• Jacinda’s Decision

    I recall being amused, as a newly elected MP, at a story, possibly apocryphal, of another newcomer to Parliament who had been very excited at being invited for the first time to appear on a national news programme. He was told, so the story goes, that “the fee is fifty pounds”, and his response was instantaneous. “My cheque is in the post,” he is supposed to have said.

    I was reminded of this story by the furore following the Prime Minster’s decision to give Mike Hosking the push. The petulant reaction of Hosking himself was only to be expected – the sound of ego being deflated is always unpleasant.

    What was less expected was the plethora of comments to the effect that Jacinda’s decision was somehow undemocratic – as though she somehow had a duty, as an elected politician, to appear on a particular – or any – news programme simply because she was invited to do so. Those commentators seem to have overlooked the fact that she was doing no more than responding to an invitation to appear on the Hosking programme and, as with any invitation, she had the option of accepting or declining.

    The Hosking broadcast is after all a commercial undertaking and the Prime Minister is a major potential selling point. She has no obligation to add to the profits of Hosking’s employers.

    If she had announced a decision to do no more media interviews at all, the reaction of her critics might have had some basis. But no one can accuse the PM of avoiding public scrutiny; there is probably no politician worldwide who has been as available to the public as Jacinda Ardern has been.

    So, the supposed “issue” comes down to this. Is she obliged to appear on a programme simply because the interviewer asks her to do so? Is she not entitled to exercise her own judgment as to whether it would be worth her time and effort?

    In the case of the Hosking programme, it is not hard to see why the minuses might have outweighed the pluses. She might have concluded that the real point and purpose of the interview was not to enlighten its listeners but to cast her in the most unfavourable light possible. Mike Hosking has after all built a career on parading his own opinions and prejudices week in, week out, and he has not bothered to hide them, least of all since Jacinda’s decision to opt out; it is not surprising that the PM might conclude that he could pursue his own purposes for the time being without her help.

    So, it comes to this. The Prime Minister has decided that she need not put up with, and can do without, Mike Hosking. He, on the other hand, does not seem so confident that he can do without her.

    Bryan Gould
    9 March 2021