Bassett on the new Government

From the Listener:

How do you rate the new Government’s performance so far?

The sorts of issues that have faced this Government haven’t been extraordinary, but what exacerbates its problems is that it is a jerry-built government: the three groupings make it hard to manage. The Greens and New Zealand First are not able to sit in Cabinet together, but they sustain the Government, all the while watching the polls to check their standing, which isn’t improving. That’s hard enough, but add to it , the youngest and least-experienced leader of a government we have ever had, and this Government may not even last one term.

It is true that never before have we had a PM who had been a party leader for only a few weeks.

That’s a harsh call, isn’t it?

Yes, but as I’ve just said, it isn’t just Jacinda. She has considerable talents, but she has a knowledge deficit. It shows in foreign policy. Jacinda doesn’t know much about international affairs and doesn’t understand the historical relationships between New Zealand and the Pacific. She certainly doesn’t understand Russia, which is emerging as the next best thing to an international rogue state. Put her alongside Helen Clark, the last Labour Prime Minister, and Jacinda looks like a rank amateur. She desperately needs to know more, but when you are Prime Minister you don’t have time to go out and learn: you are meant to have done that already. A bachelor in communications from Waikato University is not quite the same as a first-class honours degree in politics and history, which is what Clark had, plus the better part of a PhD.

To be fair to Ardern, MFAT and DPMC are very good at bringing PMs up to speed on geopolitical issues.

It has over-stoked public expectations. [Phil Twyford, Minister of Transport and of Housing] is an accident in slow motion. The extraordinary phrase he used this morning in the Herald, along the lines of “we are changing the world” regarding transport and then a whole series of wishes and hopes about transport – that is fantasy stuff. Cycling as the future for Auckland? Gimme a break – they’ve taken away road space and poured resources into cycling that no one uses other than on Saturday mornings. I can see that cycle path heading out west from my apartment and there’s usually no one using it. They are social engineers without any sense. Whenever Labour shows that tendency, the voters deal with them in short order. 

I think Bassett is right that Labour may find it hard to deliver in line with the expectations they have created.

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