New Zealand’s political year kicked off this week with two remarkably different, but largely expected speeches, by two different political leaders, who delivered their supposedly defining messages in an equally different setting.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern informed the media on Wednesday morning, immediately after a strategic multi-planning retreat, that she has told her Labour caucus members that 2019 will be the “year of delivery” for the government, thus displaying her trademark feel-good style of politics.
Hours later, on the same day at a different location, down south in Christchurch, National Leader Simon Bridges tried to wrest some early momentum for himself and his party through the State of the Nation speech seeking to put taxes firmly on the agenda of New Zealand politics.
The general reception to both of these addresses by leaders of the main political parties, was on expected lines, as both media and the public were exceptionally critical for one while approving for the other.
Lest some may hurriedly assume that this is because of two different styles of politics and personalities that these two leaders bring, it is more because of one being in government and the other in opposition.
It is largely observed that in politics there are more takers for the views of those in power and hence more approval, than those in the opposition, who get more disapproval.
Though both are unfair and not accurate. However, those in politics are expected to know this and cannot complain.
In that respect, the Prime Minister’s message to her caucus about 2019 being the year of delivery, which should have been interpreted as a “telling off” to the non-performing or under-performing ministers in the government (and the last count suggest there were too many) was largely reported as a casual “pep-talk” in an “informal environment.”
Simon Bridges, on the other hand, got the exact reception as reserved for all leader of the oppositions, more so when in the first term of being in the opposition, whereby struggling to convince the audience, the public and the experts about the promises that they strive to offer.
Mr Bridges’ attempt to lure New Zealand voters with a promise around a gradual tax relief for three years was more a disguised attempt of setting the political agenda around taxes rather than any meaningful difference in the lives of Kiwi voters.
Expectedly, Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s pointed criticism of “fiscal hole” in Mr Bridges’ projections also managed to receive much attention.
Regardless of the immediate hue and cry around these two main speeches this week it is clear that 2019 will be decisive for both the leaders.
More so for Mr Bridges who is trying to lead the party from the trenches of the opposition when the members of the caucus are more anxious and less forgiving, than Ms Ardern who being comfortably placed in power has a bigger runway ahead.
However, this year will set the agenda for the next year’s election and the government all set to receive reports from several committees including tax working groups, is expected to “deliver” and not hide behind the star power of Ms Ardern.