It’s unfortunate to be constantly compared to a predecessor, but it appears one of the burdens Jacinda Ardern has to carry.
Every time she’s mentioned on this show, the inevitable texts comes in saying, “this wouldn’t have happened on Helen’s watch”.
They of course mean Helen Clark, and the latest incidence of what wouldn’t have happened on Helen’s watch is the Labour party sex abuse allegations scandal.
It’s a scandal now because it’s been allowed to become one, it’s grown legs over many months because of how it has been dealt with, or more accurately, has not been dealt with.
How it’s been bungled and mismanaged, how it’s been kept in the shadows and most woefully, done a huge disservice to the victims.
The texters are right to the extent that Helen Clark as a strong leader was omnipresent, in many respects it feels like she still is.
We hear from her regularly on a variety of political issues, her latest dalliance being into cannabis reform.
And if it feels like we’re hearing from her a lot, imagine how the Labour Party must feel.
I imagine she’s on the phone constantly.
But that’s because she’s deeply vested in every single thing that goes on, she’s a details person, she’s all over it.
And that, in this game, is what you need to be. A details person.
The devil is in the detail, as any corporate manager or CEO will tell you.
My fear for Jacinda on top of her lack of corporate experience or how to run a company far less a government, is her hands off approach. ‘My people will talk to your people’, ‘I got some advice’, let’s commission a report.
That sort of approach doesn’t cut it.
She said yesterday when asked if she’d spoken to Nigel Haworth directly about these allegations, that she’d “sought assurances” and that she’d “been assured”. By who? Well not Nigel.
And therein lies the crux of her leadership problem.
You get in the face of the person directly involved and you ask some pretty serious questions and you get the reassurance you need in person, direct, not from a middle man, not from an assistant running between offices, you get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Because if you don’t, what happens?
You find yourself running the media gauntlet months later, defending and deferring and back peddling.
And how does that look as a leader?
It looks shabby, and lacking in strong leadership.
No wonder Helen still looms large.