Jacinda Ardern is on the cover of another magazine. But while it has been widely reported by the media, there has been noticeable lack of public interest...

JACINDA ARDERN has made the cover of yet another magazine. This time its Time magazine and its to mark the one year anniversary of the March 15 terrorist attack in Christchurch. 

While the cover appearance has been duly and widely reported in the domestic media, there has been surprisingly sparse comment about it, laudatory or critical. Outside of the Commentariat, who mostly get paid to write about stuff like this, there appears to have been, well, a general disinterest.

The same disinterested response was in evidence when the Prime Minister launched the trial run of free school lunches this week. Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins showed up at Flaxmere Primary School in Hawke's Bay to 'help' serve the lunches to the kids. Although 'serving' the lunches involved little more than handing out the prepared trays, it was another opportunity for Ardern's people to push her in front of the cameras. But while she got her picture in the newspapers and got on to the six o'clock television news bulletins, there was still a detectable air of apathy abroad.

I don't wish to exaggerate this apparent disinterest, but we are certainly well past the peak Jacindamania of the 2017 election campaign. The tide has been slowly going out ever since then and it shows no evidence of coming back in.

The fundamental problem is that the routinely centrist Jacinda Ardern pretended to be something she wasn't during that election campaign and raised expectations accordingly. And she has spectacularly failed to meet those expectations. She said was going to tackle poverty but she has declined to raise core benefits and they remain at subsistence levels. She committed herself to introducing a capital gains tax and then promptly backtracked when business interests began applying the pressure.  And so house prices and rents have continued to skyrocket. She declared that climate change was 'the nuclear free moment of her generation' but now leads a government that thinks that supposed carbon neutrality by 2050 is an adequate response to the existential issue of our age. 

People working in the public relations industry say that the first task of celebrity is to protect the brand. Indeed. But Brand Ardern was built on the public expectation of real change, which Ardern encouraged, and she has let an awful lot of people down by not delivering. Even her most committed supporters recognise this. We've gone from Jacinda Ardern ushering in the revolution in 2017 to Jacinda Ardern not being Simon Bridges in 2020. That's quite a climb down in the space of just three years.

Back in 2017 folk might of been beguiled by the spectacle of it all but in 2020 they are more wary of a Labour leader who promised them a better world but, time and time again, has leaned into the status quo. As Bryce Edwards observed in The Guardian last September:

'...there are an enormous number of New Zealanders who need more than hugs from their prime minister. They voted for the parties of government because they wanted to see a promised “transformation” rather than business as usual.'

The cover of Time shows a stern-looking Jacinda Ardern gazing off into the mid-distance. She invites us to know her by her deeds. But many people, I think, have already made their judgement calls and found her to be seriously wanting.


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