The Soap Box: Pence may regret asking Ardern to be his dinner partner

Barry Soper ,
Publish Date
Thursday, 15 November 2018, 6:18AM
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Doug Sherring
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Doug Sherring

Jacinda Ardern once confided that when she's nervous her mouth drains of moisture and her lip would get completely stuck to the top of her teeth.

She admitted when your teeth provide an expansive platform, it makes it almost impossible to talk and when you do, it can be utterly and completely indecipherable. As a young woman, it was a condition that occurred most times when she rose to speak to an audience.

Ardern appears to have no such problem these days though and last night, by all accounts she wasn't stuck for words as she slid in beside the trumpet Mike Pence at the East Asia Summit's gala dinner for leaders in Singapore. The Prime Minister tells us it was the American Vice President, who was standing in for Donald Trump, who asked for her as his dinner companion, so unlike his boss, he clearly knows who she is.

Ardern and Pence had quite a lot in common in their early lives, both grew up as diehard Christians and both their political loyalties were on the left of the spectrum. Yes, the Republican VP was once a Democrat. And both of them had experience with a microphone, she as a disc jockey and he as a radio talkback host.

But their similarities ended a long time ago when Ardern parted company with the Mormons because of their unwavering opposition to gay rights and the vehemently pro-gun lobby. Pence became more entrenched, becoming a born again, and is even more morally conservative than Bill English.

So you'd have to wonder what this pair had to talk about over dinner. Mike Pence may regret he sought her out as a dinner companion because the affable Ardern said going into the dinner she'd be raising the steel and aluminium tariffs that the United States has walloped our exports and she'd be talking about issues of concern in our part of the world, without specifying what they were.

The Chinese buildup in the Pacific is, of course, a major concern to the Americans and our so-called Pacific reset, with Winston Peters pouring more money into the Islands, should appease them to some extent.

But of course, we could never compete with the Chinese largesse. Ardern's mouth may have been a little parched when she earlier spoke to the Chinese Premier and expressed concerns about human rights, which while expected, is pretty meaningless given the line from her previous meetings with them is that they heard and received her concerns.

A visit to China by her is very much on the cards but she's not expecting a Presidential invitation to the White House anytime soon - well John Key had to wait three years before he made the cut with Barack Obama and at least they had golf and a house in Hawaii in common!

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