off a little lightly.

      • Shona – Apropos of Bill English – for whom my preferred honorific is, “Little Shit,” – just note that he is stand-offish and aloof to his local supermarket workers. Two talked with me about it. That gives some measure of the type of so-called man that Bill English is, when he is unable or unwilling to be other than a monosyllabic oaf to persons of no value to him.

        The truly surreal thing is that he may think that his absurd knighthood endows him with qualities – for want of a better word- totally beyond his intellectual orbit.

  6. All this criticism of the CV19 response coming from jumped up, over opinionated journalists is really getting annoying. Now TDB is echoing it and in fact condoning this whinging. What the fuck do they expect? Perfection? Look at our position. Just had 100 days no virus. How many countries can say that? What did these journalists do to help? Nothing special, same as the rest of us. Now we have an outbreak of CV19, the first of many, you morons. The team of 4.5m (take out the dissenters) will clean it up and wait for the next outbreak.
    And come it will. It will cause more economic pain and all the other shit that goes with it. Whinging about the Govt. response including the mistakes, especially the mistakes, is gutter journalism from a bunch of losers.

    • Green Bus Yes, indeed, we are losers when we whinge about the manner in which a message was delivered. It’s childish behaviour.

      Serial complainants should stop watching somebody who irritates them much as the PM does. I’ve not watched one of the Ardern/Ashley shows, I get the info I want online, largely because I can’t be bothered watching. I’m
      not a Jacindamaniac, but find her less annoying than Helen Clark, Donald Trump, John Key eg al.a

      Suddenly some radio female and her lover proclaim their offence about how this news is delivered, and mushrooms are popping up squealing, “Me too me too.”

      New Zealanders have proven themselves dummies by electing odious socially destructive Nat Govts, year after year, so working on a basic premise that we function at kindergarten level, is not an unreasonable assumption.
      And since when have politicians not patronised the public ?

      My only, slightly bemused irritant, is the way people from all spectrums refer to the PM as “Jacinda”, as if she is the kindergarten kitty, rather than the New Zealand prime minister – that lends itself to all sorts of game playing that I can’t be bothered expanding on either.

      Most of us have done ok during the pandemic, harder for some for all sorts of reasons, but allowing ourselves to be diverted away from bigger national and global scenarios isn’t particularly smart behaviour.

  7. Somebody tell me what the difference is between the two?

    For all I see, is , very little difference as their policys are similar, just more or less bureaucratic gobbly gook. The end result is the same. Its just how they massage the numbers that are presented to the public that a difference is claimed and the scoreboard total is then adjusted.

    This two horse race is getting boring.

  8. Relax Polly, and everyone else – wash you hands, Jacinda’s got this, as always!
    Reassuring news just in: Thousands of returnees in managed isolation not tested on day three.

    • But isn’t that what your advocating Herman? Opening the border, herd mentality, less restrictions, less government?

  9. “….please shut up about the team of five million”…”

    This has pissed me off right from the very beginning. It’s patronising and smacks of authoritarianism.

    “….of an appreciable number of the voters who used to hang on “Jacinda’s” every word.”

    I was never one of them. I’d voted that lot in, but they’d lost my support well before the virus thing blew up. I’ve refused to listen to any of that stuff, having been thoroughly irritated at being lectured by Jacinderella (as an acquaintance characterises her).

    “…those frothing with rage that Stuff dared to publish such an egregious example of lèse-majesté.”

    And this attitude is the most pernicious aspect of the current imbroglio. In my view, Labour supporters are beginning to sound like they’re cult members. It’s both risible and disturbing. Definitely not my idea of how politics ought to work.

  10. Perhaps, our main unifying point should be looking after the neediest ( 36 years, and mounting, and 140 years further for Maori) as a step to facing climate change. Or, dubiously, I’m wrong.

  11. Perhaps, our main unifying point should be looking after the neediest ( 36 years, and mounting, and 140 years further for Maori) as a step to facing climate change. Or, dubiously, I’m wrong. Ideals are what we are, like mortgages are what National is. Jacinda is tarred by her politician’s education.

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