The virtual Ardern, the young left-wing woman who is a living rebuke to Trump

The virtual Ardern, the young left-wing woman who is a living rebuke to Trump. By Greg Sheridan.

[Jacinda] Ardern too is a global media superstar. … Undoubtedly part of the international Jacindamania comes from the fact she is a young left-wing woman who gave birth in office and took maternity leave. That is all wonderful but it has no bearing on policy achievement.

Famously Ardern participated in an international women’s march against Donald Trump’s election. In an early profile, Vogue magazine labelled her “the anti-Trump”.

The truly fatuous Maureen Dowd wrote a gushing profile in The New York Times in which she praised Ardern for trying to rescue refugees from Australia’s “hideous holding facilities in Nauru”. But wait a minute. The Morrison government in the budget just handed down will gradually reduce over four years Australia’s annual refugee intake from nearly 19,000 to about 13,000. Australia has 25.5 million people. New Zealand has five million people and takes around 1000 refugees or fewer a year. Whichever way you cut it, the Morrison government is vastly more generous to refugees.

But Vogue, The New York Times, Time magazine and the fatuous follies of the Nobel Peace Prize, which had Ardern in the running to win the prize, as Barack Obama did, for doing nothing at all, rejoice in the virtual Ardern, the idea of her as a living rebuke to Trump.

That’s the point with progressive politics. It has almost nothing to do with competent government administration and useful policies reliably delivered, and almost everything to do with gesture, narrative and the endless recital of the progressive line.

Even on COVID-19, the Ardern government has done much less than it seems and at much greater cost than other countries have paid. There are other countries whose governments have even better records of eradicating COVID-19. And they are? Fiji with 32 cases, Solomon Islands with two cases and Vanuatu with none. Their leaders are not worldwide media sensations yet they got those numbers for the same reasons as New Zealand. They are isolated island nations. Auckland, with something over a million people, is one of the most isolated cities of its size.

The Ardern government was a bit slow to realise how serious COVID-19 was and when it finally responded it did so with overkill. It instituted one of the most severe lockdowns in the world. To give it its due, this was substantially effective in stamping out the virus.

Progressive governments have typically been attracted to the most extreme versions of lockdown possible. Progressive pol­itics is inherently authoritarian and enjoys bossing people around. Its key support base is typically government sector employees whose jobs are not lost in lockdown and it is inherently suspicious anyway of the capitalist economy it gets to close down at least for a while. …

The more total your shutdown, the more you can eradicate COVID-19. It’s then a matter of keeping your borders shut. …

New Zealanders embraced this policy for the sake of getting rid of the virus. But this is not remotely comparable to the achievements of nations such as Taiwan, South Korea and to some extent Singapore, which have kept the virus under control or out altogether while also keeping their society and economy going.

Policies apart from covid? Not much achievement there.

Before COVID-19, Ardern was trailing in the polls. Her list of undelivered election promises is staggering: 100,000 affordable homes promised, 600 built; homelessness to be eradicated, it increased; zero carbon emissions by 2050, emissions went up; reduce child poverty, it went up; regional public service emphasis, more public servants based in Wellington than before; light rail from Auckland airport to CBD, abandoned.

But then came the virus and she could do her high priestess of the woke religion stuff, day after day. Validated by a swooning international media, unchallenged by a tepid and under-resourced local media, she has sold the narrative that her government has saved NZ.