After the Honeymoon, it is time for business

Venkat Raman

It is almost a week since Jacinda Ardern was sworn in as the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand but the juggling of Parliamentary Services support staff both in the Beehive and Electorate and Out-of-Parliament offices continues, with some of them keen on serving new political masters.

The world has welcomed Ms Ardern, not only as one of the youngest Prime Ministers that it has ever produced but also as the youngest female Prime Minister– she is certainly the youngest PM of New Zealand in 161 years- just 52 days older to Edward Stafford who became Prime Minister on June 2, 1856.

She is the second elected female Prime Minister after Helen Clark- both from Labour. Jenny Shipley, who was the country’s first female Prime Minister (1997-1999) was a List MP of the National Party.

Strong social focus

Like her predecessor Bill English, Ms Ardern shuns ostentation, although she must get used to be under the limelight all the time. But she proved her essence on Day One.

Instead of a chauffeur-driven Limousine, Ms Ardern chose to ride in a bus with her ministerial colleagues to the Government House to be sworn in on Thursday, October 26.

We have known her since she entered Parliament. It was in November 2008 when her Party suffered a stunning and humiliating defeat, forcing Helen Clark to step down from the leadership of Labour and eventually quit Parliament to undertake an equally challenging job as the Administrator of UNDP.

The depressing slide

Labour continued to suffer, getting thinner at every election thereafter; it stood the risk of being eliminated from Parliament (at least that is what its adversaries and the so-called media specialists said). The fading Party took the toll of a Phil, two Davids and an Andrew before the last man cried, ‘enough is enough.’

Desperation, it is often said, gives rise to hope and inspiration. It is the trough from which one must rise; it presents challenges and opportunities to grow.

It was perhaps ordained that Ms Ardern should reboot her Party, reinstall hopes in colleagues and take on the reins despite her inexperience and young age. Both have proved to be inconsequential in leadership, be it corporate or government. It takes courage, determination and sharpened focus.

In this contemptuous business of politics, observers and mainstream journalists are never kind to left-wingers, unless they are Rugby players. Their sense of intolerance and contempt are often self-destructive.

Chance to perform

We are not here to determine the longevity of the Ardern Government. That would be decided by her actions and those of her colleagues inside and outside the Cabinet and ultimately the people.

But in the interim, she deserves a chance to perform and live up to her promises.

The Party thrust the leadership in her hands, when she least expected it but was quick to turn things around. Her promises of change resonated with many young New Zealanders.

But some commentators fret that change may involve a shift towards greater protectionism and an end to three decades of liberal economic reform.

Labour and its coalition partners have agreed to cut annual net migration by up to 30,000 people; to strengthen controls on the foreign purchase of farmland; and to renegotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a now-sputtering regional plan for free trade, to curb house-buying by foreigners.

Ms Ardern has made lofty promises to build 100,000 houses, reduce child poverty and clean up polluted rivers. She has shown her powers of persuasion by wooing voters and cobbling together a majority. A far greater challenge lies ahead.

We believe that she deserves a chance to perform just as we did with National.

The tenet of democracy rests on its ability to change, and adapt.

Photo :

Governor General Patsy Reddy with the new Prime Minister Jacinda Arden (right) and the man who made it possible-Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters at the Swearing-in-Ceremony on Thursday, October 26, 2017. (Picture Courtesy: The Government House).

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