Dr Liz Gordon: The Prime Minister and the people


One of the national characteristics of New Zealanders is that we are very open and direct in our communication.  While our new world directness causes frowns in the ancient precincts of Europe, where obfuscation and prevarication are the norm, I think it is one of our great strengths. 

It is certainly one of the Prime Minister’s best features.  From the first time I heard her speak, well before she became PM, her leadership and clear thinking were really impressive. She is quite a small woman, but with a powerful presence, enhanced further by her elevated position.

My friends on this blog have begged Jacinda not to go to Auckland, fearing a Dallas moment. I was 8 when Kennedy was assassinated, and yes, I can clearly picture where I was, mostly because of the dismay of my father as we watched our tiny (by today’s standards) black and white TV.  

Jacinda was, of course, not born when Kennedy was killed.  So should she take the advice of my friends, and stay away from Auckland, for fear of succumbing to violent assault from one of Bomber Bradbury’s colourfully-named splinter groups?

I think not.  It won’t help her, or the country, for her to stay away.  Remember when Helen Clark eschewed Waitangi?  In my view it was her weakest moment.  If you are going to be PM of a people, then you have to be able to stand up to all those people.

I watched the media footage at Whanganui several times. There is a shot used by Stuff that shows the protest there. The front row starts with a woman in a walking frame, another with a megaphone, two other women and four children.

The signs said things like “When we trade freedom for safety, we lose”, which, however inaccurate, is not the most disturbing of messages.  Thinking back to the US Congressional attack of 6 January, where signs said “Hang Pence” etc, the protest was positively rational.

And, frankly, to view Hunterville as a threat to anything (except, perhaps, methane emissions) is pushing things a bit far.

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In those towns, the threat was not to Jacinda’s safety.  The key problem is the perception that Jacinda comes off worst in a street confrontation with shouting protestors.  But there are myriad ways to manage that.  Invite a few of the protestors for a cup of tea and hear their concerns, and give her viewpoint. Here is the PM trying to change opinions one person at a time, something many of us have been doing for weeks. Doing it on telly can only increase her mana.

My friends also say that it is only recently that Jacinda has been allocated full time security details.  Well, if she has those, then they should be using the normal practice of such people: limit the threat, do in-depth contingency planning, and shield when necessary.  It is not rocket science, really. Staying away might be good for security but it is terrible politics.

Jacinda must not appear to be too scared to go to Auckland.  A carefully-planned visit there, beautifully scripted (and her press team undoubtedly know their stuff), going to all the important places, having her say, letting some of them have their say, fronting protestors and then dealing with them with humour, openness and her great leadership qualities would Teflon coat her for years.

Staying away from Auckland at this point, hiding away from the people, is the worst thing she can do.  What if she dies, I hear you say.  What if Auckland is Jacinda’s Dallas?  Well, you know, there is risk everywhere.  Sometimes a risk is worth taking. It is not irresponsible to have Jacinda travel to Auckland.  It is her job.  It is also her hometown. She should encourage a few of her own supporters (not too many, we don’t want a vaccine war in Queen Street) to walk with her.

Stand tall, Jacinda.  Meet your people on their ground.  Talk to them.  Turn them around. Tama tū, tama ora, tama noho, tama mate.


Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society. She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.


  1. I agree Dr. Liz that Jacinda should go to Auckland. Not everyone is losing their shit, that’s mainly the right wing nutjobs and the AV mobs. There is still massive support for her and it would be amazing to see that support come out in force when the PM goes to town. A big human shield of support and put the nutters in perspective.
    It could be done but would take quite some organising. I’m sick of all the protest when all the Govt is trying to do is protect all of us as much as possible.

      • Sinic – Women holding babies on their hips as shields, while they shout at the PM and taunt police officers, may be territory where even angels fear to tread.

        • any one who takes a baby or child on a demo, I DON’T CARE WHAT THE DEMO IS, is an admission they have no argument only feel feels.

    • We are in different worlds. You know we can’t welcome our missing in action PM in raptures here in Auckland because we’re not allowed to gather in any sort of numbers. It’s one of the many rules she sets for us or that twit, Hipkins!

