Whenever Tony Blair was having a particularly tough time he would role out his old favourite – Fox Hunting. That was usually good for the headlines he needed to divert the news agenda from his problems. Jacinda Ardern clearly learnt a thing or two when she was working for Tony Blair.
The headline in the Guardian today is “New Zealand likely to become a republic in my lifetime, Jacinda Ardern says”. However, to the enormous credit of the New Zealand press it does not seem to have had the desired effect. There is no sign of New Zealand becoming a republic in the New Zealand press. On the contrary, Stuff leads with “Is Jacindamania Over?”.
To give you a flavour of the issues have a look here. Perhaps the most serious is Ardern’s decision to say with a straight face that there are no Russian spies in New Zealand, hence no deportations. This is in contrast to 25 other countries that seem to have had no difficulty identifying spies for expulsion at very short notice.
This is not an accident. Ardern did two big interviews last weekend covering the Skripal case, when she repeatedly described the poisonings as “repugnant” but never used the word “Russia” in either interview.
She may be right to hesitate over naming Russia. The US ambassador to New Zealand was asked if he was “certain” that Russia was responsible, twice, and failed to say “Yes” either time. It may be that Russia was in fact not responsible, but saying that you stand squarely beside your Five Eyes partners and then not standing squarely beside your Five Eyes partners looks a lot like the “cake and eat it” diplomacy that will only anger both the Russians and New Zealand’s friends.