For whatever reason, it was considered impolite to note Jacinda Ardern’s lack of leadership experience in last year’s election campaign. But I raised it then and it would be unwise not to raise it now. It’s not necessarily her age as such – although being the second youngest Prime Minister in our history is notable – as it is her limited time as leader. A late run into the job turned out to be great for winning an election, but it’s much harder when you’re learning your own leadership style at the same time as you’re learning how to run the country. It’s a big ask and she seems to be struggling.
Listening to her interviews, you hear Ardern still earnestly explaining, sometimes almost pleading for understanding. The raw confidence of that famous first press conference is seen only in flashes. She still seems to be trying on the Prime Minister’s clothes, and they don’t seem to quite fit.
Maybe it’s just teething problems, but she’s had a series of ministers who have put in at best sloppy performances in recent weeks, forgetting and mishandling sensitive issues of government. Sure, some of these have come outside her party, from the likes of Shane Jones and Eugenie Sage, but Ardern’s response has lacked authority.
That may come in time. Time will tell.