Thursday, August 17, 2017

Labour’s Hail Mary pass: Jacinda Ardern gallops for a political touchdown.



Thakur Ranjit Singh.

Those familiar with American Football would know that a Hail Mary pass is a very long forward pass made in desperation, towards end of the game. Here, all receivers run straight towards the end zone and the quarterback will make a long pass that is often "up for grabs".

And the Labour team’s Captain and quarterback, Andrew Little has admirably made that pass and Jacinda Ardern has grabbed the ball in a desperate run for political touchdown, with Kelvin Davis in the flanks. Can they do this? 

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the next Prime Minister of New Zealand, JACINDA ARDERN
For somebody who served “apprenticeship” under Helen Clark, Jacinda Ardern appears to have very ably displayed elements of the former Prime Minister’s mettle within very short time of assuming leadership. She embraced the position very confidently with her command performance in the first press broadcast within hours of taking up the office.

She repeated her admirable performance as an able leader, with a combination of empathy for common people, compassion and force - within four days of taking up the helm of a sinking ship.


Lizzie Marvelly, writing in NZ Herald summed it well:

“New Zealand was delivered a Prime Minister-in-waiting… Jacinda Ardern... the uncontested leader of the Labour Party, stepping into shoes that realistically haven’t been adequately filled since they were worn by the formidable Right Honourable Helen Clark.”

And I repeat my Facebook observation - Ardern is a resurrection of Helen Clark. She is lovable, and can also be ruthless when needed. And she displayed those qualities admirably by her decision not to have Materia Turei in her cabinet.

Political Editor of NZ Herald, Audrey Young, observed rightly:

It was case of smiling assassin –sacking her first minister before she even had the chance to be a minister. It had echoes of both Helen Clark and John Key.” 

The Hail Mary Pass: The former Labour Leader, former captain and quarterback of Labour Team, Andrew Little, made the desperate Hail Mary Pass to Jacinda Ardern, who is GALLOPING FOR A POLITICAL TOUCHDOWN.
Motherhood has become international news here. What is also noticeable about Ardern is that as a former journalist student from Waikato University, she has the understanding and appreciation of halo effect certain mainstream male journalists possess. With that false sense of conceit, they have a habit of bullying, interrupting and humiliating politicians. They certainly have no such chance with Ardern who can trim down journalists who think they are Little Gods.  One journalist rightfully quipped that Ardern grabbed the opportunity to metaphorically club a few media cavemen over their stone-age views on working women and pregnancy. 



If these Kiwi journalist had done their research, they would have found out that almost three decades ago, in 1990, Prime Minister of a very conservative Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto had a baby while in office. That was 27 years ago. Some “cavemen” journalists need refresher course in research and probing journalism.

In the first weekend as the leader, she dominated both- TV 3’s “The Nation” and TVNZ’S “Q+A” and showed her advanced media skills. Unlike Winston Peters who has a habit of ridiculing and shooting the messengers, Ardern is more civilised and humane. The observation was that she possess an ability to rattle them respectfully, and pass on her message.

Labour for the past many years suffered from lack of penetration of their messages. Ardern is a fresh breeze. Positivity, vision for NZ, working for all with integrity, firmness, fairness, equality for all… These were themes that resonated in all mainstream media from this lass with roots in rural Murupara (in Bay of Plenty, 65 km from Rotorua) and Morrinsville, Waikato. Hence, her empathy for the down-trodden - a leader with a heart, not necessarily a rock!

The winning team of Leaders - Jacinda Ardern and Deputy, Kelvin Davis, ready for political touchdown and the winning score on the elction day.

A political party is best judged by how smooth the transition of its leadership is. Labour, since departure of Helen Clark, has been in disarray - until Jacindamania. It was the cleanest and unanimous transfer in history, not borne in any scandal or for selfish reason. In fact it was rooted in a huge sacrifice of Andrew Little (FIJI PUNDIT will have an article on this sacrifice). 

Not many would pass a chance to be Prime Minister. This transition even eclipsed the one between Key and English where challenges (read Collins, Coleman) were suppressed by the departing smiling assassin. No such thing here - a very smooth transition – with a resounding applause which drowned the past bloody battles of Labour leadership.

The youth and media look of Labour needs to be celebrated-and enhanced. Stuart Nash, Michael Wood, and incoming hopefuls of Tamati Coffey and Priyanca Radhakrishnan, among others, helped by Willie Jackson and old hands from the Labour team, including Phil Twyford, David Parker, and Grant Robertson, among others, comprise a challenging team. Their strengths are in media, communications and they project diversity. Labour needs to rectify its deficient communication cell – and colour it to reflect modern NZ.


Part of the winning Labour Team, led by new Labour Leader, Jacinda Ardern.
A word of advice and caution. Jacinda Ardern has to maintain herself, and cleanse (read sack) those in Labour Office who have been responsible for a wanting support to the past leaders. She needs to get a new team, especially those who can communicate. They need diverse support service that reflects the demographic make -up of the country, unlike a very white NZ mainstream media. 

David Cunliffe and Andrew Little failed to listen to this advice at their peril. Had Little done this, there would never have been the intern controversy (read Matt McCarten). I am hopeful Ardern will have her media radars on, be herself and have a support office that can serve the leader effectively-and efficiently, for a change.

And yes, Murupara means to “wipe off mud”. And that they will do as they march into Government after election.

Hail Mary…it is a winning touchdown…Let’s DO this.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a media commentator and a political observer. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.]