      Don’t comfort yourself its right wing nut jobs or AV mobs. Aucklanders in general are, politely speaking, over it, her, this government and mostly, this bloody never-ending lockdown.

      You cannot possibly know what it is like to take away most ordinary freedoms for this long, listen to infuriatingly obfuscating press conferences from Ardern and her ministers for some hope of this lockdown ending only for the answer to be fudged or the can kicked down the road yet again. Not unless you are living in this city.

      I thought Ardern was a fairly straight talker but the last 4 years and especially the past 80 days has shown, she is anything but straight talking.

      If nothing else Covid 2 had demonstrated that our PM is just another well versed but out of touch politician, nothing more.

      She is way too late to come to Auckland, it’s not the same place she abandoned 80 days ago and nothing she says means a whole lot to us anymore.

  2. Dr Gordon suggests Jacinda asks people in for a cup of tea and a rational discussion about their concerns.

    Has she ever tried having a rational discussion with a Mormon missionary? A jehovah’s Witness? A Muslim? an Orthodox Jew? people who believe the earth is flat? people who believe the Free Market benefits all the people all the time?
    ( I have not included people who believe space aliens are among us and are preparing the way for the interstellar invasion of winged serpents because that is real)
    It reminds me of the workmate I used to give a lift to. She refused to use her seatbelt ‘ on principle’ because she did not like ‘ being dictated to’.
    I pointed out that as driver I would be fined for failing to make her wear a seatbelt. Still unmoving so, in the end, I had to tell her ‘ no seatbelt, no free ride.’
    ( Similarly those who refuse vaccinations will expect health services to care for them when they catch Covid-19).
    You cannot argue with idiots and doing so will just do your head in. Best not to waste time on it.

  3. I fear for PM Jacinda Ardern,rightwingers like Mike Hosking are firing up the stupid and along with Ryan Bridges talking to the anti-vaxxers,some rightwing nutter reading YSB might attempt to do harm,its a worry

  4. The potential threat isn’t the protesters, they can be easily dealt with by standard policing methods, they are just a nuisance & can make politicians look bad.

    The real potential threat is a lone actor, fuelled on anger, false conspiracies, imagined injustices, misinformation & lies, acting violently against those they deem responsible for the impending “tyranny” or whatever. They are unlikely to make threats or share plans, so are hard to detect. They don’t belong to groups, so can’t be infiltrated.

    This risk is possibly present for the first time in NZ history, partially due to the interesting times we live in, but mainly because much of the anger & hatred seems to be directed at a single individual instead of the usual interchangeable collection of useless/despised muppets that have run the country in the past.

    There is a potential for violence in the country, and that risk isn’t restricted to Auckland. The risk is probably greater in smaller towns due to the reduced amount of security available outside the larger metropolitan areas.

    The fact that this idea has come up in multiple forums is concerning, as it means the idea is out there. Hopefully nothing comes of it, it would be a sad day if something like this was to happen in New Zealand. Stay safe out there.

      • Sadly most of the recent shootings are “business” related and “are not a threat to the general public”, unless of course someone gets the address wrong or someone gets in the way.

        • Yes Richard, but the terrible shooting of young Constable Matthew Hunt, and weapons being pulled on fairly harmless cops, and those wrong address shootings, don’t mean that we can safely assume that only bad drug runners get caught up in tragic violence any more.

          That Neanderthal bunch the PM withdrew from, are dangers to all of us – including the baby on a loony mother’s hip, and innocent kiddies sleeping on couches in their homes. It’s an ugly ball game now, and some of the players are mad bastards, and manipulated to be so.

          • The “aren’t a threat to the general public” is a common Police comment in news articles of these drug related shootings. We had a shoot out between Police & a gang member in our neighbourhood. The Police fired 35 shots using a community meeting as a back stop, it was only by luck that no one was killed. All of these shootings occur in communities where ordinary people live, it is pretty sad they are becoming so common.

            The drug trade is increasingly violent (with the influx of overseas influences) & growing. It acts as a substitute for our welfare & mental health systems, which have become over stretched & over stressed as poverty & the pressures of modern life rise. Removing the financial gains to be made from this industry would reduce the violence, and effectively supporting those suffering addiction or mental health issues, would reduce demand, as well as associated criminal offending caused by addicts.

