Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Please remind me - who's Jacinda?

How quickly things change in politics.

The Ardern era is behind us. Just as water instantly closes over a stone that’s been thrown into a river, leaving no trace of where it fell, so the former prime minister has already assumed the character of a political ghost.

The change in the political tone of the country that followed her departure has been dramatic and immediate. It’s now clear that Ardern had come to be regarded – and very likely regarded herself – as a liability in election year.

Her leadership will forever be associated with the ascendancy of identity politics, which polarised the country in a way not seen since 1981 – if ever.

She was careful to personally remain aloof from the culture wars, in keeping with her image as someone who avoided unpleasantness. She couldn’t be accused of actively inciting them because she didn’t need to. Merely by doing nothing to discourage them, she gave the impression she approved.

With Winston Peters out of the way after the 2020 election, her assumption of complete power sent a signal to the forces of wokeness. It said, “This is your moment”.

They seized the opportunity with gusto, zealously pushing – with the mainstream media serving as state-subsided cheerleaders – an agenda of radical change that principally revolved around divisive issues of racial and sexual identity, with a generous side-order of climate change panic.

Under Ardern, Labour became a genuinely transformational government – one of only a few in New Zealand’s history (Richard Seddon’s Liberals in the 1890s, the first Labour government under Michael Savage, the Lange administration that ushered in Rogernomics) that could be so described.

In 2023, New Zealand feels like a very different country from the one Ardern inherited only three years ago. Problem was, as with Labour under Lange, much of that change was unmandated.

Unlike Rogernomics, it was a cultural transformation as much as a legislative one. The similarity was that it caught people by surprise because they couldn’t remember voting for it.

Now Chris Hipkins has thrown Labour into reverse gear. The most obvious sign is Labour’s abrupt jettisoning of Transport Minister Michael Wood’s Government Policy Statement on land transport, which prioritised emissions reduction. That would have meant more cycleways and bus lanes, higher fuel taxes and fewer new roads.

We first learned about the land transport policy statement yesterday morning. By afternoon it was gone. Now you see it, now you don’t. How quickly things change in politics …

It was a reminder that politics is ultimately about winning and retaining power, regardless of which ideological side you’re on. Policies that are seen as an electoral risk are likely to end up on the bonfire.

In the broader context, Cyclone Gabrielle changed everything. By placing Hipkins and some of his key ministers front and centre in the national consciousness, it has given vital oxygen to Labour. They have been presented as politicians able to roll their sleeves up and act decisively in a crisis.

That in turn has aligned neatly with Hipkins’ obvious desire to reposition Labour as a party of the people – its traditional image – rather than one representing the urban, university-educated elites, which it had become under Ardern.

Cancelling a hostile-to-cars transport policy was the pragmatic thing to do, even if it meant alienating Labour’s Green allies. It won’t have escaped the public’s notice that politically unfashionable diesel SUVs come into their own in a crisis; or that electric cars – the favoured mode of private transport for virtuous urban liberals – are useless when there’s no electricity.

Cyclone Gabrielle also had the effect of snatching the political initiative back from National. It couldn’t have come at a better time for Labour, because it provided a platform for Hipkins when he needed it most. The combination of Labour’s leadership change, followed almost immediately by Gabrielle, arrested the government’s decline and relegated National to the sidelines.

Suddenly all bets were off. A general election that had looked like National’s for the taking now looked like a real contest. There was even speculation that Hipkins might seize the moment and call an early election.

But whoa! Back up the truck! Now the pundits are saying National has got the jump on Labour – and raided its territory – by announcing a family-friendly childcare subsidy. Election calculations are being revised … again. How quickly things change in politics.

What was perhaps just as significant about National’s policy announcement was that Christopher Luxon, for perhaps the first time, seemed to take a genuinely red-blooded position rather than reciting safe, PR-crafted sound-bites.

His promised crackdown on government handouts to wealthy corporate consultants cleverly plays to the public perception that far too much power and influence is wielded by shadowy, overpaid, unaccountable consultants and political hangers-on. Political parasites isn’t too strong a term.

What’s more, Luxon for once didn’t allow the media to bait him or trap him into equivocating. Asked whether he was concerned for the jobs lost by consultants, he replied: “I feel very good about that.” Does this mean he finally has the confidence to say what he really thinks?

Oh, and by the way, please remind me – who’s Jacinda?


Phil said...

I am inclined to think that behind Labour's closed doors there have been brutal conversations that led to the resignation of Jacinda Ardern. The NZ media have obviously decided not to look too closely.

Gary Peters said...

Yes but ... Mysogyny..

If anyone thinks for one minute that this government is reversing anything then I have a bridge.

These "walkbacks" are merely pauses as hipkins and robertson have been front and centre with all these decisions and actions, albeit completely unmandated.

Should by some miracle a new virus of ignorance and amnesia strike a majority of voters and this lot are returned all these dictatorial measures will be back on the table before you can whisper "ardern was a liar".

transpress nz said...

