In an article on line last week journalist Graham Adams wrote on a Victoria University site:
The Prime Minister is increasingly looking like a political hostage as Nanaia Mahuta presses on with the Three Waters reforms. Graham Adams sees history rhyming as her powerful Māori caucus flexes its muscles.
Here’s a few paragraphs:
David Lange is one of the most tragic figures of our modern political history. Highly articulate and entertaining, he was ushered into power in a landslide in 1984 during an economic and financial crisis. Feted as the youngest Prime Minister of the 20th century, he dazzled the nation with his wit and intellect.
By the time he resigned in 1989, however, he was seen as a weak and malleable leader who had backed policies he would later regret supporting. Furthermore, the fact that his party did not advertise its radical economic agenda before the 1984 election has tainted the legacy of the Fourth Labour government ever since.
It took a while before it became clear that Lange was using his larger-than-life persona and seductive oratory to sell a transformation of New Zealand’s economic landscape on behalf of a powerful cabal in his Cabinet whose intentions he seemed not to fully comprehend.
Eventually it became obvious that he was the monkey and Roger Douglas and his neoliberal Rogernomes were the organ-grinders. As columnist Bruce Jesson put it in 1986, the charismatic Lange was “perfectly suited to the superficial politics of the television age” but he was “swept along by events beyond his control”.
It seems likely that Ardern will end up being viewed in a similar way. When she was anointed by Winston Peters in 2017, she was feted as the youngest Prime Minister in more than 150 years, before being returned to power three years later in a landslide in response to a pandemic.
Her charisma and glamour are perfectly suited to the superficial politics of the social media age, but she is obliged to dance to the tune played by Nanaia Mahuta, Willie Jackson and the Māori caucus — and by the others in her Cabinet, including David Parker and Andrew Little, who support their revolutionary agenda.
The article concludes with:
The question now is whether Ardern will decide that too much of her valuable political capital is going to be burned by the unpopularity of Three Waters and other Māori-centric changes being rammed through Parliament.
Will she call for a pause and a “cup of tea “as Lange did in 1988 when he unilaterally abandoned Douglas’ flat-tax proposal, only to see his government implode? Or will she continue to acquiesce to the demands of the Māori caucus and its Cabinet allies, and risk poll ratings plummeting as widespread public fury engulfs her government?
Ardern — like Lange — is caught.
If the Prime Minister frustrates the aspirations of her Māori caucus, she will risk losing the Māori seats Labour holds and possibly wider support in Maoridom as well.
If she continues to indulge them, she will open a clear path to a National-Act government in 2023, given that both parties, smelling blood, have pledged to return the assets to councils.
Three Waters has all the signs of becoming Ardern’s Waterloo.
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