• Courageous Politicians

    Kiri Allan’s brave fight against cancer is not only testament to her courage but also a reminder of how tough and brave some of our politicians can be.

    The ordinary citizen almost certainly does not appreciate how much stamina and strength of character is needed if a successful career in politics is to be pursued – just ask Todd Muller! The stress and strain involved in being constantly in the public eye and answerable for everything one says and does is huge, which makes it all the more remarkable that young women like Kiri Allan – and our Prime Minister – are able to keep going and maintain a high standard of performance, week in, week out.

    Few of us can imagine the pressure that Jacinda Ardern faces on a daily – even hourly – basis. She has now had much more than a year of leading the country through an unprecedented epidemic crisis, when literally every day (weekends included) has required decisions of the utmost significance to all of our five million fellow-Kiwis. Bearing that responsibility alone would be enough to exhaust most of us; but, in addition, she has had to front up to daily media grilling, not just in respect of the coronavirus, but about every other action and decision of her government – all compounded by criticisms and complaints from citizens who believe that their interests have been ignored or who have their own axes to grind, and from opposition politicians who are not only trying to improve their own chances of occupying the government benches some day, but also of advancing their own personal careers.

    She has also had to lead her party and government, chair cabinet meetings, negotiate with individual cabinet ministers, fulfil all the engagements that her office entails, undertake foreign travel (in itself, an exhausting experience), meet foreign leaders, attend and speak at international conferences, do endless media interviews (often with overtly hostile interviewers) – and all this in addition to her responsibilities in her private life to her family and infant daughter.

    The emotional as well as physical toll that all of this takes is beyond the experience of most of us. I am now a couple of decades removed from my own years in politics, but I have a very clear recollection of what it takes to front up to media interviews, when the merest slip of the tongue will provoke a barrage of criticism, not just from the public at large, and from one’s political opponents, but from one’s colleagues as well.

    Politicians necessarily develop thick skins, so that they can ward off the endless brickbats; they need inner reserves of strength and self-belief, just to keep going. We can count ourselves lucky that we are blessed with leaders who not only have those inner reserves, but who can continue to operate at a high level of competence as well.

    Bryan Gould
    5 July 2021