Seemingly all political commenters and not just those of the right, are now condemning Jacinda Ardern as an absentee Prime Minister, hiding behind her Ministers when major issues arise. It’s probably a fair cop.
But here’s another perspective; does it matter?
The thing about Jacinda is she’s genuinely nice without a mean bone in her body. I suspect the public sense this and warm to her; her presence making them feel good and if so, politics aside, that’s a good thing. What’s important is that in the shadows at least one Senior Minister is holding the reins. That’s doubtless occurring, probably with Finance Minister Grant Robertson filling that key role.
We’ve been there before, back in the 1980s.
David Lange was bored witless by the minutia of government and much preferred clowning about and active involvement with the more enjoyable aspects of the job and he left his Ministers to get on with things.
But make no mistake, with his government’s wonderful radical economic reforms he was devastating during the first term in lucidly explaining them on television to an understandably confused public watching everything being turned on its head, and thank God for that. Lange was fortunate as behind the scenes he had a domineering workhorse in his Deputy Geoff Palmer who did the real management work of government.
To critics Palmer was a ringmaster and Lange the clown; to his supporters and I certainly count myself as one, he was the ideal leader, highly intelligent, trusting in his underlings and only stepping up to the plate for major issues.
When New Zealand eventually grows up and sheds the ludicrous monarchy, this is the way things will hopefully be, with a popular elected President, overseeing the token constitutional procedures but otherwise emulating Jacinda in his or her daily role.
If that’s the de facto current situation, then good and it’s nothing to be alarmed about.