Rock­ing feel-good fac­tor and Fat Freddy’s Drop

The Dominion Post - - Opinion - JANE BOWRON

Vot­ers still ques­tion­ing the le­git­i­macy of the MMP grand coali­tion will be start­ing to re­alise that the na­tion’s new leader is look­ing as charis­matic a prime min­is­ter as He­len Clark and John Key.

And those two prime min­is­ters were voted in three times.

If Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern lasts their great dis­tances, she will be a youth­ful 46-year-old by the end of her nine-year stint. Per­haps by that time Ardern’s part­ner, the shell-shocked Clarke Gay­ford, will fi­nally have got his head around his de facto’s rapid el­e­va­tion through the ranks to top of the heap.

In­ter­est­ingly, Ardern, who grew up in and left the Mor­mon church, is New Zealand’s first Prime Min­is­ter who isn’t wed to her part­ner. Her deputy, Win­ston Peters, too is liv­ing hap­pily in sin with his long-term other half, Jan Trot­man.

Yes, she’s a broad sec­u­lar church the new Govern­ment. You didn’t need to lis­ten to the beats of Fat Freddy’s Drop play­ing on Par­lia­ment’s steps last Thurs­day, herald­ing in the new Prime Min­is­ter and her coali­tion Govern­ment, to twig to the change in vibe.

If ousted for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Bill English stays on (if wife Mary so de­crees it), the vet­eran politi­cian and his fel­low old lags will look not, so last year, or, so last decade, but, so last gen­er­a­tion. Pushed for­ward to show they still have some taut skin in the game will be Nikki Kaye and Si­mon Bridges, the lat­ter who, dur­ing his roads of na­tional im­por­tance hey days, looked like a lost Mem­ber for the Vil­lage Peo­ple.

It will be hard for English, if he has the ap­petite to go an­other round, to achieve the im­pres­sive vote he man­aged last elec­tion. Those who see English as a nice guy who some­how came last were re­cently re­minded of the neg­a­tive cam­paign the Nats ran, not only in 2017, but also back in 2014.

Na­tional be­ing court-or­dered to pay $600,000 in dam­ages for rip­ping off Eminem’s Lose Your­self, which they used in their cam­paign ad, was a re­minder of the re­lent­less neg­a­tiv­ity of that par­tic­u­lar cam­paign re­peated in this last cy­cle.

The new Govern­ment might be a po­ten­tial three-headed mon­ster, but they have a pos­i­tive feel-good fac­tor to them. Peters got done over by some­one in Na­tional leak­ing the de­tails of his superannuation, which must have been one of the con­tribut­ing fac­tors in his choice to go with the left.

The new Op­po­si­tion has 56 seats out of 120 in the House and a lethal lion-share eight out of 12 of ques­tions ev­ery time Par­lia­ment sits.

The good faith bar­gain­ing that ex­ists be­tween Labour and the Greens, and the friend­ship be­tween the Prime Min­is­ter and Greens leader James Shaw, will come to be tested. But their Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing is now deeply in­grained, a habit-form­ing act of faith.

Plot­ting Nats strate­gist Steven Joyce seems to want to stick around to stick it to the coali­tion, but who will be­lieve his fis­cal as­ser­tions af­ter his cam­paign at­tack on Labour that they had an $11.7 bil­lion fis­cal hole in their bud­get? At the time Joyce’s claim was dis­puted by an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of lead­ing econ­o­mists, but Joyce re­fused to back down, be­liev­ing the oft-re­peated porky would make mud stick.

It may have worked, with Na­tional get­ting the largest block of votes, but the se­cret life of MMP has de­liv­ered Joyce a karmic come­up­pance. The new Govern­ment, with its base note of the Greens and com­mon goals with New Zealand First, is com­mit­ted to heal­ing this part of the nat­u­ral world and this is where it has to keep its uni­fied gaze.

Out-of-con­trol im­mi­gra­tion and tourism numbers have left the coun­try feel­ing rid­den hard and left out wet. With the Maori seats all in Labour’s pocket and those seats safe from Peter’s for­mer dis­man­tling in­tent, cre­at­ing cul­tural touch­stones and pro­tect­ing taonga across the di­vide is where it’s at.

The new Forestry Ser­vice, with NZ First min­is­ter Shane Jones at its head, is tasked with plant­ing 100 mil­lion trees a year. This re­gen­er­a­tion con­trib­utes to the em­pow­er­ment re­quired to make New Zealan­ders feel le­git­i­mately clean and green again.

Speak­ing of green, the Prime Min­is­ter’s choice of an emer­ald green dress worn when she had a sit-down with the Pres­i­dent of Ire­land, and her flam­boy­ant flo­ral frock on swear-in day, is a wel­come re­lief from the strange power jackets usu­ally favoured by fe­male MPs.

No dour, she-wears-the-trousers pant suits as worn by Hil­lary Clin­ton and He­len Clark for Ardern. The new Prime Min­is­ter could lend her­self well as an eye-catch­ing clothes horse rock­ing Kiwi de­sign­ers as she trots the globe. Her first sar­to­rial chal­lenge in her on­go­ing pro­ject run­way will be how she struts Apec’s shirts-of-shame.

Out-of-con­trol im­mi­gra­tion and tourism numbers have left the coun­try feel­ing rid­den hard and left out wet.

Exit, stage left. Na­tional leader Bill English is mak­ing noises about hang­ing around un­til the next elec­tion, but the party is more likely to be led by one of its more youth­ful, charis­matic mem­bers.

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