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The unchanging of the guard

THE PORTER REPORT

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One of the more entertaining aspects of the New Zealand Labour Party’s recent change of leadership, has been the decision by many headline writers to characterise this as a “surprise” or “shock” resignation.

David Porter

Whether one approved of former Labour Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s performance or not, no one ever thought her stupid.

Indeed, Ardern has proven clearly – after a succession of lacklustre and unsupported Labour leaders – that she has been a tremendous electoral asset for the party.

This was not in any way an unexpected decision. Her decision to step down was inevitable based on her astute reading of the fact that the shine had dimmed on the glow she brought to the Labour leadership. No smart leader wants to go out a loser, and she could see that the polls were turning against her.

After her latest triumphant overseas tour, it was clear that she enjoys an excellent reputation abroad. I for one would not be surprised to find her deservedly ending up in a well-paid international position, post the election.

There has been some mention that she has suffered unpleasant criticism in social media. She deserves our sympathy for that. But I would be surprised if she – or indeed any senior politician – does not employ staff whose job includes reading and shielding her from such nonsense. No one is obliged to read or take seriously the rantings of online idiots.

Who else was there?

There has been much praise on the manner of her transfer of power to Chris Hipkins. The suggestion is that this was swiftly and deftly handled, with minimum fuss. Which it was. But after all, who else was she going to choose?

She can certainly be praised for the smoothness of the process, and it clearly initially caught the opposition National Party off guard. However, the opposition appears to be recovering.

Dealing with and enduring the onset of Covid 19 has been a challenge for us all – both politicians and public. But let us not forget that, in its early days especially, this gave Labour an excellent opportunity to monopolise their coverage in the media with positive imagery of Ardern and Hipkins daily fronting the press and public.

Not to mention the vast sums of free advertising expended on the subject, all of which was essentially aimed at convincing the public that Labour was doing a good job of handling the crisis. Which may well be the case. The government’s current resistance to any effective analysis of this, means that we won’t know the real costs for some years.

What we do know is that Labour has been largely unconvincing in much other than expending millions of dollars on fruitless consultations and working groups to explore far-reaching policy aims that seem unlikely to ever come to fruition and that were in many cases not originally campaigned on. As is often the case, Labour’s ambitions greatly over-reached its ability to deliver.

Let us dispel the notion that Hipkins was not always a fully committed member of the Labour Government leadership team that has now abruptly announced that its core policies are to be killed off.

Amongst them, especially let us not forget the poorly justified and expensive three waters scheme, which attracted a bigger volume of so far unanswered public queries and criticisms than any other. This particular policy is one of the few that has so for been “parked” for reconsideration. Meaning that it was impossible to kill for internal political reasons and is likely to re-emerge if Labour gets back into power this year.

Essentially, Labour, now under Hipkins’ leadership, has stated that most of its ambitious and impossible to implement raft of policies has been abandoned, in an attempt to get out from under them ahead of National’s expected electoral policy criticisms. So what does Labour really believe in? And what can it achieve?

As noted, Ardern is certainly not stupid and will be deeply missed as a leader by Labour.

Making a smooth transfer of power this early, will give the public good time to judge the effectiveness of her successor in the run-up to the elections.

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David Porter
David Porter
THE PORTER REPORT - A monthly update on the business world from David Porter

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