The week just coming to a close was all about Jacinda Ardern. Jacinda became Leader of Labour/Leader of the Opposition. Jacinda set out a plan of attack to make Labour election ready. Jacinda announced Labours transport policy. Jacinda did this. Jacinda said that.
Except that it was not all about Jacinda. Ms Ardern was just one of a host of party leaders in Parliament making – for better or for worse – the media headlines in a very full on week. In their own ways, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, Greens co-leader Metiria Turei and Prime Minister Bill English all made a contribution to the politics of the week just gone. But we might agree that this week was all about politics.
Ms Ardern will be a busy lady the week about to start. The next major policy announcement is likely to be Labours environment policy, due in a couple of days. This says nothing of Parliamentary debates, working out what needs to be done in the remaining weeks of Parliament sitting before the Writ is issued, rushing around doing her constituent commitments and finding time to campaign.
For Metiria Turei, despite standing fully beside her gamble, and drawing a lot of support from across the centre-left, there is no doubt she has polarized New Zealand with her admissions of lying to get more support from Work and Income New Zealand. She has made a massive gamble that could yet torpedo her career and make her resign from Parliament – that torpedo has not yet been released to home in on its target, but the warhead it has attached is powerful.
James Shaw, the male co-leader of the Greens must be quietly wondering whether it was a mistake of Ms Turei to admit her own deceit of Work and Income New Zealand. Certainly his job has potentially just gotten considerably more difficult. If Ms Turei quits he will have an even more problematic job than Labour is having, with the need to elect a new co-leader (Julie Anne Genter would be a shoo in if I had to guess – smart, popular and hardworking). And then there is addressing with the party faithful and the voters the potential fallout from Ms Turei’s admission. Will it send voters to Labour or encourage some to stay home?
Winston Peters, leader of the dark horse party in the New Zealand Parliament probably cannot be happier if he tried. His party is climbing in the polls across the board. No scandals have rocked his party this election – though there may be some blow back from Shane Jones, whose name is divisive inside the party – and some good solid policies such as Tracey Martin’s comprehensive Up Front Investment policy for tertiary education have already been released. Not being a party member any longer, I am not able to really comment on how their campaign is going – not because I have been sworn to silence, but because I am simply not paying that much attention.
Perhaps the party to be the most concerned, is the one hoping for a fourth term in the Beehive. National cannot not have noticed Labours sudden revival this week. Nor can it have not noticed that thus far Ms Ardern is nimble on her feet in terms of making decisions on the go. The election campaign might not have begun yet officially and there are still opportunities to trip Ms Ardern up, but if there is anyone who should be concerned other than Metiria Turei about the immediate future in politics, it should be Prime Minister Bill English.