Jacinda Ardern wants to wrap her election campaign around the coronavirus pandemic.

I'VE ALWAYS rejected the claims from her supporters that what marks Jacinda Ardern's tenure as Prime Minister is her 'kindness' and 'compassion'. It seems to me the evidence that Ardern is somehow innately morally superior to other mainstream politicians is flimsy, based largely on her willingness to engage in public displays of affection. And, somehow, there always seems to be a news camera present when Ardern goes in for the hug. Every time I see her engaging in PDA I can't help but think of comedians Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield, who, as celebrity obsessed radio DJ's Smashee and Nicey, regularly tell their listeners that 'they do a lot of work for charity but don't like to talk about it'.

But away from the cameras and the fawning and juvenile drivel written by Labour hacks like Martyn Bradbury of The Daily Blog, Ardern is acting much like any other capitalist politician would. Indeed under her watch the level of inequality and poverty has increased and deepened and we're right in the midst of a full blown housing crisis. Despite claims that Ardern was born with a not-of-this-world kindness, that kindness hasn't extended to raising benefits to a level that will allow folk to live lives that are something other than subsistence. She also hasn't displayed a great deal of compassion for the environment pushing out so-called carbon neutrality to 2050, despite tens of thousands of New Zealanders marching last year for greater government urgency on climate change.

Ardern must be thankful that the rising level of inequality and poverty and the warming of the planet isn't so immediately obvious as the massacre of 51 people in the Christchurch mosque attacks by a white supremacist. Then she really might be in political trouble.

What marks Jacinda Ardern's tenureship is not any determination to lead a truly transformational government but to manage her carefully constructed image as the great compassionate leader guiding the country through troubled times. She's got away with it so far, but its starting to fray around the edges.

Yesterday at what was ostensibly a press conference to provide updated information on the coronavirus but provided next to nothing in the way of anything new, Ardern managed to do some electioneering while, at the same time, claiming her focus wasn't on September's election. Asked for comment on Judith Collins promotion to National Party leader she declared:

'I absolutely accept that there is an election this year and there is no avoiding that. But at the moment, really it's taking a bare minimum of my thinking because we are still in the middle of a global pandemic....I accept there will be politicking this year, I accept we have an election, but if I'm being brutally honest, my mind hasn't been particularly focused on that to date.'

Methinks she protests too much. Obviously Ardern wants to wrap her election campaign around a pandemic that has provided her with good polling numbers. Remember - before the virus struck, Labour and National were pretty much neck and neck in the polls.

Ardern though is vulnerable if she has to defend her government's substandard economic record, especially since she promised  that she would lead a government of change during her 2017 election campaign. She might also have to answer some awkward questions such as who is going to be forced to pay the price for the massive bailout of New Zealand capitalism. 


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