Frank Greenall: Less tooth, more nail required from PM

Frank Greenall,
Publish Date
Thursday, 10 May 2018, 6:49PM

I'm already disappointed with our new prime minister. We're paying her a Queen's ransom (by my standards, anyway) to helm the ship of state, to right a bulging back-catalogue of wrongs, to bravely trail-blaze new territories of economic prosperity and freedoms.

But to date, she seems to have spent half of her (of our) time on the end of a microphone or camera lens. She's become a one-woman Celebrity Squares.

There's Vanity Fair; there's the Mike Hosking spots, the endless profiles and personal interviews ... there's the Facebooking and Twittering.

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I was trawling through The Guardian online a few weeks back and there's "NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern answers Guardian readers' questions".

WTF! We're not paying her to answer idle queries on the other side of the planet. She's squandering public finances.

And every minute she spends answering Guardian readers' questions, she's not addressing issues she got coalitioned to redress on her home patch, and God knows the last lot left lashings of them.

Some contend it's all good publicity for New Zealand — but what parsnips did publicity per se ever butter? Johnny Depp and what's-her-name got plenty of publicity with Pistol and Boo's little doggie stopover in Australia, but was anyone actually the better for it? Profile, they say. Having such a photogenic and personable prime minister bolsters our profile. Here's the thing — we already have profile.

The profile shelf is currently well stocked. We have Sir Ernie and Sir Ed. We have Dame Kiri and Sir Inia. We have the America's Cup. We have the ABs. We have Lydia, Thor Taika, and Sir Peter and his Little Hairy People ... we have Jonelle Price who's just blitzed the Badminton horse trials.

See? No shortage of profile.

Our prime minister has had nearly as much exposure as Kim Kardashian's rear end but, as Kim herself would probably concede, exposure of itself isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be.

Jacinda, you've got a nice smile — very toothy and an orthodontist's advertisement. For the next couple of years, though, I don't want to see any more of it.

I want to see pursed lips and grim-on-a-stick as you and your cohorts come to grips with the pressing issues of our nation. A nation that once led the world in progressive standards of living and social well-being.

If I see those teeth at all, I don't want to see them gushingly smiling — I want to see them vigorously gnashing as you and yours strenuously grind through the issues that now sully our reputation as a social exemplar — a fair and equitable society, an honestly clean, green land.

Where this ethos of prime ministerial celebrity culture crept in is hard to say. Kiwi Keith Holyoake initially, somewhat condescendingly, allowed himself to be interviewed plummily and orotundly on the new popular culture medium of television. Piggy Muldoon was up for it, too, as long as he got to vet the questions first.

Frank Greenall

David Lange took succour from the opportunity the medium afforded the natural showman in him to express itself as he endured death by a thousand cuts from his supposed colleagues. Helen tolerated it as the price to pay for her commendable sense of higher calling ... but John Key took it to the next level.

The man didn't seem able to exist unless he was sucking a mic. And yet, after eight years as this country's supposed leader — the eighth longest of any New Zealand prime minster — he disappeared back into the murky world of money-massaging from whence he came, leaving no other legacy than a lingering, cheesy Cheshire cat's grin of a snake-oil salesman having breezed through town, wiping the dust off his boots with a shredded $20 million tea towel.

Jacinda, very best wishes for the coming — to use the old-fashioned term — confinement. But please, when you're back on deck, less tooth, more nail — I want to see you earning my scarce dollars by producing the promised results.