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John MacDonald: The Prickly PM - Keeping it real? Or is there more to it?

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 14 Dec 2022, 12:57PM
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / File
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / File

John MacDonald: The Prickly PM - Keeping it real? Or is there more to it?

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 14 Dec 2022, 12:57PM

Do you remember when Parliament packed up shop this time last year and Jacinda Ardern thanked all of us for how we’d dealt with the whole COVID thing?

She wished us a wonderful break, and went on to say “you bloody deserve it”.

Yesterday, she took the language up a notch - calling ACT leader David Seymour “an arrogant prick”.

She said it after she’d been grilled by Seymour. She was taking her seat, made the comment to Grant Robertson and it was picked-up by the microphone on her desk.

So, obviously, it wasn’t something she’d intended Seymour or anyone else apart from Robertson to hear, but a New Zealand Herald journalist picked it up and “prick-gate” became a thing.

Seymour appears to have been quite gracious about it. The Prime Minister too was quick to apologise, sending a text to Seymour saying her mum had always told her if she didn’t have anything nice to say about someone, then she shouldn’t say it.

Advice we’ve all been given at some point in our lives, I’m sure. And advice most of us have probably ignored or forgotten at some point in our lives too.

Nevertheless, the Prime Minister wouldn’t have said it if Seymour hadn’t got under her skin - as he obviously did yesterday.

He’d been asking a series of questions on a range of issues from hate speech to school truancy. But it seems the bit that really got to her, was when Seymour asked the Prime Minister to give an example of her “making a mistake, apologising for it, and fixing it”.

She came back saying there have been a number of occasions where the Government has acknowledged it hasn’t got things perfect. She used MIQ, as an example, saying it would do things differently if it had to deal with another pandemic.

Which wasn’t really an answer to Seymour’s question. But then most answers don’t actually answer the questions in Parliament - unless, of course, they’re one of those patsy questions that politicians put to each other.

You know, the ones where they ask someone in their own party to explain how great they all are.

But they weren’t patsy questions Jacinda Ardern was being asked, and so she danced around Seymour’s question about a time in her life when she’d made a mistake, apologised for it, and fixed it; and when she’d finished dancing around it, went back to her seat, leaned in to Grant Robertson and said Seymour was “such an arrogant prick”.

When I was talking to people about it last night, they thought it was brilliant. I think mostly because these people agreed with the Prime Minister’s assessment of the ACT Party leader.

And I think too because they thought it showed the Prime Minister was just a normal person and when someone brasses her off, she makes it known.

It wouldn’t have been all that long ago, though, when a Prime Minister saying something like this in Parliament - even if it was an under-the-breath comment - would be considered outrageous.

These days, though, it’s not outrageous.

But the Prime Minister's response to Seymour’s questioning yesterday does raise the question as to whether she was being human like the rest of us - especially at this time of year when we’re all feeling a bit worn out.

Or whether we are starting to see the pressure the Government is under at the moment having an impact - even on the Prime Minister. Because I’m sure there have been plenty of times when she’s made exactly the same assessment of David Seymour’s character but has managed to either keep it to herself or keep it much more private than she did yesterday.

There’s all the stuff with Three Waters, the nutbar public media merger, losing the by-election in Hamilton West at the weekend, crime…truckloads of stuff she and her government are being criticised over.

So did she show that she’s human like the rest of us? Or was it a sign she's really feeling the heat? I think it was both.

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