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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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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A turning point in our international positioning?

Usually domestic matters are top of mind for a Prime Minister. But whoever is Prime Minister — still unknown at the time of writing — will face what may be the biggest foreign policy challenge in a generation.

This will be so whether New Zealand First chooses a two-bloc arrangement — National plus New Zealand First versus Labour plus Greens — or a three-way deal with Labour plus Greens.

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