            The “War on Drugs” failed a long time ago, a new solution is required. Also the problem with most gun control laws is the people causing the most of the problems don’t obey laws. The Police need to target criminals, not create them.

            • I’m not sure why you think that the police create criminals. It seems to me that the social and economic policies of successive governments have contributed majorly to the creation of criminals, as well as greed, and that people from all strata in society can be plain bad. The police earn their money honestly, which is more than can be said about criminals et al.

              Setting the police up as the bad guys is precisely why decent young men like Matthew Hunt get slaughtered by the brain-washed primitives who think that they’re the enemy, when in fact the police are the tools of the state, and doing a far more dangerous job than cocooned, often indolent politicians.

  5. Spoken like someone who has never worked overseas! In fact New Zealanders aren’t direct communicators – they will avoid hard conversations as much as possible because they’re mentally fragile. Go get a job in the UK or Aussie and see how you fare. 😉
    Jacinda is endlessly divisive, manipulative and toxic for the country. Team of 5 million? Yeah Nah. She’s not welcome here in Auckland anymore and we will heckle her where ever she goes.

    • Jacinda is endlessly divisive and manipulative? She should be direct and not avoid the hard words?

      Maybe she’s pussy footing around as she knows as soon as she tells it like it is the toughies would go crying home to mummy and daddy. She should call the anti vax mob “fuckwits.”

      She should have realised there’d be no team of 5 million realising there are losers who don’t care for anyone else but themselves and because someone else is in charge they’re going to be petulant and contrary.

      She should tell it like it is, that what’s toxic for the country is the arrogant arseholes who determinedly do their own things or are so dumb they believe the bullshit spread by malcontents and the ignorant. tell it like out is, that most of those who say she causes the division have made up their minds to create a dividing line and be on the other side of it to the rational and reasonable.

      If she goes to Auckland, as well as her security detail, she should take a team of proctologists. There are a lot of arsehole there.

    • Andrew, what would you know? You worked overseas in the two countries most similar to NZ, Australia and the UK. Monoglot – same language.
      I worked in West Germany and France, and spoke both countries’ language as well as English. I fared pretty well, thank you. Your point?
      No logic in your comment. You jump to spouting rightie propaganda about Jacinda being ‘divisive’.
      Coming from a wishful thinker like you, that is a big compliment to Jacinda.

  6. Agree with the author. Ardern has already decided to appear in Auckland early next week, so we shall see which groups turn up to protest. While some are getting their kicks out of seeing Ardern getting shutdown, I’m not sure they would actually identify with those who made the news in Northland and Whanganui.

    Auckland, under lockdown, could provide a crowd disaffected with the various effects of enduring the current restrictions, and it would be their right to be heard. But, if it is more of the same from groups that have already been gathering and marching, then they will likely be dismissed by the greater public as they have previously been. Anti-vaxxers are seen as a big part of the reason we are not already at 90% double-vaccinated, not the voice of the people.

    One thing that the protesters have highlighted is what the PM has been doing. The question of “Where’s Jacinda?” has been answered. She’s not holed up in Wellington, but out visiting the regions with the lowest vaccination rates.

  7. She would be very brave to come near Auckland after the receptions she received from her last two outings.
    Easily tens of thousands of people turning up to protest. Most people up here are double vaxxed and want out of this hell that has been created for them not comforting words about why they are still locked down in their homes.

  8. I understand what the author is saying here but I respectfully disagree. I also disagree with what Joe Rogan who I respect has stated about the way Ardern has handled the “hecklers”.

    I believe Ardern’s actions were prudent and also believe she should stay away from Auckland at this time. Nothing positive will come from a visit that Collins has been pushing for. There is just too much irrational emotion around. She will get absolutely zero traction with any vaccination push with that backdrop. The anti-vax movement is a different type of protestor than the type you’d normally see. They are absolutely passionately convinced everything they believe about Ardern, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the BioNTech, Pfizer vaccine is 100% correct. They are not remotely interested in reasonable, rational and respectful debate. They don’t seek answers to questions, they seek only to express angry disapproval and disrupt. The moment Ardern commences any direct communication with these protestors is the exact moment she loses. All she is doing is gifting them a platform to rant their unsubstantiated expert-novice bullshit. Why would anyone in her position entertain that reality?

