Things are bad for Jacinda when even Tim Watkin can’t say anything nice

The media are not at all enamoured any longer with the ‘people’s Princess’. They built the narrative and now they are tearing it down.

This is the fourth straight week of negative articles and now even those on the left are upset. Even snivelling lefty Tim Watkin, who wrote this at Pundit:

For whatever reason, it was considered impolite to note Jacinda Ardern’s lack of leadership experience in last year’s election campaign. But I raised it then and it would be unwise not to raise it now. It’s not necessarily her age as such – although being the second youngest Prime Minister in our history is notable – as it is her limited time as leader. A late run into the job turned out to be great for winning an election, but it’s much harder when you’re learning your own leadership style at the same time as you’re learning how to run the country. It’s a big ask and she seems to be struggling.

Listening to her interviews, you hear Ardern still earnestly explaining, sometimes almost pleading for understanding. The raw confidence of that famous first press conference is seen only in flashes. She still seems to be trying on the Prime Minister’s clothes, and they don’t seem to quite fit.   

Maybe it’s just teething problems, but she’s had a series of ministers who have put in at best sloppy performances in recent weeks, forgetting and mishandling sensitive issues of government. Sure, some of these have come outside her party, from the likes of Shane Jones and Eugenie Sage, but Ardern’s response has lacked authority.

Ardern’s power rests on her personal popularity. John Key entered government in much the same way, and over they years always had his own personal popularity and National’s anti-gravity poll performance to wield as a weapon of discipline. But he quickly grew into his role and it’ll be interesting to see whether Ardern can learn as fast. She needs to develop her power so that it also rests on discipline and judgement. For that reason, it’s surprising she hasn’t come down harder on the controversies bedevilling her government in recent weeks. She’s seemed timid.

Labour’s biggest problem in Opposition was a lack of discipline, and at this stage it seems they may have taken that trait into government with them. Oh, Labour MPs are no longer running around removing leaders and arguing policy amongst themselves, but they lack a sense of purpose. It’s a long way, as some have over-dramatically said in the past week, from losing them the next election. However it is over-shadowing the sense of doing a new government wants to project.

Consider last week’s transport announcement. The general public should be left this week with a sense that the direction of travel – literally in this case, rather than as one of Grant Robertson’s over-used metaphors – has changed. A new generation is in charge. The key message could have been that after years of drift, someone has finally taken the tough, evidence-based decisions. Yeah, we need some money off you to do it, but we are taking the lead and, with your help, doing what is long overdue.

Instead, we had niggly debates about the difference between a tax and an excise. Ardern nit-picked when she could have been a new generation leader. Timid. 


The point is, we’re in a political moment where our leaders have their training wheels on and are still barely out of leadership creche. The leaders they become will be one of the most significant indicators of what kind of politics this country will enjoy over the rest of this term, and perhaps beyond. End of quote.

For Tim Watkin, that is brutal. Jacinda Ardern will know that the luvvies are upset, and she will be upset. Tim Watkin would have been on the must-call list along with every other writer of the bad press that Jacinda is getting right now.

Her appeal to the journalists, and the heckling and hectoring she is dishing out, isn’t working. It rarely works. To watch Jacinda Ardern in the house is a dreadful experience. She is snarling, scowling and gone is the “relentless positividdy”. Now it is just grumpiness and nastiness.

When you are losing Tim Watkin and you are the Labour leader there are real problems.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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