Soper on Ardern

Barry Soper writes:

Having worked with the past 10 prime ministers, Jacinda Ardern would be the most removed from the media than any of them. This woman who has a Bachelor of Communications doesn’t communicate in the way any of her predecessors have.

She’s the master of soft, flattering interviews and television chat shows, blanching at tough questions.

She’s commanded the Covid pulpit to such an extent that the virus has become her security blanket, without it she’d be forced to face the reality that her Government has been moribund.

The Prime Minister’s press conferences usually begin with a sermon – it took eight minutes for her to get to the fact that she was moving the country down an alert level last Friday. When it comes to press conferences her forearm stiffens and her hand flicks to those she’ll take a question from. Some of us are left barking from the sidelines.

Ardern doesn’t relate to the messenger, the team of journalists who make up the parliamentary press gallery, they don’t know her. All of her predecessors got to know the parliamentary media by inviting them to their ninth floor Beehive office, at least a couple of times a year. It puts a human face on the public performer.

This is not new. I recall how surprised some gallery members were when Ardern changed her cellphone number after the 2017 election, and her staff refused to give the new number out to any of the senior gallery editors.

It’s a good thing that senior journalists can contact the PM. Not that they do it often – you tend to work through their press team. But if getting the run around, they can text the PM.

Both Key and Clark would frequently receive and reply to texts from journalists.

Ardern is a celebrity leader and she’s determined to keep it that way, which is why she’s turned her back on the Newstalk ZB Mike Hosking Breakfast Show.

The questions were too direct, they got under her thin skin but, more importantly, she didn’t know the answer to many of them. She was exposed on a weekly basis and it simply all became too much for her.

In doing so, she’s turned her back on the highest-rating breakfast commercial radio show in the country by far and she has also turned her back on the many listeners who at the last Covid election (her description) switched their vote to her.

Leaders have in the past become exasperated with the media and at times with good reason but few, if any, have shied away from the tough questions. The regular Newstalk ZB slot for prime ministers has been jealously guarded by them for the past 35 years. This is the only regular slot she’s bowing out on.

Maybe they should put the Labour Deputy Leader on instead? 🙂

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