The most exacting measure on which we rate political leaders is judgement. It’s the yardstick that really counts. Are they decisive, are they assertive and clear-eyed in their judgement?
Dominating Jacinda Ardern’s negatives is the perception that she’s too kind, indecisive and too forgiving of fools. The Prime Minister might possibly have been the last person left in New Zealand to retain confidence in her previous Health Minister, David Clark.
Then we come to the National Party. With a new broom at the helm, Todd Muller’s first real test of his mettle looked muddled. On Monday, he knew the Walker scandal was going to blow. He relieved Hamish Walker of his portfolios on Tuesday and issued a statement accordingly.
It came up short. The glaring misjudgement was Muller’s fundamental failure to swiftly wash his hands of Walker.
There was no nod from Todd, publicly, that Walker should consider his future. And he had the time to get his ducks in a row, constitutionally with the party, to do so. But he didn’t. And that oversight made Muller look lame in the thick of a crisis. The court of public opinion was seething. Walker had to go, and Muller found himself playing catch-up.
Belatedly, this time yesterday, he got there, confirming that Clutha Southland deserved a fresh candidate. And Walker resigned at lunchtime.
Hopefully for National, this will cauterise the bleeding and contain the mess. The shills on the left would have you believe the rot of dirty politics goes much further up the National Party Tree. It’s a half-cocked claim with no supporting evidence.
But Muller’s crisis-management performance was flaky. He didn’t pass the stress-test in flying colours. We’re on the eve of the campaign proper. He shouldn’t be tepid, wooden and hesitant to publicly assert his moral authority.
For all his attributes, Muller is yet to convince me that he’s a leadership game-changer. Has National made the same panicky missteps that the bed-wetters in the Liberal Party unleashed – a la axing Abbott for a muddling Malcolm Turnbull? Judgement and timing is everything.