Jacinda Ardern’s much vaunted, but somewhat less than fruitful “Year of Delivery” on the domestic front is finally and thankfully (for Labour, anyway) staggering towards closure.
The pressure to come up with the goods has switched to someone else who, like New Zealand’s Prime Minister, cuts it big on the international stage.
Everyone can rest easy, however. The personage to whom we are referring has never missed a deadline for delivery during his lengthy career as a courier driver. And he won’t miss one on what is the busiest day of his working year.
So what might Santa have planned by way of presents to go under the Christmas trees in the Ardern household and the homes of other politicians?
John Armstrong offers some none-too-serious suggestions as to what might be deemed to be suitable gifts for some of the country’s more prominent MPs.
JACINDA ARDERN, LABOUR
The Nobel Peace Prize. New Zealand’s Prime Minister would have been a worthy and deserving winner of what is without doubt the ultimate accolade accorded to individuals who have done good deeds and, moreover, done them darned well.
Such was Ardern’s embodiment of peace and understanding in the aftermath of the March 15 massacres at Christchurch’s two mosques that in some quarters of the media she was subsequently elevated to rank of front-runner to take out international diplomacy’s equivalent of the Rugby World Cup.
But Ardern did not win. Those who pushed her cause were instead deserving of a different prize — one for sheer stupidity.
Ardern did not win because it was impossible for her to do so. It takes all of a couple of minutes to discover why.
Had the likes of Time magazine and USA Today bothered to check the rules and conditions which apply to the selection of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, they would have found that nominations for the award closed on February 1 — six weeks before the killing spree at the mosques. Moreover the short-list of potential laureates would have been finalised prior to that awful Friday.
As oft mentioned on the official Nobel Prize website, the awards cover the preceding year, not the current one. It is thus not inconceivable that Ardern — boosted by the subsequent success of her “Christchurch Call” initiative to stymie cyber terrorism — could be an actual front-runner for the 2020 prize. But we might never know.
Sure, if she wins, we will hear all about it. If she doesn’t, we will have to wait for 50 years to find out whether she was a contender, such is the moratorium on the release of information on the identities of nominees for the award.
GRANT ROBERTSON, LABOUR
A trumpet with which to blow his own trumpet. The Minister of Finance is a past master at hiding his light under the proverbial bushel. Yet, he is the backbone of Ardern’s Administration. If Robertson’s caution in managing the economy does not succeed in building voters’ trust in Labour, then nothing else will. He needs to be both seen and heard far more next year, given 2020 is also election year.
PHIL TWYFORD, LABOUR
A LEGO-like version of KiwiBuild. Plus an antique wind-up clockwork model train set. The former comes in an empty box and without the usual assortment of plastic bricks. They are not needed by those playing with the toy because — just as in real life — the promised 100,000 affordable homes never get built. Giving Twyford the train set would allow him to claim that things are going like clockwork in his Transport portfolio when the evidence is so patently obvious that this is not the case.
KRIS FAAFOI, LABOUR
A Lotto ticket. Maybe several Lotto tickets, given the Broadcasting Minister’s recent good fortune in escaping a very different sort of Power Dip — being sacked from the Cabinet, that is. Faafoi’s offer to use his influence as a minister to help a close mate resolve a family-related wrangle with Immigration New Zealand broke all the rules laid out in the Cabinet Manual dealing with lapses of judgement and conflicts of interest. Down the years, others of Cabinet rank have been dismissed for much less. Just ask Clare Curran.
WINSTON PETERS, NEW ZEALAND FIRST
What the veteran MP wants above everything else is to break the hoodoo which has twice previously seen New Zealand First fail to make a go at governing which stretches beyond a single parliamentary term.
