Can Ardern stop the rot?

John Armstrong at TVNZ has some advice for Ardern on her return.  Stop the rot and stop it quickly.  But can she? Quote.

The incumbent three-party governing arrangement was displaying all the coherence and co-ordination of the proverbial drunken sailor long before the Prime Minister left for the relative sanctuary of a Winston Peters-free New York.

The unwieldy contraption has since appeared to be even more sloshed in her absence as its components stumble from one mini-crisis to the next minor scandal with such regularity that you can almost set your watch by it.

This three-headed hydra needs to go on the wagon — and pretty darned soon.

Viewed in isolation, each blunder or botch-up has not amounted to very much in the grand scheme of things. […]

Viewed in total, however, the various mishaps and miscues add up to a fair-sized catalogue of catastrophe. […]

What will stick in [voters] minds from this epidemic of embarrassment will be the hard-to-erase impression that Ardern’s regime is riddled with incompetence.

It will leave the public wondering whether Ardern has lost control. That is where the damage is really being done.

The onus is on her to display leadership in its most raw fashion — even more so given National’s efforts to portray her as weak are all about reducing public confidence in Ardern’s leadership of the country. […] End quote.

That will indeed be a challenge as to date Ardern’s leadership qualities have been notable by their absence. She did not want to be the leader of the Labour Party, she did not expect Labour to win the election, and they didn’t. I’m not even sure that she expected Peters to anoint her.  Ardern has had no experience in leading a party, much less a government formed from a coalition of losing parties – and yet, here we are! Quote.

From the moment she touches down back in Auckland, Ardern must draw a line under the happenings of recent weeks and demonstrate that her government is not “Dysfunction Junction” —the apt phrase dreamed up by Winston Peters and one he might have been wise to have kept to himself.

There is much that needs inclusion on Ardern’s emergency “to do” list, but here are eight things for starters.

1. Issue a loud and ear-piercing wake-up call to Labour MPs that the margin between victory and defeat in the 2020 election is likely to be narrow in the extreme. […]

2. Reinforce that message by reading the modern-day equivalent of the Riot Act to Labour’s ministers both inside and outside the Cabinet. If she has not done so already, Ardern needs to flag to them the likelihood of a reshuffle of portfolios in the not-too distant future — and that those who have not shaped up risk being shipped out. Her ministers need to shift their mindset away from blaming everything that has gone wrong in their portfolios on the previous government. A year on from the election, that no longer washes.

3. Stop mouthing sweet nothings about running an open and transparent Government when it is glaringly obvious that is far from being the case.

4. Stop being an apologist for Peters. Ardern needs to dispel the perception that New Zealand First is now “running the show” as the common parlance puts it. When push comes to shove, she has the sheer weight of numbers to call the shots. Peters and his MPs have nowhere else to go but to stick with Labour — at least for the foreseeable future. end quote.

But that is exactly what is happening and the perception is the reality. Winston has forced them to relabel the shebang, forcing the major party in the coalition to refrain from referring to the government as ‘Labour-led’.  Ardern does not have the numbers to call the shots, she needs Winston, he knows that.

As for the assertion that NZ First have nowhere else to go but stick with Labour?  They could go to the polling booth tomorrow. They probably won’t as the trough is still brimming with goodies but make no mistake, Ardern serves at Winston’s pleasure. Quote.

5. Don’t pretend there is coalition unity where this none. Requiring Andrew Little in his guise as Justice minister to defend the New Zealand First-driven legislation banning MPs from party-hopping was demeaning to him and confusing for the public.

6. Highlight the health of the economy. Last week’s economic growth figures have cut the ground from under the doomsayers in the private sector who have been using the drop in business confidence as a Trojan horse to try and water down Labour’s roll back of National’s anti-worker industrial relations laws.

7. Kill off any thought that Labour will endorse the likely recommendation from the Tax Working Group that a capital gains tax become part of the country’s tax structure. As the song goes, you can’t get everything you want. As much as such a tax is long overdue and as staunch as Ardern might be about “doing the right thing”, she would be well advised not to hang that albatross around her neck. As the saying goes, Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them.

8. That said, Labour needs to start taking Simon Bridges seriously. National’s leader might still come a long second to Ardern in any popularity contest. His job is to build the respect which will enable him to speak and act with real authority in the run-up to the next election. Right now, Ardern and company are giving him opportunity to do so which stretches way beyond generous and much closer to the truly stupid. End quote.

The other interesting aspect of John’s analysis was the number of times that the Greens were mentioned as important players in the current situation.  I counted exactly none.  To all intents and purposes, they are well and truly Gunted when it comes to wielding power.


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WH is a pale, stale, male who does not believe all the doom and gloom climate nonsense so enjoys generating CO2 that the plants need to grow by driving his MG.

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