Hooton: Is Jacinda Ardern our Sarah Palin?

Matthew Hooton asks if Jacinda Ardern is our Sarah Palin:

Helen Clark, Sir Michael Cullen and the other Labour powerbrokers behind Jacinda Ardern’s rise still have it. They have timed their restoration to perfection.

If the official version is to be believed – which of course it shouldn’t be – Ms Ardern herself didn’t know anything about what was being done on her behalf until an hour before Andrew Little resigned and she became leader six weeks ago.

Since then, the new leader has been the beneficiary of facile media hysteria previously reserved only for the announcement of a royal fiancée or Sir John Key’s despatch of Don Brash.

But unlike the young Philip Mountbatten, Diana Spencer or Kate Middleton, Ms Ardern seeks genuine power over us. And unlike Sir John, as the hysteria winds down, it is increasingly apparent there is nothing there to justify it at all.

In 2008, Republican Party operatives discovered when preparing vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin for her debate with Democrat Joe Biden that “she doesn’t know anything”. In 2017, New Zealand Labour may have similarly landed itself with a prime ministerial candidate without the basic background knowledge to be a credible candidate for high office.

I’ve long said that Jacinda Ardern is nothing more than a collection of socialist bumper sticker slogans. That is proving to be be true.

Ms Ardern’s most obvious weakness is tax policy.  Despite initial resistance from campaign chairman Steven Joyce after his disastrous attack on Labour’s spending plans, National has finally put tax at the centre of its fightback.

The power of the attack lies not in the fact of Ms Ardern’s proposed Tax Working Group (TWG). No prime minister or candidate for the office should be expected to be an expert in the minutiae and it would be imprudent for an opposition to think it could design avoidance-proof structural changes without the benefit of professional advice.

What has really damaged Ms Ardern is that it has become clear she has never given tax policy any thought even in the broadest brushstrokes.

Initially, she ring-fenced increasing GST and income tax from the TWG’s work, except for promising to reverse the $1000-a-year cuts to income tax that National legislated for next year.  When asked by the Australian Financial Review, Ms Ardern later extended her commitment to company tax.

On the proposed capital gains tax (CGT), Ms Ardern ruled out including the “family home” – whatever that means in contemporary New Zealand – but was unable to answer whether the “family home” exemption would also extend to a land tax, seemingly not understanding the difference between the two. After a painful few hours, Labour moved to rule out all taxes on the “family home”, but that raises all sorts of questions about where the “family home” ends and the shop, farm or other business begins – or when a big urban backyard stops being a place for kids to run around and becomes land-banking. Maori might argue with some legitimacy that their marae is in some sense more the “family home” than where the whanau happens to live now.

The surprising thing is not that these can be difficult questions – exactly the sort of thing a TWG might be best to resolve – but that Ms Ardern seems never to have contemplated that they might even arise.

In many regards I feel sorry for Jacinda Ardern. She is surrounded by sycophants telling her she is brilliant, when she isn’t. Worse than that it is obvious to everyone except Labour and Blind Freddy that Grant Robertson simply hasn’t done any work.

Tax could perhaps just be dismissed as not Ms Ardern’s thing, but there is a wider pattern of flakery.

The still-likely next prime minister has declared climate change “my generation’s nuclear-free moment” but her actual policy appears to extend no further than implementing the Emissions Trading Scheme as legislated and setting up a new Climate Commission.

Ms Ardern has said her “entire reason for being in politics is to rid this country of child poverty” but in nine years in parliament she has proposed not a single meaningful initiative to do so, other than launching a Child Poverty Reduction and Eradication Bill which would have established a new Child Poverty Reduction Board.

In any case, the primary measure she uses to define poverty – those earning 60% of the median income after housing costs – means poverty cannot be eliminated in a liberal democracy but undoubtedly was in Kampuchea. There is no evidence of any reflection on her part on such points.

On superannuation, Ms Ardern has accidentally found herself embracing Mr Key’s ludicrous position of promising to resign as prime minister before touching the age of retirement or any future entitlements.

On foreign policy, the prime minister-in-waiting seems blissfully unware that the thing she says is a deal breaker in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – banning foreigners buying property – is already specifically allowed under the TPP through the means of introducing a punitive stamp duty.

Ms Ardern has never sat for a serious interview on her view of the Treaty of Waitangi and how she will do better than National in finally bringing the historic settlement process to a close, including with Nga Puhi.

Even on an issue that a “youth adjacent” leader might be expected to know well, cannabis law reform, Ms Ardern is flakey. She laments falsely that there are people in jail simply for smoking a joint – such people are extremely unlikely even to be arrested by the police – but also refuses to support decriminalisation.

None of this suggests the prime minister-assumptive is the policy wonk she claims. The inadequacy of Labour’s policy positions is more indicative of a person whose experience is limited to moving from school, to a Bachelor in Communications Studies at the University of Waikato, to being a parliamentary staffer, and then a list MP.

Which precisely is the entire depth of her CV. Little Jacinda has never had a real job…or had to worry about where the next dollar comes from because it has always been the taxpayer for her.

 After six weeks, even the daily left-wing media has now woken up to the fact Ms Ardern is indeed a flake. But the polls have already been open for five days as part of the Electoral Commission’s effort to attract the left-leaning “missing million” to vote, including by dropping in to gang headquarters.

In fact, by the time you read this, more than 200,000 people will already have cast their votes. By the time the final leaders’ debate is held on Wednesday night, the number may be over one million. It will hardly matter how badly Ms Ardern performs that night – with the help of the Electoral Commission, she may already have wrapped this one up.

Accurate portrayal of Socialist Cindy there by Hooton.

 

-NBR

 


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