• Another Commonwealth Gold Medal

    The Prime Minister’s first trip overseas in her new capacity has undoubtedly been a great success – for her personally, for New Zealand and even – perhaps – for the Commonwealth itself.

    The charm, freshness and intelligence which produced a largely unexpected election victory at home have all now been recognised on the international stage and have drawn forth a range of favourable responses from international leaders who have clearly been intrigued not only by a fresh face but by someone they had not expected to see – a young woman leader – not only attractive, but having the temerity to be pregnant into the bargain – and with surprising self-confidence and sure-footedness on her first foray abroad.

    The image she presented is entirely one that New Zealand wishes to present – the image of a country that dares to be different and to break new ground and that is keen to find new and better ways of doing things.

    The response and the special attention she received,  from the Queen herself and from other senior Commonwealth and European leaders – Prince Charles, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau, Theresa May – were not just a feather in her cap, but a plus for New Zealand as well.  And that plus could turn out to be of considerable value.

    She has helped to breathe new life into the Commonwealth – so that an international association of amazing scope and variety, whose potential has never been properly recognised, can start to play a full and valuable role – and, if that should lead to a new trade agreement extending across so many countries at different stages of development, that could bring huge benefits not only to us but to a significant proportion of the world’s population.

    Not everyone, of course, will welcome the Prime Minister’s success.  While most Kiwis will be quick to acknowledge the favourable impression she has made, her political opponents at home are clearly a good deal less enthusiastic.  As the good news stories and images filled our screens, their angst is almost visible and audible.

    There, before their very eyes, they could see the next election slipping away from them and, with Simon Bridges struggling to make an impression, not least with his own supporters, we are constantly offered evidence of how desperate they are to prick the bubble of this latest version of Jacindamania – one that has now reached international proportions.

    So, stepping up to the plate are those who are being pressed into service to say something – anything – that might take away some of the gloss.  The problem for such nay-sayers is that they are obviously struggling to find something sensible, let alone anything of substance, to say.

    So, the headlines tell us that Jacinda is “just like Trump” and that Jacinda’s partner, Clarke Gayford, is open to criticism because he travelled with her (so much for gender equality) and commits the crime of spelling his first name with an “e”.  Anyone who bothers to read beyond the headlines in an effort to find any substance to support them is doomed to disappointment; one suspects that the headline is all there is and that it is in any case the real point of the exercise, intended simply to plant the impression in the reader’s mind that those not ready to join the Jacinda fan club at least have some company.

    It may be that the Prime Minister’s return to home territory will alleviate the panic that has beset her opponents and that we will then return to politics as usual and a greater preparedness to give credit where it is due.  In the meantime, as we celebrate another win for the Black Ferns to follow up on their Commonwealth Games Gold Medal, let us also enjoy the success achieved by another of our most promising and well-performing young women, as she carried our flag into the international arena and came home with a gold medal.

    Bryan Gould

    24 April 2018