So the major initiative by the Government was a speech devoid of substance by the Prime Minister to a hand picked audience, with a question and answer session where the questions were vetted in advance.
Peters provided the preamble to Ardern’s speech.
In it, he uttered the words we have not heard from him in a long time – “Labour.” He did not refer to the Labour-led Government, a term which he now finds offensive given it subjugates the role of New Zealand First.
But he did refer to the Labour-New Zealand First Coalition. He said the Coalition was “unified”.
But it was not unified enough for Peters to share the stage with James Shaw after Ardern’s speech to take questions on the Government.
So they’re really unified. So unified one party leader won’t share a stage with the other.
In a rare exception for Peters, he later allowed himself to share a platform with both Shaw and Ardern at the press conference after the speech.
But Ardern ended it when Peters started getting belligerent with the media.
And finally when he did get coaxed onto the stage with them, he spoils it.
Ardern delivered her speech in Ted-talk-style, like the gifted communicator she can be.
And while it was important in terms of setting out priorities, nothing in it was new.
The 12 priorities are mainly apple pie sentiments that any political party would say they wish to achieve.
She revealed the plan with the enthusiasm of someone who believes she has done something remarkably new – which of course she hasn’t.
And it took them a year to work them out.
But the notion that this is the first time a Government has set objectives and will measure them every six months is nonsense, as is the claim that this is first Government of compassion.
She is reinventing the wheel, as anyone who followed Bill English’s work in the Better Public Service programme, Social Investment knows.
In fact her plan appears to be a hybrid of the thematic approach to policy honed by former prime minister Helen Clark and the very specific measures demanded by English’s social investment and Better Public Service Targets approach.
And the major difference in the former Government set hard targets which they could be measured against. This Government has basically abolished any outcome based targets in health, education etc. They think spending money is a substitute for results.
There was nothing discernibly new there. If it was a road map, it was a pretty vague and well-thumbed map. At best you might use that word returned to fashion by Anon of the White House, that it was a lodestar, a kind of navigational beacon for the ship of cabinet.
A pretty dim lodestar at that.
The lectern was swept away and Jacinda Ardern walked the stage as if at a product launch, in front of two large screens detailing wins and goals, underlined in red, green and black, and happy people in stock photos. If the backdrop had been doused in truth serum it would have shown something else: headlines about Ardern’s government coming under a new kind of pressure, with images of a Clare Curran resigning, Meka Whaitiri under a cloud, a coalition partner apparently bent upon repeated public displays of disaffection, and a prime minister pulling out of television interviews over “diary issues”.
Let’s forget all those and look at the pretty pictures.
The Trump comparisons are facile, of course they are. But it is nevertheless true that the prime minister has withdrawn from interviews on programmes where interviewers would be asking a host of difficult questions on the same weekend that she appeared before an audience of adoring supporters, who proffered a bunch of preordained, softball questions at the end.
Meanwhile it has been 19 days since the PM learnt of the Whaitiri allegations and still no action.
The sense that Ardern is shying away from sustained interrogation is palpably pissing off local media, a sense exacerbated by a parade of fawning profiles in foreign media, some of which seem anachronistic at best and at worst from a parallel universe.
Most transparent and open government ever they promised!
It was a reboot, a reset, an attempted rebuke of the idea that the three parties aren’t getting on: this was, Peters assured media, “not dysfunction junction”. It was an attempt to recapture and reignite some of the energy of the campaign, an effort to put some fresh air in tyres that had started to feel kind of flat. It was a rally. But that’s all it was.
Rah rah rally.