Wednesday, September 20, 2017

History repeats itself: Jacinda Ardern to accomplish a Bob Hawke miracle on election night.

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Many harbouring reservations about Labour’s ability to unseat a three-term rule of National Party may feel this is a colossal task for rookie leader, Jacinda Ardern.

Among others, this means turning around a rudderless and crippled ship in such a short lap of time. Has this phenomenon ever been achieved before? No? Never? Impossible? Unhistorical?

Either you have a short memory, or were not even born when it happened.

JACINDA ARDERN: Next Prime Minister of New Zealand will bid farewell to Bill English from the 9th Floor Prime Minister's Office in the beehive in Wellington.

This phenomenon happened in Australia some 34 years ago. There, a new Australian Labour Party’s leader Bob Hawke, squeezed an electoral victory in just four weeks as the leader. He soundly defeated the siting PM Malcolm Fraser’s ruling Liberal Party coalition government in 1983. 

What caused this miracle for Labour? Australia was going through some tough economic times in early 1980s. At the time of proposed election in 1982, the economy suffered from high inflation, industrial disputes and high unemployment, accompanied by a prolonged drought. 

Opposition Labour Party then was led by Bill Hayden. Similar to New Zealand situation, they were also going through disputes, infighting, disunity and instability.  A faction of Labour Party wanted to roll Hayden as party leader in favour of Hawke. Prime Minister Fraser was well aware of the disunity in Labour, and took advantage of this by calling a snap-election.

Despite predictions of all political pundits and polls, FIJI PUNDIT predicts a repeat of history when a new Labour leader, Bob Hawke (left) assumed leadership four weeks before snap election, and went on to defeat veteran Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser (right). Same will happen in New Zealand, with Jacinda Ardern squeezing a victory, despite all odds, and people ridiculing my prediction and faith in the uprising of the Millennials .

He prematurely dissolved parliament and called for election on 5 March, 1983, unaware that Hayden had resigned and was replaced by Hawke. Under leadership of Hawke, Labour Party reassembled, realigned and recovered. It gained its lost territory, credibility and support. They surprised all political pundits. On the election night, Labour Party experienced a massive swing and wrested back power.

Time Magazine of 14 March, 1983 ran the following self-explanatory story:
Voters bet on a chummy, charismatic new leader
Barely a month ago, was Robert James Lee (Bob) Hawke, 53, a fledgling parliamentarian with a mediocre record as his party's spokesman for industrial relations. Last weekend he was elected Prime Minister of Australia, leading to victory a listless, often divided Labour Party that has held power for just three of the past 34 years. Hawke and his Labourites ended the 7½-year reign of Incumbent Malcolm Fraser and his Liberal/ National Party coalition. 

Now, let us compare this 1983 Australia situation to 2017 election in New Zealand.

Leadership in Labour Party in NZ took place just some seven weeks before the election. The party had been going through instability and uncertainty since departure of Helen Clark - they failed to anchor the party with any leader since she left. Political good-fortune eluded them and they were in a free-fall with National Party gearing up for a historic fourth-term as the government.

And then a miracle happened! Very admirably, Andrew Little made a Hail Mary Pass to Jacinda Ardern in a smooth, non-controversial and unanimous leadership change.   And as they say, rest is developing into a history.  

The unsung hero and Queen-maker, Andrew Little who abdicated to ensure a doze of oxygen for Labour Party, by relinquishing leadership to Jacinda Ardern.

In the polls that have been taken since Ardern took over, they have shown one thing clearly - Labour’s consistent march forward, breaking new grounds in polls and preferred Prime-Minister’s choice. What Jacinda also brought to Labour was that zing, x-factor, and identity with the millennials –the new generation. 

The resulting Jacindamania positively echoes one cheer from her re-assembled Millennials- a knockout punch on the election night, with Ardern in driver’s seat.

The meteoric rise for Ardern is contrasted by a drop in support for National, their desperate negative campaigning, and boring Bill , contrasted by Ardern’ s positivity and charisma.

They say, you get a government and leader you deserve: It is Ardern's positivity versus English's lies, scaremongering and dirty -campaigning.

Media worldwide will run similar news story as the Time Magazine story above, after NZ election on 23 September, 2017. My prediction is that this Australian history will repeat in New Zealand. The new leader, Ardern, who took the driver’s seat just recently, would execute a Bob Hawke punch on Bill English. She will wrest back power, and spell good political fortunes for Labour Party and New Zealand’s vulnerable people ignored by National. 

The sceptics who consider this as a mammoth task for Labour Party in general and Jacinda Ardern in particular, are correct. However it is not impossible, and very probable, considering the tell-tale signs already evident. And this is backed by historical precedent. And it will happen again.

Jacinda Ardern - the Queen that Andrew Little help make

Yes indeed, history does repeat itself. It will eventuate in New Zealand on the night of election, 23, September, 2017.

Jacinda Ardern will execute a Bob Hawke stroke on Bill English, to floor him on the count- thanks to Andrew Little"s Hail Mary Pass.

But will happen to Bill English?

For those of you who have seen  "Back to the Future" should know that this would be second defeat for him on his run to be an elected Prime Minister. They will appreciate this NZ Herald cartoon. 

Hence, for Bill English, it is back to the....

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]

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