The Soap Box: Ardern's youth might mean buyer's remorse

Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Monday, 11 September 2017, 5:30AM
So when it comes to Ardern, it pays to tread carefully. (Photo \ Getty Images)
So when it comes to Ardern, it pays to tread carefully. (Photo \ Getty Images)

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: inconceivable and unthinkable before the beginning of last month. but if the opinion polls translate into votes and Winston Peters likes the idea, then it's a distinct possibility.

Is this personality politics or the politics of the person driving the mania for this 37-year year-old? To her new found disciples she's sacrosanct, to criticise causes castigation. For example, a simple play on names, like Jacindarella, drew a slew of barbs, sexism being the most common with horror at the mere suggestion that she could be seen as a scullery maid.

Cinderella was surely a lovely story of someone rising above adversity and ending up a princess. And to suggest she "screeched" at Bill English during their last debate, again saw that label sexist being flung. Curious: when a male politician's accused of barking, never a word of admonishment.

So when it comes to Ardern, it pays to tread carefully. But it's worth reflecting on the he last time a leader was elected by sheer force of their personality.

At 41, David Lange was just four years older than Ardern and the youngest Prime Minister of the 20th century. The public loved the literally larger than life character. They loved him standing up to the mite of Uncle Sam in the nuclear debate and banning American warships, but more importantly they loved the economic revolution which took the economy out of the Muldoon icebox, and even though interest rates and inflation soared, so did Lange's popularity.

But in all of this Lange was simply the frontman, the personality, with his sidekick Roger Douglas running the economy while others set the nuclear agenda. They went into their second election simply asking the shellshocked public to let them finish the business with the catch cry "Short term pain for long term gain." The economic foundations they laid remain as the building blocks today.

Lange's leadership though was more about appearance than his own political influence which diminished by the day with his colleagues and the fallout was ugly.

Consider the world's recent love affairs with political personalities, 39-year-old French President Emmanuel Macron whose ratings have slumped 10 percent since taking over in June, and Canada's 45-year-old Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's rating's at the lowest it's been since being elected leader less than two years ago.

So buyer's remorse for the fresh, new package is always a distinct possibility.

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