The future brightens with Jacinda Ardern

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Those familiar with American Football would know that ‘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?

For somebody who served ‘apprenticeship’ under Helen Clark, Ms Ardern appears to have very ably displayed elements of the former Prime Minister’s mettle within very short time of assuming leadership.

Helen Resurrected

She embraced the position 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 becoming the Captain of a sinking ship.

Lizzie Marvelly, writing in the New Zealand 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 have not been adequately filled since they were worn by the formidable Right Honourable Helen Clark.”

And I repeat my Facebook observation – Ms 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.

Herald Political Editor Audrey Young observed rightly, “It was the 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.”

Handling journalists

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 Ms Ardern who can trim down journalists who think they are Little Gods.

One journalist rightfully quipped that Ms Ardern grabbed the opportunity to metaphorically club a few media cavemen over their stone-age views on working women and pregnancy.

If these journalists had done their research, they would have found that almost three decades ago, in 1990, Prime Minister of a very conservative Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto had a baby while in office. Some ‘cavemen journalists’ need refresher course in research and probing journalism.

Dominating debate

In the first weekend as the Labour Leader, Ms Ardern dominated both- TV 3’s ‘The Nation’ and TV One’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 possesses an ability to rattle them respectfully, and pass on her message.

For several years, Labour has suffered from a lack of penetration of their messages.

Ms Ardern is a fresh breeze. Positivity, vision for New Zealand, working for the people with integrity, firmness, fairness, equality for all were themes that resonated in mainstream media from this young woman 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!

Smooth transition

A political party is best judged by the smoothness of its leadership transition.

Labour, since departure of Helen Clark, has been in disarray – until Jacindamania struck New Zealand.

It was the cleanest and unanimous transfer in history, not borne out of a scandal or selfish reason.

In fact, it was rooted in a huge sacrifice of Andrew Little.

Not many would pass a chance to be Prime Minister.

This transition even eclipsed the one between (John) Key and (Bill) English in December 2016, with challenges by Dr Johnathan Coleman, Simon Bridges and Judith Collins, suppressed by the departing smiling assassin.

There was no such thing here- it was a very smooth transition, with a resounding applause which drowned the past bloody battles of Labour leadership.

The youth-and-media-look of Labour should 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 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 New Zealand.

Advice and caution

A word of advice and caution. Jacinda Ardern must maintain herself, and cleanse those in Labour Office who were 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 makeup of the country. David Cunliffe and Andrew Little failed to listen to this advice at their peril.

‘Murupara’ means to “wipe off mud.”

That they will do, as they march into Government after election.

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

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Political Observer and Media Commentator. He runs ‘Fiji Pundit,’ his Blog that covers a variety of subjects. He lives in Auckland.

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