Thursday, 2 March 2017

Fortune's Favourite: The Rise And Rise Of Jacinda Ardern.

“Fortune favours the bold.” Though lacking in the more obvious talents of statecraft, the politician who retains both courage and self-belief has every chance of securing an undeservedly long ride on Fortune’s wheel.
 
SO, IT’S JACINDA. At last, Labour’s front-bench is beginning to look like the work of Andrew Little – rather than the cast-offs of David Cunliffe, David Shearer, Phil Goff, Helen Clark and (God help us!) David Lange!
 
The last conspicuous veteran of the plague years of the 1980s has bowed to the irresistible logic of Jacinda Ardern’s by-election victory and announced her retirement. Part of that logic, undoubtedly, was the reaction of Annette King’s caucus colleagues to her spittle-flecked outburst to the NZ Herald’s deputy-political editor, Claire Trevett.
 
Of the Old Guard, only Trevor Mallard remains, blowing softly on the pallid embers of his ambition. If he really means to become the next Speaker of the House, then he would be wise to remain as silent and solitary as the Sphinx for the remainder of the term.
 
Inevitably, there has been speculation that Ardern’s rising popularity could ultimately outstrip that of her leader’s – to Little’s acute embarrassment. What’s missing from this analysis is that up until 23 September, at least, Little remains Labour’s undisputed monarch. That the King’s younger sister is beloved by his subjects matters not at all – providing he leads them to victory in September.
 
Should he lose the election badly, Little will, almost certainly, fall on his sword. Few would now dispute that in such circumstances the leadership of the Labour Party would be Ardern’s to refuse.
 
On the other hand, should Little emerge from the September smoke of battle as the leader of a new government, who among his colleagues would dare to challenge him? It would take a Labour caucus of historic stupidity to reward the person responsible for liberating them from nine years of morale-sapping Opposition by organising a leadership-spill. This is not Australia, and there’s absolutely no sign that Labour’s MPs have been captured by the plot of Frederick Forsyth’s The Fourth Protocol.
 
So Ardern can become as popular as Princess Diana and it will still be no skin off Little’s nose. He’s auditioning for the role of New Zealand’s prime minister – not for the next series of The Batchelor. Besides, as every Labour Leader of the Opposition from Norman Kirk to Helen Clark has discovered: hitherto ground-hugging “Preferred Prime Minister” rankings have a habit of rocketing skyward the moment the mysterious mantel of national leadership is draped across their shoulders.
 
Not that Ardern has ever had to work that hard at being popular. Her career offers startling proof of Oliver Cromwell’s oft-quoted observation: “no one rises so high as [s]he who knows not whither [s]he is going.” Indeed, Ardern bears all the tokens of a political leader for whom “Dame Fortune” has developed a soft spot.
 
“Dame Fortune” (the medieval rendering of “Fortuna” the Roman goddess of luck) was often depicted as a winged (and sometimes blindfolded) goddess balancing lightly upon a ball. In one hand she carries the cornucopia of abundance and in the other the rudder by which men’s fates are steered. In medieval manuscripts, however, she is more often portrayed as the implacable mistress of “The Wheel of Fortune” – upon which, by turns, the ambitious are raised up and cast down.
 
Dame Fortune's Wheel
 
It’s a powerful metaphor, capturing beautifully the strange and random contingencies of political life. A politician may appear to have everything going for him: intelligence, eloquence, diligence, good-looks; and yet make next to no impression on his fellow citizens. Another, meanwhile, may be conspicuously lacking in all of these qualities and yet, with the crucial blessing of Lady Luck, go from strength to strength.
 
And then there is the common English saying: “Fortune favours the bold.” Though lacking in the more obvious talents of statecraft, the politician who retains both courage and self-belief has every chance of securing an undeservedly long ride on Fortune’s wheel.
 
Jacinda Ardern could have stayed in Auckland Central and accepted another bout with National’s Nikki Kaye. Instead she “grabbed Fortune by the hair”, won the Mt Albert by-election, and in a few short days will be elected Deputy-Leader of the Labour Party.
 
Just how high Dame Fortune is willing to carry Jacinda on her wheel – and for how long – only the blind goddess knows.
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 1 March 2017.

14 comments:

Unknown said...

Kiwiblog:
Happychappy

Poor Old Winston the equivalent of Trump in NZ is not getting any media air like Trump does and is being pushed out of the limelight by Labour, Andrew Little and new found hope Jacinda Ardern. With the help of the Herald nine of the thirteen columns posted on Politics were based on Labour.
........
And don't they know how to stifle voices. Newshub has open border advocate Josie Pagani, saying Jacinda Adern will take back votes from NZ First.

peter petterson said...

Best post you have written for ages - as they say Chris, right on the button.

jh said...