    There is compelling evidence that an educational campaign must now replace the vaccination push. Once that’s been completed and everyone has had the opportunity to be educated with facts instead of dangerous anti-vax garbage, we can return to a safer, less hostile and less divided Country. Everyone will understand the reality we are confronted with and why vaccine mandates for example are absolutely essential.

    The Anti-vax movement can then return to the side of Brian Tamaki and continue believing Earthquakes are caused by homosexuality and how water soluble Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) will prevent them from contracting Covid.

  9. Agree with Liz. The PM requires effective security like any national leader in a tough situation, and she needs to appear in Auckland at supportive venues and situations. The pandemic is the closest thing to a “war footing” this country has experienced for many years, so leaders should lead.

    The Nashnull lot going back to Soymun Bridges, Ms Boag, Mr (homeless man) Woodhouse, “Merv” from Manurewa, Judarth Collins and all the rest have shown they are clearly not up to it.

    The knobheads above comments are not worth a tin of the proverbial–they were anti the PM long before COVID arrived.

  10. There are a lot of people who think Ardern is part of an evil plot to establish a one world government that will control every aspect of our lives and oppress us. I take these people at their word when they say this is what they believe, although I don’t believe it myself. It only takes one person to act on this belief for something terrible to happen. We shouldn’t be risking Ardern’s life just to encourage people to get vaccinated. Why aren’t there others in the Labour government carrying some of this load? Why is everything pushed on to Ardern, just because she has a popularity factor and charisma? As has always been the case Labour has been using her to do all the heavy lifting. This verges on Prime Minister abuse.

  11. Well, now, that is a very depressing bunch of replies, isn’t it? Some of you have terrible views of your fellow persons! I hear Hillary C calling ‘basket of deplorables’! So the ethical question is: if it is the right thing, from the point of view of her leadership, to turn up and support the people, who are bearing a very large burden in these bad times, should she allow herself to be deterred because the people are fractious and restless, and because some, perhaps only one lone wolf, wish to harm her? As I said, I believe that there is much to be gained from this, but it seems the number of people who agree with me could hold their meeting in a phone box. Sigh.

      • John agrees only because he is a concern troll, keen to promote any kind of discouragement of the Left.
        Distrust him and his kind. They are all over TDB nowadays.

        • Yes John is the covid of this site, infecting his vile everywhere. I do pity those on the right who have genuine views when the likes of John is their support base.

    • Much of the anti rhetoric against her is coming from Facebook.
      Facebook says its trying to deal to hate speech but its method is somewhat flawed.
      Currently an algorithm monitors every post a person makes, if it breaches their community standards you are dished out warnings, if you persist they ban you for periods of time that increase with each offense.
      It really doesnt take much to get a warning now, the algorithm is set to ‘Snowflake’
      The flaw comes in sponsored links, paid misinformation. An article on Stuff said Facebook wont do anything that will affect their revenue so sponsored links are here to stay.
      In some ways its also coming our way in suggested links, though Facebooks own software keeps tripping itself up on that front. Recently I got a suggested link from Facebook I thought was ok and went to share it and they gave me a warning for trying to share spam…….
      I have since left, Im sick and tired of being bombarded with misinformation, and thats not only coming from Facebook direct but also I see some of my friends repeating the same nonsense.
      If we are to take the recent situation with Cleo in Australia, the guy with the doll collection, there are strange people with deranged thoughts everywhere hidden away, such incidents while isolated still happen and one must wonder at the extreme thinking these individuals have to go to the extent they do, there is much risk to our Prime Minister, Im glad she has a protection squad detail keeping her company all the time, these deranged individuals can pop up at any time, all its going to take is the right misinformation to come their way to set them off on the path…….

