Tracy Watkins on the weakness of Jacinda Ardern

Tracy Watkins looks at the weakness of Jacinda Ardern, and National’s strategy in pushing that particular button: Quote:

When Labour MP Kelvin Davis called former prime minister John Key weak and gutless, a fired-up Key accused Labour of backing child molesters, rapists and murderers, and triggered a walkout of Parliament.

“Get some guts” was another one of Key’s more memorable lines when Labour opposed the deployment of troops to Iraq.

Attack is usually considered the best form of defence in politics, yet Key could just as easily go the other way. When he was under pressure over errant MPs he often fell back on a shoulder shrug and an assurance to anyone who asked that he was pretty “relaxed” about it.

But he could afford to be relaxed because no one ever doubted Key was in control. End quote.

No, because at the first sign of trouble with an MP he axed them. Richard Worth never knew what hit him.  Most people can’t even remember Worth now.  Quote:

So Simon Bridges calling Jacinda Ardern “weak and indecisive” is of course calculated to do the most damage. Bridges is wrong – no one can do Ardern’s job and be weak, and especially not in this day and age. The pressure is massive, the hours are punishing, the scrutiny is immense and you can’t walk away and shut the door on everyone for a day. End quote.

Which is precisely what Ardern did the other day when she had a home day after her little, expensive jaunt to Nauru.  Quote:

But Ardern has been dealt a very different hand to Key.

As she reminded reporters on the way into Parliamentary Question time on Wednesday, hers is the first “pure” coalition government since the introduction of MMP more than 20 years ago. That might as well be code for “hospital pass”. End quote.

Most of the hospital passes are coming from within Labour and not her coalition parties. Quote:

The Key government had a near majority and was usually able to play off the Māori Party against Act or United Future to get legislation through.

Ardern needs both NZ First and the Greens to sign her programme off. She has a tiger by the tail because experience shows that MMP is cruel to minor parties in coalition government. End quote.

It doesn’t help that she doesn’t actually have a programme, other than to have endless conversations. Quote:

Kicking up against the bigger party in Government is the surest way to get oxygen and carve out their own identity. And the way the numbers fell on election night means either minor party could hold Labour hostage to their programme should they wish.

It just so happens that it’s NZ First and Winston Peters that are doing all the tail wagging at the moment.

Peters has dealt Labour a succession of harsh lessons in MMP by pulling the rug out from under Ardern and her ministers on the three strikes law and refugee numbers, for instance.

The other instance was only this week when plans to unveil a new agency called the Crown Māori Partnership were canned at the 11th hour, but not before journalists had been invited to the announcement.

NZ First is understood to have forced the backdown and demanded the word “partnership” be removed from the new agency’s name. An announcement is now expected on Thursday.

The lesson is that, unless Labour policies are agreed in coalition negotiations and tied down in Ardern’s speech from the throne, it shouldn’t be assumed they are Government policy. End quote.

Labour thought they could treat both the Greens and NZ First like Helen Clark treated them. The big problem is Jacinda Ardern is no Helen Clark. Quote:

Labour ministers seem to have been painfully slow to learn that lesson, presenting as policy decisions that have not been signed off by Peters. And Peters is the ultimate showman, timing those lessons for maximum effect.

But it’s Ardern who has had to pay the price by having to turn the other cheek to Peters’ gamesmanship and opportunism. End quote.

It is her weakness that leads to this, and the arrogance of labour who think that if they constantly say “a Labour-led government” that Winston won’t mind that, or his MPs. They do. Quote:

Peters jumped down the throat of reporters who questioned on Wednesday whether Labour’s latest sacrifice might be the multi employer agreements specified under its industrial relations reforms – but, notably, he also refused to commit to supporting them.

Stuff has been told that NZ First has drafted changes to the legislation for when it comes back before the House.

The end game appears to be either leverage, or oxygen, or kudos from the business sector for moderating Labour’s union base – or at least cultivating that perception.

But if NZ First overplays its hand it will have forced Ardern into a standoff that she must win. Otherwise it will look like NZ First is holding a gun to Labour’s head.

That would be buying Ardern a fight not just with her caucus and party activists but the Green Party as well.

The middle ground might be a compromise both sides can live with, because the alternative could end up being the nuclear option. End quote.

Why would Winston Peter compromise. If Jacinda Ardern thinks she can win that game then she will be the leader of the opposition in about as much time as it takes Winston to share a scotch with Bridges and pop down to see the Governor-general.

Winston Peters has options, Jacinda Ardern does not. Labour also has endless ministers who are tits and simply not performing. All the screw ups are Labour’s at the moment, and Jacinda Ardern can’t win a standoff, hence the growing perception of weakness.


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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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