There's the old, true saying that all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. She gave herself massive powers under the covid response legislation that she obviously relished, she clearly had substantial if not total control over all the country's security agencies, mostly importantly the police commissioner. She had a the almost total support of sychophantic legacy media. She hated the existance of an independent social media, and did what she could to censor it, including recruiting an army of paid inflencers and commentators taking the government line. The more power she assumed the more willing she became to trample on opponants rights. She always was very narrow minded and only believed those she wanted to believe. She gave lip service to democratic principles. Was she pushed because those in touch with reality within her party could see she was bad news for electoral success? Almost certainly.

Anonymous said...

Good morning Karl,

She is still troughing on our income tax though….that's 'kindness" or n Orwellian terms "avaricious and dishonest marxism oink oink oink "

Interesting ODT on Saturday what the world really think of NZ. Where is the rest of the NZ Media? Checking their bank statements to see if Gub Mint deposit made this month?


Odysseus said...

"History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right." (George Orwell, "1984")

That is the ethos of Labour. Ardern is no longer part of the present; the clock has ostensibly been wound back by the new regime in the hope that the electorate will believe they have awoken from what was simply a bad dream; but underneath, the pulse of the Party's polycephalous blob of identity politics, waste and repression keeps steadily beating away.

I saw Ardern lunching at a well patronized suburban restaurant a couple of weeks ago. Everyone kept their distance from her and averted their gaze; there were no well-wishers nor selfie-seekers. Even the serving staff were po-faced. It was like encountering an apparition.

Simon Cohen said...

Being ignored will be very difficult for Adern She is a classic narcissist.

Karl du Fresne said...

I don't think it should surprise anyone that Hipkins went along with Ardern's agenda. She was the prime minister. Now he is. Let's just wait and see ....

Brendan McNeill said...

I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to state that Ardern was the worst Prime Minister in the most incompetent Government this nation has had the misfortune to endure.

The change of PM was simply political expediency.
Dropping hate speech legislation was simply political expediency
Dialing back of some of Labour’s other favourite policies was simply political expediency

Likewise Christopher Luxon’s censorship of Maureen Pugh was simply political expediency.

I’m reminded of the words of WB Yeats when he stated:

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

Such is the state of New Zealand politics today.

Ben Thomas said...

I am not impressed by Labour ditching unpopular policies. If they can form the next government their support parties will make sure those same policies are back on the table.

JA was a fake and no loss. CL is anodyne This should be enough to ensure that Labour and support parties form the next government when all those conned by Hipkins' U turn will be bleating.

Huskynut said...

Something about this comment infuriates me. Politicians have always had to choose their timing carefully.
Parties traditionally had factions that could disagree within reasonable boundaries. It avoided group think and allowed parties to attract a broad church of supporters.
That's gone, and the loss should be both well observed and lamented. Politics now is beyond facile virtue signalling and well into straight-up wall to wall deception.
Labour make no pretense their policy represents the democratic will of the party members. National either.

Huskynut said...

Rephrasingy earlier comment, the cynicism implicit in this statement is extreme.
You're implying that perhaps - in the pursuit of a political career, Hopkins led and implemented a bunch of things he deeply disagreed with, only to overturn them now as ehen his turn comes as leader.
And we should judge his "true" intentions based on his actions now.
I don't believe our democratic institutions and traditions were designed with that level of cynical duplicity in mind.

Birdman said...

There are too many failures that will damn Ardern's prime ministership to worry about now and (an unbiased) history will deal with that.

Can the new PM ride out his many failures as a minister under Ardern? Who knows but only the MSM can save him from those failures in his education portfolio alone being publicly exposed (e.g. closing successful charter schools to merely appease a non-performing union, the growing disaster of centralising polytechs he insisted on, the appalling truancy rates under his watch and a ludicrous maori (fake) science syllabus that is a laughing stock to the world).

While there are many more of his cock ups and non-delivery to consider, it is just as concerning that Luxon is such an ongoing disappointment. His treatment of Maureen Pugh alone makes him very difficult to support, unless he apologises to her publicly and recognises he needs to do as much reading as he wants her to do. He doesn't seem to understand there was so much more to her questioning of James Shaw but he dissed her. His spine, let alone his policies for our good, are still not apparent.

They are all so useless because they are all such naked pursuers of power. While not surprising, it is their wish to have that undeserved power over us that keeps my dog awake at night.

RIP Georgina Beyer, what a woman. It seems to be forgotten that her total acceptance well pre-dated all the current gender stupidity. A conservative Carterton and Wairarapa elected her, 28 and 25 years ago respectively, to represent them and she delivered. All the faux gender lot need to understand New Zealand has been well ahead of them for a bloody long time.

Roger Armstrong said...

The one good thing about both major parties being equally useless and immorally power hungry IMO is that I feel totally free to “waste” my vote. I will only vote for a party that did not support the multilayered evil of vaccine mandates. Winston is ruled out for historical reasons so Matt King from Democracy NZ is getting my party vote.

