Saint Jacinda’s fall: No amount of spin could save her

Saint Jacinda’s fall: No amount of spin could save her. By Karl du Fresne.

Ardern may have enjoyed worldwide adulation, but in two terms as leader she had become an increasingly polarising figure at home. Her departure resembled nothing so much as the lifting of a spell.

New Prime Minister Chris Hipkins wasted no time setting his government on a new path. His primary objective will be to win back the mass of swinging voters who crossed over to Labour at the 2020 election, when Ardern was surfing a tide of goodwill following her adroit response to the Christchurch mosque massacres, but who have abandoned the party since then in disillusionment over its ideological excesses and managerial incompetence. …

Ardern’s personal popularity had slumped to the point where she had fallen into the negative approval zone ….

It was a dramatic demonstration of what some political scientists call the Obama effect, where a leader is admired abroad but not so much domestically. It also reinforced the fundamental truth that ultimately, the only people in a position to truly judge whether Ardern was doing a good job were those who had to live with the consequences of her government’s policies. When it comes to the crunch, rapturous applause from left-leaning overseas commentators is just so much meaningless noise.

The Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 was a crucial turning point. … Her daily televised pep talks from what was derisively labelled the Podium of Truth, so named because of her statement that the government was the sole source of reliable information about the pandemic, aroused as much scepticism as shoulders-to-the-wheel fervour.

None of this was helped by the growing public perception that Ardern was protected by sycophantic journalists. New Zealanders expect the media to subject the government to rigorous critical scrutiny, and they didn’t see that happening. In the end, the media’s fawning over Ardern became a negative. …

Failed and unpopular ideological failures:

Covid aside, what most damaged Ardern was the growing public realisation that her government was pursuing a radical agenda for which it had no mandate and which it demonstrably lacked the competence to execute.

Even as homelessness, gang crime and child welfare issues escalated, Labour ideologues seemed more concerned with promoting disruptive and destabilising changes in health, education and local government. As with some Labour regimes in the past — and with Australia under Gough Whitlam — there was a striking mismatch between ministerial ambition and ability.

So now Hipkins has embarked on a desperate salvage operation, reshuffling Labour’s cabinet, demoting his most unpopular minister, the divisive Nanaia Mahuta, and pledging to focus on ‘bread and butter issues’ such as the cost of living.

He has also signalled the likelihood of a rethink on some of Labour’s most ideologically toxic policies –- notably, Mahuta’s push for what is euphemistically termed Maori co-governance over the nation’s water resources.

Does this mean New Zealand is reconsidering being renamed “Aotearoa”?

Apparently so:

In a Newshub-Reid Research poll, respondents were asked what they thought New Zealand should be known as.

Fifty-two percent wanted the country to be called New Zealand, pure and simple. Thirty-six percent wanted Aotearoa in the mix, as in the ungainly, bob-each-way formulation Aotearoa-New Zealand.

But here’s the crunch: only 9.6 percent of those polled thought the country should be renamed Aotearoa. …

Predictably the poll results were buried deep in a Newshub story, despite the network having paid for the research.

The usual woke-normal split on just about any issue. The majority reject the woke change, a substantial number will compromise if it means a quiet life, and the hard line wokies are about 10%.