With the ‘resignation’ of David Clark, the truly hopeless former health minister, Jacinda has appointed Chris Hipkins, Education and State Services Minister, into the role. While assuring everyone that this is an interim measure, with Hipkins holding the position only until the election, it speaks volumes about the lack of talent in the Labour front bench. It seems that the only ministers that Jacinda feels she can trust are Robertson, Hipkins, Woods, David Parker and possibly Andrew Little, although his demotion by 2 places in the Labour line-up might hint otherwise. Woods is average, Parker is arrogant and Little is… insignificant.
Assuming Labour forms the next government, I cannot see how her predicament is going to improve, because even with newcomers such as Ayesha Verrall in the lineup, Jacinda is unlikely to promote her straight into cabinet… although, with the current dearth of talent, stranger things have been known.
So if we are facing another Labour government, quite possibly without NZ First, we will also be facing a government with about 4 or 5 competent ministers (and I include Jacinda in that line-up, which shows what a problem it is), with the rest being included for diversity reasons or because they are part of the Greens and must be thrown a few bones here and there. As the deputy leader of the Labour Party is included for diversity reasons and clearly nothing else, it can be said that the lack of talent goes right to the top of the government.
But why is this? Why do we have this complete lack of talent in politics, particularly left-wing politics, which appears to be a problem suffered not only in New Zealand but also in Britain, the USA, Australia and Canada, to name a few?
Whether you liked Helen Clark or not, she was a competent prime minister, and Michael Cullen, in spite of his politics of envy, was a competent minister of finance. Clark did have some competent ministers, and in the Clark era there was never the steaming incompetence that we have seen with this government. The only minister who served under Clark who is still in politics is David Parker, who I class as competent. I refuse to include Nania Mahuta because her longevity has not improved her competence; in fact her sole claim to fame, it seems, is the fact that she is the only politician in the world with a moko… a great achievement indeed.
But why are left-wing politicians these days so poor at their jobs? Most politicians go into politics because, initially anyway, they want to make a real difference. Most left-wing politicians are driven by ideology, but most of it is intended to improve people’s lives. Yes, once they have been in politics for a few years, they discover they like being at the public trough, and will do anything to keep their places there. You don’t often see Labour politicians taking significant pay cuts to go into politics, like we did with John Key, Christopher Luxon or Todd Muller. What is it that happens between the time when an aspiring left winger enters politics and before he turns into a trougher?
The answer is – nothing. People coming into politics with no life or work experience have nothing to offer. They may have aspirations, and may genuinely want to help people, but without at least some world experience, many of them will be useless. Good intentions are admirable, but without the slightest idea of how the real world works, they will amount to nothing, and once the desire to stay at the trough kicks in, they will be hopeless for however long they are allowed to stay.
Having said all that, National, led by Todd Muller, should be walking all over the incompetent members of the government, but they are not. Muller’s credentials are first class, but he is a man of straw. It is true that Simon Bridges was beaten to a pulp for criticising Jacinda at the height of her saintly phase, but Muller must not fall into the same trap. Elections cannot be won by the opposition admiring the current government, and Muller shows no sign so far of really going on the attack.
Having said all of that, I do believe that National has considerably more talent than Labour. Forget Nikki Kaye or Amy Adams, (who would have been wise to stick to her retirement plans), but further down the list, we have some impressive people. Michael Woodhouse is the only one to have landed a real hit on the government so far, and he handled the ensuing media frenzy extremely well. After that, we have Paul Goldsmith, Chris Bishop, Chris Penk, Nicola Willis, Shane Reti, good old Simon Bridges, not to mention Judith Collins. That is 8 people with talent and ability… twice the number that can be described similarly in Labour, and there is plenty more talent in National’s line-up a bit further down.
Labour supporters have often tried to score a hit on Chris Bishop for once having had a job with ‘Big Tobacco’, but at least he has some real life experience. Many of our current ministers have had no life outside politics, the prime minister included. Is this really a good foundation for a career which affects peoples lives so dramatically? The answer, looking at the current Labour line-up, is obviously not.
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