Has Labour under Chris Hipkins really rediscovered the working class? Is its efforts to distance itself from Jacinda Ardern's middle class liberalism or woke politics genuine or just one last desperate attempt to save its own skin? 

ITS TEMPTING to say that Jacinda Ardern's loyal followers have been in grief since her shock resignation. But that explanation falls down because Ardern's supporters haven't actually denied she's resigned - that would be impossible (probably). Instead, they have jumped straight to the anger stage. That anger has been directed not at Ardern herself for resigning - because she can do no wrong - but at the anti-Ardern social media keyboard warriors who apparently wield so much power that they can drive a Prime Minister out of office.

We got a 'preview' of that argument last April when Massey University academic and Labour supporter Suze Wilson claimed Ardern had been the victim of a campaign 'rooted in sexist and misogynistic attitudes and beliefs, further amplified by conspiratorial mindsets.' Since Ardern's resignation Wilson has rehashed this argument for a NZ Herald column and repeated it on a sympathetic RNZ National.

But Jacinda Ardern herself has not suggested that social media trolls were in any way responsible - or even partly responsible - for her decision to resign. She's got her own explanation and she's sticking to it - namely that she ran out of puff.

But Stuff journalist Ali Mau knows differently. In a column headed 'Shame on our misogyny: It's no wonder Jacinda Ardern was driven from office', Mau joined Suze Wilson to claim that Ardern was not in a position to call out her social media accusers: 

'She can't name the evil as she steps down because If she does, she loses. Her attackers would have whipped her for it. As Massey University School of Management Senior Lecturer Dr Suze Wilson put it, she could not admit to it, because it would have told the trolls they'd won.'

The views of people like Mau and Wilson have been widespread throughout the mainstream media and the blogosphere. Even though he claims he's not 'woke', blogger Martyn Bradbury's argument has been similar to that of Mau and Wilson: 'While Jacinda Ardern will never acknowledge the toxic hatred spat at her as the reason she is stepping down, you only get burnt out as badly as she has when abuse and threats are an ongoing reality. It is sickening that someone with as much passion, empathy and kindness is left with nothing left to give.'

Any attempt to dispute the 'Ardern as martyr' narrative has been denounced as the work of racists, sexists and even the alt right. When Speak Up for Women spokesperson Ani O'Brien pointed out that the reason why Jacinda Ardern was the target for more toxic social posts than any other politician was simply because she was Prime Minister, she was pounced on. She too was accused of misogyism with writer Mandy Hagar, reeking of moral superiority, even going as far as questioning O'Brien's commitment to women's rights.

But, all the time, staring the Ardernites in the face have been terrible poll numbers that continued to worsen for Labour throughout 2022. A Curia-Taxpayer Union poll released on January 20 showed Labour's  support declining to 31.7 percent with National on 37.2 percent. That's quite a drop from the 50 percent of the vote that Labour achieved on election night in 2020.

It's not difficult to work out why Ardern was unpopular and it had nothing to do with campaigns against her on Twitter and Facebook.  Under her Labour Government economic and social conditions got steadily worse yet she continued to defend the status quo. And it is the working class who have paid the price. 

There is a palpable anger abroad in the community but, even now, Ardern's supporters don't recognise this anger is real. The liberal intellectuals, the professional managerial class, the woke left, the chattering class - however you would like to describe them - have long ignored working class concerns. And now that the working class is biting back, they don't much like it.

New Zealand's political class, who have long viewed New Zealand politics as a battle between the increasingly artificial Labour and National camps, fail to recognise that what is really driving New Zealand politics in 2023 is the widening division between the haves and have nots.

It's not a coincidence that the new Labour leadership, loyal to the identity politics of Jacinda Ardern for the past five years, have been quick to claim their working class credentials. New Prime Minister Chris Hipkins described himself as 'a boy from the Hutt' while his Deputy Prime Minister, Carmel Sepuloni, wanted everyone to know that she was just 'a working class girl from Waitara.'

Suddenly, it seems, a working class hero is something to be. But whether a reconfigured Labour Government can actually deliver for the working class is another matter entirely. It would mean abandoning the neoliberal orthodoxy and we're not about to see Labour do that. At this stage in the election cycle what we're really witnessing is a desperate scramble by Labour to save itself. And it's just too late for that.


  1. The “boy from the Hutt” with a house in Wellington, and a holiday home elsewhere. My guess would be that it sits in the ‘working class’ surrounds of the Marlborough Sounds. Hopkins is the epitome of the laptop managerial classes and no amount of spin can ever change that.

  2. Suddenly the Labour Party is the friend of working people? No way. Most people will see through this.

  3. It seems impossible for the working class to be heard at all. The struggle to stay afloat has gotten so much harder. Yet it is commentators of what is called the left who seem most strident in silencing us with slurs of misogyny, racism, naziism, or some other version of a far right plot. Now apparently destroying a caring Prime Minister through spiteful malice.

    So what do we do? That's a serious question. Our people are falling down as more and more desperately needed resources continue to be funneled upwards to those with far more than enough. Yet as our existence becomes more and more threatened, every attempt at protest is denigrated as cruelty to the well off.

    Now this has reached a new apex with claims of destroying a good woman through our spite and cruelty. I'm a woman. Misogyny exists. So do other kinds of bigotry. But saying that our calling out, or trying to, is about our misogyny, bigotry, cruelty..... I can't even find words to finish this sentence.

    What can we do when attempts at protest as we face harder and harder times are turned back on us as us being cruel and heartless. That it is us who don't care about our fellow people? When such claims come as we are trying to survive.

    What can we do when they come from commentators who claim to be concerned about us, to be on our side?


Comments are moderated.