Politician of the year — and of five decades

It’s time to anoint the politician of 2017. It has to be Jacinda Ardern.

With accomplished assurance, she took Labour from a 24% poll average and falling in July to 36.9% in the election, 12 points up on 2014.

Don Brash’s 2002-05 18-point rescue of National beats that. But Ardern did it in under eight weeks, combining substance and connectedness. She is not “stardust”, Bill English’s shabby scoff. She is of a rising generation, he of a passing one.

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When the “losers won” – and the loser lost: the first post-baby-boomer election

Background notes for Victoria University post-election conference
Colin James, 6 December 2017

This was the election the “losers won”, the National party and its devotees, apologists and puppets grumped when Winston Peters and his New Zealand First party decided to coalesce with Labour. National got 44.4% of the vote to Labour’s 36.9%.

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The Mark Twain syndrome – why cities might rule (sometime)

NZIIA Masterton 17Nov29

The Mark Twain syndrome – why cities might rule (sometime)
Colin James to Masterton branch, New Zealand Institute of International Affairs
29 November 2017

Mark Twain quipped that a report of his death was an exaggeration. The same is often said of the sovereign nation-state. But Mark Twain did die, 13 years after the exaggerated report.
Death reduced Mark Twain to putrefaction and sustenance for creatures of the dark. His words live on, a disembodied testament to our human need and yearning for ways to knit belief that we have meaning and are distinct from and superior to all other living things in this temporary, 10-billion-year habitat whose sun will one day go out.
We invest similar belief and hope in our governing constructs. But, like Mark Twain, they are not immortal. Multiple empires and multiple lesser satrapies and realms have disintegrated and dematerialised through the past three of four millennia…..

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Ardern’s choice: sticking plasters or building assets

It has been a month for centenaries of revolutions: Vladimir Lenin’s Russian coup and Martin Luther’s challenge to Catholic authorities. Their legacies are very different.

Lenin’s revolution brought to power a brutal Communist autocracy which killed capitalism in one country but also over time trashed the collectivist alternative ideal. Western socialists, including Labourites here, turned to a social democratic accommodation with capitalism.

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Can petty Parliament grow up into the big issues?

Senior ministers have been abroad on national business: trade and climate change. Doing such business well needs a firm, broadly agreed national foundation. Can Parliament measure up?

Not if you judge it by the National-Labour petty points-scoring on swearing-in day last Tuesday.

Shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges withdrew National’s agreement the previous day to back Trevor Mallard for Speaker to leverage an increase in select committee numbers above what he had proposed pre-election.

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Jacinda Ardern’s big “wellbeing” opportunity

Jacinda Ardern’s intricately-interlocked ministry is in place. The BIMs have been delivered. One will likely open a door to a wide new space Ardern will want to drive into.

A BIM is officials’ “briefing to the incoming minister”. In 2014 ministers heavily redacted many, which reflected badly on officials’ supposed party-political independence. Earlier this year officials briefed ministers on Winston Peters’ superannuation.

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