Were Ardern a head of state like a ceremonial president or queen, she would be in her element. As Simon Wilson puts it, Ardern personifies “who we are now” at Buckingham Palace, the United Nations or Waitangi, at least as judged by a certain demographic.
But as head of government, it was soon obvious she has no ability to formulate and progress an agenda, transformational or otherwise. There is nothing behind her words.
All her Government’s major initiatives have failed. Despite its advance billing, the Wellbeing Budget was unconnected to the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework, earlier hailed by Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
Ardern has ruled out further rebalancing the tax system away from wages and towards capital gains.
KiwiBuild has entered the Kiwi vernacular as a synonym for failure. Poverty, homelessness and suicide have all worsened. Fees-free tertiary education has had no material impact.
In terms of actual outcomes (ie something measurable that has improved people’s lives), they seem to have achieved nothing except good intetnions.
Perhaps most cynical of all was this week’s Suicide Prevention Strategy which, after two years in office, consisted mainly of setting up a new Suicide Prevention Office. By the time it gets its mission statement, logo, offices and espresso machine, another thousand families will have mourned a loved one.
This seems to have been Ardern’s sole strategy through her 11 aimless years in Parliament: emote over a problem, then propose a working group or other process as a substitute for taking responsibility, decisions and actions herself.