That won’t happen unless Peters remains at the helm of the party he founded. As it is, Peters faces a daunting struggle to lift New Zealand First’s support above the 5 per cent threshold. Without him, there is no chance of that happening. Without him, the party would likely descend into a debilitating power struggle in the vacuum that would be left by his departure. Even if he wants to retire from politics— and he continues to give every impression that quitting is the very last thing on his mind — he cannot leave Parliament. He has to stand again at next year’s general election. He will stand again.
SHANE JONES, NEW ZEALAND FIRST
Several cartons of the milk of human kindness — to borrow the words of Will Shakespeare, someone whom the former Labour MP and current aspirant for the leadership of New Zealand First loves to quote to anyone within earshot.
For kindness, along with compassion, went AWOL on the day that Jones, holidaying in Thailand at the time, dropped by an indoor firing range and picked up a military-style semi-automatic of the kind used in the mosque murders and subsequently banned by the Cabinet of which Jones, of course, is a member.
To ensure his target practice did not go unnoticed back home, the requisite photos were posted on Facebook.
Subtlety is the last thing to expect of someone pitching for the votes of the gun lobby. But this episode was remarkable for its crassness and insensitivity even by Jones’ standards.
More pertinently, it was an opportunity for the Prime Minister to come down on Jones like a tonne of concrete blocks. But she didn’t.
SIMON BRIDGES, NATIONAL
A voodoo doll answering to the name of Christopher Luxon. National’s current leader made all the right noises following the party’s selection of the former chief executive of Air New Zealand as MP-in-waiting in the seat of Botany.
Given the level of static generated by those talking up Luxon’s leadership credentials, Bridges might be excused using the privacy of his office at Parliament to plunge a copious number of long, sharp pins into an effigy of the national airline’s former boss. Just as the Prime Minister might well be justified in metering out the same treatment to a voodoo doll bearing a striking resemblance to her chief irritant, the aforementioned Shane Jones.
Indulging in black magic won’t make Jones or Luxon go away. But such an exercise might well prove to be cathartic for the leaders of the two major parties.
JAMI-LEE ROSS, INDEPENDENT
A one-way ticket out of Wellington on the strict condition that he never comes within a bull’s roar of Parliament Buildings.
MPs who leave the party which brought them into Parliament, but who refuse to resign or refuse to seek a mandate for the change in their political circumstances by holding a by-election are generally regarded as a low-life by their parliamentary peers.
That is unless they can persuade the public that their exit is based on principle rather than the attraction of continuing to pick up the close to $200,000 salary and expenses package enjoyed by backbenchers. To his credit, Ross has not been the nuisance that National would have feared would be the case. Maybe, just maybe, in this instance, the voodoo doll did the trick.
DAVID SEYMOUR, ACT
Prior to recent weeks, the most apt gift for David Seymour — at least in the minds of those who despise ACT — would have been deemed to be a copy of his End of Life Choice Act.
It would have put Seymour on the spot by obliging him to explain why he was not applying the principle underpinning his landmark legislation to the day-to-day functioning or — more to the point — dysfunctioning of the party he represents in Parliament. That is not a question Seymour would wish to furnish a reply.
That is because the honest answer is that the cost-benefit ratio of keeping ACT alive is so hopelessly one-sided that logic would dictate that ACT shut up shop.
Not that ACT has has needed to resort to “assisted dying” anyway. The party has long made a pretty good fist of terminating itself without requiring help from elsewhere.
All of a sudden, however, things have changed — though still only marginally.
The latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll — the political equivalent of a heart monitoring machine — is registering flickers of renewed life in what has long been assumed was a corpse awaiting long overdue burial.
The upwards hike in voter backing has taken ACT to the giddy heights of 1.6 per cent of the party vote. That is enough, however, to bring another MP into Parliament to join Seymour. And those two MPs might be sufficient — just — for the centre-right to govern.
Or is ACT’s lift in support — effectively a doubling of its supporters from 20,000 to 40,000 in number just a blip born of Seymour’s high profile in the media during the months and months that his euthanasia measure was before Parliament?
No-one can claim to know. Not until the next poll anyway.