In plain English, ardent efforts matter

Issue 376, September 1, 2017

If you are not a biased political observer, not a turncoat who swore by a Party until yesterday and became an ardent supporter of an erstwhile arch-rival today, not a person who wears I-know-everything attitude and finally, not a hypocrite who unabashedly brings implied racism in supporting a candidate, you will like Jacinda Ardern.

The same could be said of Bill English, Winson Peters, James Shaw, David Seymour and all others including Roshan Nauhria.

Labour’s new Leader cannot be discarded as ‘an inexperienced, inane and ignorant person,’ for everyone has the right, in a democracy, to opportunity – of leading a nation and a Party, steering the destiny of people.

The rise of Ms Ardern has been meteoric.

We did meet her as a part of her day-long meetings with journalists in Auckland last fortnight. There is never such a thing as an ‘exclusive interview’ with a Leader during the election season. You can at best get a glimpse of the person’s trait or his or her lighter moment. Leaders do not announce policies and programmes in private conversations. They go live on national television or radio. To that extent individual meetings are no more than exchange of pleasantries and repeat of platitudes.

Good attributes

One of the finest attributes of Ms Ardern that has surfaced over the past four weeks is her focus on the election campaign. To that end, she is spending energy in articulating policies, shifting priorities and meeting people, rather than dissipating it on criticising her political adversaries. There is a certain charm in her leadership qualities that does not come by experience- but by nature and social disposition.

Although political leaders repeat their party briefs at every interview, there was an innate passion in Ms Ardern towards New Zealand and New Zealanders – the passion that she shares with her political counterparts and rivals. The goal is the same but the approach is different.

Priority Issues

Contrary to what is written and spoken, her priorities are well defined and orchestrated in order of their importance. And Immigration is not one of them.

Children’s welfare, including alleviating child poverty, providing them good education and ensuring their good health come first and it would be no surprise if she takes a Ministry for Children as one of her portfolios if she becomes the next Prime Minister.

Enhancing economic growth, lifting productivity, improving health and education are also among the issues that occupy her mind and time.

Indeed, Bill English would do the same if he returns as the Prime Minister; so would Winston Peters, if he has an opportunity to lead the country.

Challenge to Democracy

The biggest challenge to democracy comes neither from above nor below but from within, from the voters themselves. Greek Philosopher Plato’s great worry about democracy, that citizens would live from day-to-day, indulging the pleasure of the moment, has proved prescient.

Democratic governments got into the habit of running big structural deficits as a matter of course, borrowing to give voters what they wanted in the short term, while neglecting long-term investment.

Whether we admit or not, the New Zealand economy on such a precipice.

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