Log In

Reset Password

Ardern and English settle into their new roles

Opinion Piece

The leaders of the two largest parties in Parliament begin their very different roles in earnest this week.

For Jacinda Ardern it is the start of an intensive week in foreign affairs, starting with her brunch at the weekend with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, followed by the APEC meeting in Vietnam where among other things she is expected to hold a meeting with US President Donald Trump.

There were serious issues to be discussed with Australia about the treatment of New Zealanders living there, regarding education and social services.

Foreign affairs played virtually no role in the New Zealand election. The new government even appears to take a similar stance on the TPP agreement to its predecessor, now that it has worked out how to stop foreigners buying houses here. Ardern’s personal views remain largely unknown.

Our new Prime Minister seemed to bond well with Turnbull, which is important for this country.

While she is moving into wholly new territory, the change is as large in many ways for Bill English, who now leads the MMP era’s biggest Opposition party.

People looking for clues as to how English intends to proceed have only a statement from him that it is not his job now to make the country work.

Instead he and National have to begin the laborious process of challenging virtually everything that the three-party government does.

There are few possible clues in the announcement of National’s shadow Cabinet, with only slight moves up and down respectively for Judith Collins and Nick Smith, both possibly significant.

After nine years of direct involvement in the country’s administration, including a major part in guiding it through the global financial crisis, English is in a new world. What sort of opposition National will be is going to take shape in the coming months. Is there a devastating debater like Robert Muldoon or David Lange in the wings who might emerge as a new leader?