(It is a disgrace that the “intelligent and libertarian “ party ACT supported the mandates, one presumes because they too smelt the mood of the nation at a time they were rising in the polls).

Anonymous said...

Fibskins was the mandate king and not to be trusted. If labour win, God forbid, Maori racist policies will step up a gear and wee Willie Jackson will be in overdrive.

Andy Espersen said...

I believe you are much too sanguine about Labour's improved chances, Karl. You mention a few policy reversals - and I agree with you here. But you never get on to Labour's major failings, namely its anti-democratic attitudes - the way it over-rode people's freedoms - the way it bull-dozed through vicious, inhumane, plain-wrong anti-Covid measures - its legislating for manifestly impossible NetZero policies - its inane backing pseudo-science in universities and in academia (viz. Richard Dawkins just now) -its unethical changing of our school history curricula to brainwash our school children with anti-colonisation nonsense, etc. I could go on and on.

Hipkins and co. were in the thick of all this - and, as far as I know, none of their policies in these areas have changed. They (and you) may think that getting rid of Ardern miraculously will improve their chances in October.

I think not.

pdm said...

Karl re your 2.10 comment.

The gloss seems to coming off Hipkins very quickly as he is found out, to be polite, ignoring/denying the facts.
1. Misleading the House on Tax at Question time.
2. Denying a gun was pointed at Road Workers in HB - the dumping on Coster.
3. Yesterday we had the Ukranian Grain issue where he misled New Zealanders when interviewed by Mike Hosking. Exposed by a NZ Herald OIA.

There are a couple of others too that slip my mind this early in the day.

There are Roy Morgan and Curia Polls due in the next few days. It will be interesting to see how he stacks up in them.

Paul Peters said...

My gut feeling is Labour will lose votes to the Greens , which is not a loss in reality as they are part of the same bloc.

Labour will keep part of its former Nat ''liberal'' vote and regain some of the grumpy , pragmatic, Labour element of NZ First (an amalgam of disenchanted voters from Labour, Nats ) and hold power again with the Maori Party's angry radical policies winning them at least four Maori electorate seats .

The new batch of first time voters emerging from the thinking training (media, schools etc) over the past few years won't be tilting ''right'' or ''centre'', whatever those terms mean these days. Hipkins shelved certain polcies. They have not been abandoned and will return with new names and tweaks.

Watching Stuff in particular, given its funding base, will be interesting in coming months .

Odysseus said...

Well I dunno about Chippy's achievements in his own right, but he's certainly succeeded in making New Zealand education the object of ridicule around the world:https://theplatform.kiwi/opinions/dawkins-views-on-teaching-matauranga-maori-go-viral

Guess you can kiss the $5 billion from international education goodbye, along with the credibility of New Zealand qualifications.

Anonymous said...

Georgina was a man, a transgender, and never called himself a women. The use of the term transgender women is a misnomer and plain wrong. RIP Georgina

Philosophical Crumbs said...

The years of radical transformation didn't happen in a vacuum. Decades of social conservatives ceding more and more ground were needed to lay the foundation. A complete capitulation and hands-off, socially liberal right wing who thinks that people should be allowed to do whatever they want, logically concludes in an ever-leftward shift and the state of society in 2023, perhaps best exemplified by people today casually referring to a recently deceased male as "she."

National's "Family Boost" may be a good policy in the present context, but it is also woefully inadequate as a remedy to the problem it purports to addresses. The problem isn't the affordability of childcare, the problem is a society that falls back on childcare in the first place. Aren't parents (and God forbid, Mothers) supposed to care for their children? I think that people understand, either implicitly or explicitly, that social liberalism has been a complete disaster, and more uninspiring and milquetoast socially liberal policy from National just makes them weep.

Eamon Sloan said...

What if Ardern had not resigned and then the cyclones arrived? Would she have had the ticker to make her way through another crisis? I have always thought along the same lines as Phil’s suggestion, and Transpress - that there was much more going on behind the scenes prior to Ardern’s resignation. Was there a split in the Labour caucus?

Brendan McNeill and Birdman have mentioned Luxon and Maureen Pugh. Here’s a scary thought and maybe some off the planet speculation: Was Luxon’s big put down of Maureen Pugh a soft signal to the Greens that National could work with the Greens come coalition talking time? If that were to happen poor New Zealand would be in doo-doo equally as deep as a repeat of Labour with Maori co-governance.

Birdman said...

Philosophical Crumbs,
I believe she" deserved it for her courage, regardless of where you sit on the gender debate - it's the human beings achievements, not the politics.

Luxon was caught out by he media and ran the party line. Nothing more political than they have decided where they thing the votes are. I would love to share the inane and intellectually shallow response from Luxon's office to my email to him on his treatment of Maureen Pugh but that is a private exchange. All I need say is it was insultingly naive and avoided addressing the issue.