Jacinda Ardern is doing nothing for women in power

Jacinda Ardern came to power a year ago amid much fanfare about her being a(nother) woman in a premier’s role, and how groundbreaking it was for women. It wasn’t groundbreaking, of course – she wasn’t even the first female PM this country has had, although everyone seemed to have forgotten that. She came to power leading a fractious, three-way coalition government with almost no talent or experience among its ranks – and that includes her. But that didn’t matter. She was a woman, she was going to lead the world and everything would be wonderful.

I seriously wonder if anyone really believed that, or if they were just fervently hoping for the best. During their election campaign, this government had made wild, overblown promises that they never expected they would have to keep. Jacinda promised that she wouldn’t lie and that there would be no strikes. This government was going to ‘bring kindness back’ as if all governments that went before were the sort that sent people to the gulag. Never fear, Jacinda is now here.

So, one year on, how is the woman who was going to save the world doing?

Badly.

She is not just doing a bad job in government, she is doing a terrible job for women in positions of influence. I hardly know where to start.

First, once she became prime minister, suddenly, she was also pregnant. Okay, no big deal. People have babies all the time.  But those who asked the perfectly reasonable question of how she was going to manage both being prime minister and a first-time mother were shot down as filthy misogynists who wanted to keep women in the kitchen where they belonged. It was a perfectly reasonable question, and those who asked it have since been vindicated.

The answer is that she is not managing well at all. Baby Neve is dragged around the country on an almost daily basis because her father can’t breastfeed. Nobody seemed to have thought of this when hailing Jacinda as the woman who really could do anything. In spite of assurances that she could handle the situation, having to take a private plane to get to Nauru only demonstrates once again that she didn’t have a clue what she was taking on when she became New Zealand’s first pregnant prime minister.

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I think Jacinda has the mistaken impression that ‘captain’s calls’ make her look strong and decisive. They don’t. Destroying a profitable industry as a ‘captains call’ without any form of consultation is more oligarthic than anything. With 150 working groups already in place, she may be giving the impression that she is strong on consultation, but the treatment of the oil and gas industry shows that she can behave like a true dictator if she feels like it. This lack of consistency does not show strength in leadership. It just means no one will know what she is likely to do from one day to the next.

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Being prime minister is a tough job and one that calls for hard tasks to be done sometimes. They didn’t call John Key ‘the smiling assassin’ for nothing, but John Key always knew when an axe needed to fall, and he did it swiftly and with precision.  The Clare Curran debacle showed Jacinda as weak, indecisive and unable to do the hard stuff when she needs to. The same problem has now evolved with Meka Waitiri, and yet again, the media are not going to let this go away.

Meka cracking
Photoshopped image credit: Luke

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Speaking of the media, Jacinda started off well with them. They adored her. She was a socialist to a leftist mob, a panacea for all the evils thrust upon us by those nasty Tories. Initially, her friendly and open style was a refreshing change from the crusty politicians of old, but now Jacinda avoids all the hard questions, clearly afraid to front up to some of the issues that she has not handled well. Cancelling two media interviews last weekend just shows that she’s scared, and making excuses such as ‘diary issues’ makes her look like a liar. The funny thing is that the media adoration towards her initially was almost cult-like in its fervour but playing games and failing to be honest, has done her no favours. That she managed to lose them so quickly is surprising, but then again, being truthful and turning up when you say you will always goes a long way in the media world.

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Speaking of diary issues, I cannot think of a worse look for a so-called powerful woman than a boyfriend who steps in to defend her every time something goes wrong. It really is a dreadful look. It is very ‘knight in shining armour’ of Clarke to leap to her defence every time someone criticises her, but all it does is make her look even more weak and pathetic.

A female premier whose boyfriend feels he has to take to the airwaves in her defence all the time is a joke, countering everything that people say about strong women. Can you imagine Denis Thatcher doing that or even Peter Davidson? Most successful women would be completely mortified. The fact that she either can’t tell Clarke to butt out, or she won’t, tells us even more that she has no strength of character, and she really is nothing more than a little girl in a fairy story.

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I love @NZClarke’s reference to Jacinda doing ‘stand up’. It makes me think of Jerry Seinfeld or Ricky Gervais. I’m sure that is not the kind of ‘stand up’ that he meant. But that kind of stand up is all that we’ve got.

 


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

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