Why Jacinda Ardern is a formidable opponent

I really don’t understand why social media were so upset with the incredibly positive piece ’60 Minutes’ did on our Prime Minister. It made her look really, really good. It played to all her strengths and ignored her weaknesses.

After watching the video I realised that her persona and her media hype and support make her a truly formidable opponent. She is the Labour equivalent of John Key likeabilitywise, there are no two ways about it. She also has the bonus of being held up as a feminist icon for being young and pregnant while doing one of the world’s toughest jobs.

People loved John Key even though he didn’t actually change anything or do anything remarkable. He played safe and rather than sticking to clearly defined National principles he was poll driven and made his decisions based on public reaction at the time. He wanted to be liked at all costs and if that meant doing nothing and maintaining a Labour Lite government in order to stay in power then that is what he was prepared to do.

John Key was a formidable opponent because he was so likeable and relatable and nothing the opposition threw at him would stick, hence the nickname Teflon John Key. Jacinda Ardern has taken this likeability to rock-star level. I can imagine that she will be forgiven many sins because of it. Add to that her pregnancy and even more leeway will be given to her because, despite all the claims that a woman can give birth and be back and running the country in six weeks, no one really believes it.

Her government so far (apart from the controversial, unpopular and callous decision to terminate Charter schools that do so much for Maori and Pasifika), are all about giving things away for free. Until the money runs out this will only make people like her more. So, how can National’s new leader compete?

The answer lies in her weaknesses. She wants to be liked so if you highlight policies that are totally unlikeable, like closing down this young man’s school, she will take a personal hit if the responsibility is laid at her feet, not the feet of Chris Hipkins.

PHOTO-Supplied to Whaleoil
Dominic Elliot holding a sign: “Jacinda where is your support now?”

Jacinda’s main weakness is that despite her likeability, being Prime Minister is not something that she consciously worked towards or wanted. Helen Clark, in comparison, wanted the job badly and schemed and planned for many, many years to get the top role. Jacinda simply is not hungry enough and she is a people pleaser. I get the impression she is doing what has been asked of her. This is not her dream job and, in fact, as she said at the end of the ’60 Minutes’ interview she feels the weight of expectation ‘acutely’.

Jacinda is a Prime Minister under incredible strain, which will not be helped with all the hormonal changes caused by pregnancy and giving birth. When she is not smiling her micro-expressions contain grimaces. Her biggest weakness is that she is not enjoying the job and that is why I think that it is more likely National’s new leader will be opposing Winston Peters for a much longer period after the birth than anyone is currently expecting.

Jacinda puts on a really good show but her weaknesses make me question how much longer the show can go on. She doesn’t really want to be there. Giving birth may be her get-out-of-jail-free card. If that happens and she doesn’t come back, National will no longer have a rock star to compete with.

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If you agree with me that’s nice, but what I really want to achieve is to make you question the status quo, look between the lines and do your own research. Do not be a passive observer in this game we call life.

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