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An Ordinary Hero.
With much to do.
I read the list of MP’s gifts and property interests this morning. It can be good for a laugh at some of the odder items. Or playing connect-the-dots between the gifts and what the giver might want in return. It began with a list of things given to Jacinda Ardern. Fashion items she’d been loaned, a large wooden bowl, a children’s book, a cardigan. It all seemed so ordinary.
I felt a bit emotional, as I still do on the increasingly rare occasions she is mentioned in the media. Maybe I always will. A combination of gratitude for what she did for this country, of loss with her gone from the role and clearly not coming back, but mostly of deep shame at how she was treated by people in this country.
Perhaps you think that sounds a bit pathetic after this time, perhaps it is. I don’t see her the same as before, she seemed like an unstoppable machine, relentless. But then the machine stopped and she just seemed like a normal person again. A partner, a mum, someone you might see at a school fundraiser that had once been thrust into the most incredible role. One that no one could prepare for, and one she carried out better than anyone could have expected.
Life carries on. Remarkably so. We are quite fortunate really.
I watched a bit of question time in parliament yesterday. Jacinda’s replacement Chris Hipkins, our Chippy, was dealing to both Christopher Luxon and David Seymour at once. He looked liked he could do it with one hand tied behind his back. He made them look ridiculous, although in fairness their injuries were largely self inflicted.
Chippy had a tactic I hadn’t seen before. He kept suggesting each time Luxon asked a poorly thought through, or absurd, question that his words had been generated by AI. I thought it was very clever given that the narrative coming through in the polls is that Luxon is out of touch. The National leader at least had the awareness that he was bettered and sat down, Seymour on the other hand seemed undeterred by looking ridiculous.
How bloody lucky are we? We’ve gone from one hugely capable, intelligent, engaging, compassion Prime Minister, to another. But I hope we never come to feel about Chippy the way many of us feel about Jacinda.
For that to happen it would require a large scale tragedy like the terrorist action in Christchurch, like the pandemic. We don’t need another hero guiding us through a challenge of that scale again any time soon.
Unfortunately with the way this climate change stuff is going, the weather events we are seeing, Hipkins might well have such an opportunity. He wears it well though. We’ve seen him now, across the floods, looking completely focussed on helping his people, it’s real. While we see other politicians with shiny new gumboots, or hi vis jackets, posing for the cameras, Chippy is the real deal.
He has it within him to be a great leader, but I hope it is not for the same sort of reasons as Jacinda.
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There are aspects, our laid backness, how simple things are here compared to elsewhere, which are great attributes of this country. We can see it in that MP gift register, it’s pretty minor stuff. Delightful in a way, given the modesty of the gifts compared to what politicians overseas receive. But our “she’ll-be-right” approach can get us into trouble too.
We saw it in the events of yesterday morning. The number of dead in the boarding house fire in Wellington, with no sprinklers in the building. That sort of thing should not be happening in a first world country, we expect it in places without regulations. Or where they’re ignored because the tenants are poor, like the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017.
I know it is too soon for anger and blame, but there are questions to be asked - hard questions. Not least of which - how many other boarding houses, apartments, multi story buildings pose the exact same risk. How many buildings are Kiwis living in that could turn into death traps like that?
Wellington is not my city, I’ve spent time there for work many times over the years, but it’s not my home. The grief I have seen coming from friends in Wellington over the events in their fair city has been visceral.
So there you go Chippy, one of many many challenges ahead that will test you, just as Jacinda was tested. Our infrastructure, climate change, housing, inequality, funding our public services properly - so many things. I take it back, if you can fix all of those you’ll be a superhero too.
And we need you, boy do we need you. Cos those other guys are not going to address these problems, if anything they will make them all worse, with the possible exception of roads. They do seem to have a genuine passion for roads. Not saving the planet or addressing poverty sure. But tarmac for single occupier, fossil fuelled, vehicles - that’s their thing.
It’s funny. I sat down to write this with the intention that it would be a “we don’t know how lucky we are” piece. Contrasting whatever problems we have with the sheer hell on earth taking place in the Ukraine. There is no shortage of bad stuff around the world to contrast with the fact that the situation we have, whatever it’s faults, is one of the luckiest places and times you could hope to be living your life, in the history of mankind.
Ahh well, sometimes things don’t turn out the way you expected. I imagine Jacinda thought that once or twice, I’m pretty sure Chippy will have already.
But sometimes things work out ok anyway, and I reckon the longer we keep Chippy in charge the clearer it will be, that we are very lucky indeed.