Come on in Deborah Russell.
Having been largely absent for over two years of government, the previously invisible Labour MP lobs up at the Epidemic Response Committee, tells small business that if they're having trouble surviving the lockdown maybe they're just a bit useless at business.
This is the most welcome advice from a titan of small business herself. Not.
She, of course, is publicly chastised by the Prime Minister and Grant Robertson, who know full well their party already has credibility issues with all sorts of businesses, far less SMEs.
Willie Jackson, who made equally stupid comments, appears to have been let off lightly, given Russell grabbed all the headlines.
But then in a “the gift just keeps giving” kind of way, Russell lobs up on the Newstalk ZB Drive show on Friday and drops an even bigger bombshell. Turns out the Prime Minister did what we always knew she does but would never admit to publicly, not actually take Russell to task for the original crime.
Ardern is famous now for being unable to be bold, make a decision off her own bat, far less actually deal to incompetence. We'd barely moved on from the David Clark sort of sacking, the sacking you have when you don’t actually sack anyone. That, of course, went into the Ardern pantheon of other non-decisions like Iain-Lees Galloway and the Sroubek saga , Clare Curran and RNZ, and the gold medal non-sacking, the promotion of Phil Twyford to Economic Development Minister having cocked up Kiwibuild in a way they’ll write about for years.
No, Ardern put on her best stern face at another of those afternoon bingo sessions of how many cases, how many in hospital, and how many are linked to overseas travel. And she left us under illusion Russell had misspoken.
She then, according to Russell in her ZB Drive "throw Ardern under the bus" session, got a call from Ardern. And she told her not to do it again? No. To pull her head in? No. Not to think before she speaks? No. But to hang in there, you'll be alright.
When asked whether Ardern had actually told her off in anyway Russell gave the Ardern game away, she said "that’s not Jacinda's way."
And sadly, no it isn't. And in that is the credibility issue, what Ardern says she does, and what she really does in circumstances like this are two very different things. Matthew Hooton calls her one of the world's best symbolic communicators. That’s spot on. Sounds great, says nothing.
Tells people off, but doesn’t tell people off. Sacks people, but doesn’t sack people.
Big stern face, leaves you with the impression someone's in for it. And yet, what really happens is "hang in there, you'll be alright."
And yet, what really happens is, "hang in there you'll be alright."
Because that’s not her way.
So what's been exposed here is not just the government's profound incompetence in an increasing number of matters, but basically Ardern's fraudulent portrayal of a leader who does what she says she'll do.
We are being played. Some of us have known this for a while but thanks to Russell, she's exposed the trick, for all its shabby superficiality.