Behind it all though are issues and you can paper over them with new faces but they will still be there: globalism versus nationalism ; "inclusive" versus "exclusive" etc
A free press is only free when you have something like Brietbart to say and point out the banned content of the media elite.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

If my memory serves me correctly, that arse Cameron Slater once called her "shallow as a bird bath." Leaving aside the irony, that gives her a certain credibility in my eyes at least.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"A free press is only free when you have something like Brietbart to say and point out the banned content of the media elite."

Unfortunately Breitbart often just "makes shit up".Which makes it difficult to sort out the band content of the media elite – assuming there is such a thing – from the shit.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, the queen has arrived. Honestly, what has this girl really done? Won a seat that any Labour lackey would have won, hands down, they could have stood a penguin and it would have won under the Labour banner. She lost in Auckland Central twice and is really only famous for being famous, with no real grit or outstanding achievements. a poster girl, untested, puffed to the max by the MSN and all Labourites.
Going by the Herald you'd think she was an Olympic champion ten times over.
Puff, air, photo ops, sound bites, look at me...

David Stone said...

Anon@19.39

She will be in the MSM spotlight from now on , and we who don't move in political circles will have a chance to form a more comprehensive impression.

D J S

Simon Cohen said...

"Jacinda Ardern could have stayed in Auckland Central and accepted another bout with National’s Nikki Kaye. Instead she “grabbed Fortune by the hair”, won the Mt Albert by-election, and in a few short days will be elected Deputy-Leader of the Labour Party "

Can you think of any politician who would not have sought the Mt Albert seat [2nd safest Labour Seat in the country] in preference to standing for Auckland Central a third time after previously losing twice !!!!

And amidst all the euphoria can anyone remember a deputy leader who has made any difference to a party's polling.Apart from political junkies how many people even know who the deputy leaders are.
Once again Chris is letting his emotions overrule his political nous.Go back and read his posts on David Cunliffe and you will see earlier signs of this affliction.

Richard Mayson said...


What's happening here is not really just about Jacinda Ardern in isolation, but about Andrew little's much wider shrewd strategy for renewal, as you've rightly pointed out.

Jane Clifton did her husband Trevor Mallard no favours for his sought after speaker role in her latest Listener article when she tortuously bemoaned this changing of the guard and belittled Little's role in it. It is a typical perspective that sees politics through the incestuous prism of the Beltway set.

Ardern has now to manifest the characteristics of political leadership,grunt and depth that goes beyond the superficial "poster girl". This will be the real test of her worth. I wish her well.

Robert M said...

Not much is known about Jacinda. I mean was she just a bit of decoration and fluff in Helen Clark's office to counter the rather butch image. At the serious level, Clark employed quite a diversity of talent as her employees in her office and as an MP, some of course who were not particularly sympathetic to the Clark position.
Although an obviously competent political operator after nearly 9 years as an MP, it appears that she lacks the ability and education/ experience to be a senior Cabinet Minister, let alone PM. Given our general repositioning from being a member of the advanced west , to a country that aspires downmarket to be a third world latin American or Asian nation , victory for a Venuezelan beauty queen type is not unlikely. But as with Ms Peron in Argentina and a large number of wives and beauties who have made it to the political top, the issue is 'who will pull the strings of the puppet' the day after the election.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Simon Cohen.

The problem with political commentary, Simon, is that while it's reasonably easy to see the logic of promoting a politician, it's virtually impossible to know whether he or she will prove equal to the job.

It was very easy to make a case for the promotion of Phil Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe. In the case of the latter two Labour leaders, particularly so. Has anyone come to the Leader of the Opposition's job with a more compelling back-story than Shearer? Has anyone been better qualified, on paper, to occupy the top spot than Cunliffe? (Or more determined to have it!)

That neither gentleman lived up to their initial promise is undeniable. Unfortunately, that was not predictable before they so dismally failed the ultimate test of actually wielding political power.

To comment is one thing, Simon. To soothsay, quite another. If I could predict the future with 100% accuracy, I'd be sunning myself by a pool somewhere - not tapping away at a computer keyboard!

Oh, and BTW: A Deputy-Leader who decisively changed the electoral equation? Rob Muldoon. David Lange.

Simon Cohen said...

Hi Chris,
From what I read [and I was living in the UK when Muldoon and Lange became deputy leaders ]they didn't change the electoral equation when they became deputies but only on their accession to the leadership.
Or is that what you are subtlety suggesting.
Cheers,
Simon.

greywarbler said...

"Puff, air, photo ops, sound bites, look at me..."
Sounds like Anonymous again. Good idea to stay in hidey, so nobody knows (does Chris?) just which one it is uttering the. too often, platitudes and trivialities. Those who can't display any identifier at all, are ultimately like the quote.

Charles E said...

All teeth and no bite
Very National-Lite