    • If there is a known threat, then that should be neutralised before turning up to a specific location. If a potential threat is identified but can not be confirmed, then steps should be taken to minimise the risk before turning up to a potential hazardous location. This should be pretty standard procedure. If a leader avoids all potentially hazardous situations, they end up hiding in a bunker in the basement of the Reichst… er Beehive and become political irrelevant and definitely no longer a leader. If your security services can’t keep a leader safe, you need better people in them.

  12. With 39% of the ‘people’ behind her from the resulting poll held by Roy Morgan, she definitely needs to front in Auckland to stem the bleeding.

    • Only to have screeching enemies like you prevent her from speaking? Get real Denny.
      They say a week is a long time in politics

  13. I dunno a ‘failed attempt’ or other incident might make more people harden up in regard to nutbars and boost her sagging popularity.

  14. Adern go to Auckland!? Bugger that!
    That’d be like asking George the 5th to go to the trenches to stick his head up to boost morale.
    “Bang ! ” Oops . Sorry George. But on the bright side; our morale is now up three points…so yeah. Cheers.
    Are we children? Are we idiotic children who must see a flash person put themselves at unnecessary risk? Jesus! No wonder we’re all a bit fucked.
    Adern is doing what she’s paid to do. To administer as our prime minister.
    Having her shake the hands of the great unwashed in a comforting manner is only going to give her a rash of some sort or a virus which might kill the kid. Then, we’d be fucked. Grant would become PM ! ? Dear ol Grant…? Actually, he’d probably be quite good.
    But no. Prime Minister? Don’t go to bloody Auckland. You don’t need to.
    Go to Gore? There’s a great art gallery there and just across the road there’s a place that sells moon shine whisky. My grandfather was a moon shiner. He was also an alcoholic and nearly killed himself once after he sprayed fly spray on his sausages to keep the flies off while they cooked.
    Auckland’s only a fry pan full of flies buzzing around other people’s sausages.
    How about we let them out on condition they chip in to build a wall to keep them in from Raglan to Whakatane?

    • Come on Countryboy. Sure, we Aucklanders don’t embrace growing our own potatoes, marrying our siblings, chewing tobacco, riding goats naked or voting National en-masse like you good country folk do, but…when the mood takes us we can and do change governments in a heartbeat. And if this bullshit continues, start looking for a job Auckland Labour MP’s!

  15. Frankly Jacinda Ardern means well but she is now out of her depth.
    Labour Party now controlled by Willie Jackson.
    Jacinda the front person only.
    This is to me not a comfortable position to be in.

      • Bert if you don’t have a variety of views then the site becomes meaningless with everyone agreeing.
        If you don’t listen to contrary views then how do you know you are right?

        • All good with other views, not constant statements without evidence, you know John, the things that support your views.

          “Labour Party now controlled by Willie Jackson.”

          “Frankly Jacinda Ardern means well but she is now out of her depth.”

          Can you prove this, I’m waiting?

          • Gosh this is so childish I have no wish to pursue this silliness.
            ‘ Can you prove this I’m waiting?”
            Opinions being expressed and you want proof?
            Good heavens.

            • “Gosh this is so childish I have no wish to pursue this silliness.”

              And yet you did John.
              Yours are not opinions, there statements, so as I say prove them.
              So in your opinion …

              “Labour Party now controlled by Willie Jackson.”

              “Frankly Jacinda Ardern means well but she is now out of her depth.”

              I ask again what evidence do you have to believe this? Fuck John, it’s not a hard question. Continuing to obfuscate like you do, only exemplifies how appalling your statements are.

  16. If these people dont want to get vaccinated so be it…. BUT if they get really sick from covid and end up in hospital, they should pay for their bloody stupidity and we dont want to hear about how bloody sick you got. All you bloody had to do was get vaccinated and then you would get a mild dose like the rest of us!!!!
    This is Darwinism, maybe its time we cut them loose instead of wrapping them all up in cotton wool.
    Go ahead and have freedom of speech and dont do what the system wants you to, this time you’re going to pay for it.

  17. Live on TDB…The John and Bert Show…with your hosts Jjjjjjjjjoooohn and Berrrrrrrt (canned applause). Today’s show: Bert stomps his feet in a tantrum as John refuses to show evidence to back up true claims.

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