At the beginning of the year, Jacinda returned from 7 weeks holiday. 7 weeks you may say sounds like an awful lot! But anyway, she attended her first press conference on that day and it did not go well.
‘Her first press conference (after 7wk break) she was on the defensive, shutting things down, not wanting to talk about things or engage’
In the substance of the press conference, Ardern sounded exasperated at questions about the failure of KiwiBuild to meet its first milestone of 1000 houses by July, and by questions about the capital gains tax report.
Ardern’s tetchiness perhaps reflects a raft of challenging issues facing the Government.
Ardern became impatient when questions turned to the undisputed veto that NZ First will have on any capital gains tax
She also became exasperated when questioned about the failure of KiwiBuild targets — so much so that she could not bring herself to actually say “No” when repeatedly asked if the July target would be met
Most of us could only dream of a seven-week break and then we would be fresh, calm and ready for the new year.
But Jacinda returned in a mood so gloomy that her very first day back when she should have been fresh, she was the opposite.
She had come to the realisation over the break that data just doesn’t stick in her mind as stories do. These stories have emotions that can get people to do all type of things good or bad. She had emotional appeal, trust with these people. The Labour people, Winston, lots of voters and the international observers. But things were falling apart at the end of 2018. Internal staffing issues, staff turnover, Ardern walking out of meetings in tears and so on. The strain of constant work was too much for her and she was physically ill and mentally exhausted.
What Ardern was seeing was that her stories, her dreams, her ideologies were not turning into reality. She had realised over the holidays that she simply did not have the skills to do the role of PM. She had lost her own confidence and this came out in that very first press conference of the year.
We all have periods of self-doubt. Some of us never get over these periods, some of us fight, the best of us put our heads down and grind out the problems. Jacinda did not have the ability to do this. She does not have the mental stamina to read, to understand, to analyse – she only does stories!
She was lonely and distant (as any PM is) from her colleagues. She had Grant Robertson but he was very busy in Finance an area that she (and Grant) had little understanding of. It was interesting on the eve of the launch of Grant’s and Jacinda’s ‘welfare budget’ that when there were ‘hacks’ and ‘leaks’ rather than round up the team on the 9th floor and get to the bottom of it, Jacinda went home early to give Neve a bath.
She was out of her depth, lonely and helpless at the top. Her close minders isolated her from the rigours of work and sent her to visits at schools, kindergartens and protected her constantly from hard questions. She would light up when talking about climate change and other areas of interest to her. But ask her outside of that, and as Mike Hosking finds weekly, she simply umms and arghs her way through interviews without actually answering the questions.
March 15 Christchurch, hit her very hard. Whilst many were positive about her dress up and kindness towards the victims in the aftermath of the shootings, some thought she went too far. I disagree that she was play-acting to gain support. Instead my view is somewhat more serious. Her reaction was over the top because she was already struggling with her own coping mechanisms and March 15 provided her with another matter which she had no choice but to confront. The sad glum faces she showed over the next few weeks/months was in some part for the families and victims but more importantly, it was for her.
During the mid-year break her minders managed to stretch out her break from the 9th floor by first having a ‘fishing break’ then a brand Jacinda excursion to socialist Melbourne and then a trip to Tokelau. This resulted in the now-familiar ‘Part-Time Prime Minister’ slogan coined by Simon Bridges.
Whilst this is a catchy term and was picked up by the Jacinda doubters, it was actually true and worthy. Jacinda was being managed. Her workload was managed, her visits were carefully managed so she would come across as knowledgeable in those areas of her interest, but would not need to know about the areas she was not interested in.
Importantly, some key areas of her responsibilities were kept from her. The most visible of these were the sex assaults from within her own office. This controversy alone struck more against everything she had portrayed herself to stand for. Women in her very own office were not protected and she was (or was not) complicit in its cover-up. Complicity or not, she had responsibility, a concept she has yet to develop a mature understanding of.
We can see Ardern now. Thin, gaunt, irritable, pale and whilst I am no medical person, others have pointed out the suggestion of medication to assist her in day to day life.
And still every day the hits keep coming. Failure after failure, non-performance in her so called ‘year of delivery’. There are wins, and they are celebrated, but a realistic analysis of these shows that these are small wins and will not help New Zealand any more than provide some token virtue signalling.
New Zealand’s economy is slowing, all the indicators that matter are negative, we have a weak and failing PM who has no real answers to help New Zealand.
It is going to be a very very long 12 months for Jacinda and her Government which I would give a 50/50 chance of surviving full term.