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    37. Chris Hipkins, New Zealand PM: Working with Xi Jinping, fighting to stay in power, and zero covid's double-edged sword

    enSeptember 24, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Staying true to values during campaigns despite uncertaintiesPoliticians should focus on their reasons for entering politics and accept uncertainties, while staying true to their values and doing everything within their control.

      Campaigning in politics can be a challenging and unpredictable experience. New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins shared insights from his current election campaign, which feels unique due to the post-COVID 19 hangover and the public's desire to move on from the pandemic. He emphasized the importance of staying true to one's values and doing everything possible within one's control during a campaign. Despite the uncertainties, Prime Minister Hipkins encourages politicians to focus on their reasons for entering politics and to accept that not all campaign outcomes are within their control. He also highlighted Jacinda Ardern's unexpected rise as a young leader in the 2017 election, demonstrating that politics can present unexpected opportunities.

    • The Challenges of Being a Young, Charismatic Female Prime Minister During a Global PandemicJacinda Ardern faced immense pressure as New Zealand's prime minister during the pandemic due to her youth, charisma, and gender, requiring immediate and consequential decisions to maintain an elimination strategy and tightly controlled borders.

      Serving as prime minister during a global pandemic and facing intense public scrutiny took a significant toll on Jacinda Ardern, leading her to step down. Ardern, who became prime minister after leading the Labour Party to a majority in 2020, faced unique challenges due to her youth, charisma, and gender. The COVID-19 response required immediate and consequential decisions, with the verdict on their effectiveness coming daily. New Zealand implemented an elimination strategy, which allowed for a return to normal life for most citizens, but the pressure to maintain this was immense. The border had to be tightly controlled to prevent outbreaks, and the decisions made to accomplish this were monumental. Breaking a long-standing trend, Ardern aims to be the first prime minister in New Zealand to win an election midway through a parliamentary term.

    • Transitioning from cabinet minister to prime ministerBecoming prime minister involves more ceremonial duties and heavier decision-making than being a cabinet minister.

      Leading a country through a major crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, sets a prime minister up well for future leadership, but the focus on the future often means that past achievements may not receive the recognition they deserve. The transition from being a cabinet minister to prime minister is not just an increase in responsibility, but an entirely different job. While there are ceremonial aspects, the prime minister also bears the burden of making difficult decisions that no one else is willing to make. Chris Hipkins, the current Prime Minister of New Zealand, shared his experience of taking over during a time of natural disasters, highlighting the stark contrast between being a cabinet minister and being prime minister. Despite his long political career, he was surprised by the amount of time spent on ceremonial duties and the weight of decisions that landed on his desk.

    • The importance of inner resilience and self-reliance in politicsBelieve in yourself, set goals, switch off emotions, admire politeness and understatement, and value fair representation in politics.

      Having inner resilience and self-reliance are crucial qualities for success, especially in politics. The speaker shared an insightful quote from their past that emphasized the importance of believing in oneself, setting goals, and learning to switch off emotions when needed. They also admired the politeness and understatement in New Zealand politics and discussed the benefits of the country's proportional representation system, which allows for more fair representation of political parties and prevents one party from governing against the popular vote. Overall, the conversation highlighted the importance of personal strength, adaptability, and fairness in politics.

    • New Zealand's Proportional Representation System and Its Impact on GovernanceNew Zealand's PR system leads to diverse voices, but coalition govts and shorter terms can hinder effective governance. Desire for UK devolution, but local govts are too fragmented. Importance of maintaining diplomatic relations with China despite geopolitical tensions.

      New Zealand's proportional representation system has led to a greater range of voices in parliament, but it also results in no single party having a majority, requiring coalition governments and shorter terms which can lead to less effective governance. The speaker also expressed a desire to bring new ideas and decentralization to the UK's political system, but noted that New Zealand's local government is currently too fragmented for effective devolution of power. Regarding China, the speaker acknowledged the complex geopolitical situation and the importance of China to New Zealand's economy, expressing a need to maintain diplomatic relations while navigating the geopolitical tensions.

    • Managing Complex Relationships: New Zealand's Approach to China and Its NeighborsNew Zealand prioritizes consistency and predictability in its relationship with China while acknowledging disagreements. It also values its ties with Australia and Pacific nations, and has made strides in reconciliation with its indigenous Maori population.

      New Zealand values its relationship with China for economic reasons, but acknowledges the complexities and disagreements that come with it. Consistency and predictability are key in managing this relationship. New Zealand also places importance on its relationships with its neighbors, particularly Australia, and its responsibilities towards Pacific nations. The country has been working on reconciliation with its indigenous Maori population for several decades, putting it in a different position compared to Australia in addressing indigenous issues. The reasons for Australia's supposed lag in addressing these issues are unclear, but the growing Maori population and the treaty settlements process in New Zealand have played significant roles in their progress.

    • New Zealand's evolving relationship with Maori and international communityNew Zealand's Maori relations improve, bringing economic growth, but challenges persist in health and education. PM Ardern acknowledges Chinese interference concerns but cautious about restrictive laws to avoid global polarization. Scaramucci discusses past political donations driven by idealism and potential business interests.

      New Zealand's relationship with its indigenous Maori population has undergone significant changes, leading to economic growth and a more positive dynamic. However, challenges remain in areas like health and education. Regarding international relations, Prime Minister Ardern acknowledges concerns over Chinese interference but is cautious about implementing overly restrictive laws due to potential global polarization. The podcast then delves into Anthony Scaramucci's past political donations, with him admitting they were a mix of idealism and potential business interests.

    • A past protest fuels a lifetime of political activismExperiences from our past, no matter how small, can have significant impacts on our future political actions and the political landscape.

      Even seemingly insignificant moments in our past can shape our future political actions. The speaker in this discussion recounts how his arrest during a student protest against education policy in the UK in 1997 fueled his political activism and led to a decade-long fight for an apology and compensation. This experience, which was sparked by a sense of self-interest and outrage over the infringement of free speech, ultimately resulted in a legal precedent protecting the right to protest on the grounds of parliament. Fast forward to the present day, and this same individual found himself on the opposite side of history when dealing with anti-vaxxers occupying the forecourt of parliament during the COVID-19 response. The legacy of his past actions, both his own and those of the political figures involved, continued to influence the political landscape.

    • The Importance of Understanding Perspective and Practicing Generosity in PoliticsRecognize and respect diverse perspectives, share the benefits of privilege, create space for reflection, and practice generosity in politics.

      Understanding perspective and practicing generosity are valuable traits, especially in politics. The speaker shared how their parents instilled in them the importance of recognizing and respecting different perspectives, as well as the responsibility to share the benefits of privilege. Additionally, they discussed the challenge of finding time for thoughtful decision-making in politics, despite its relentless nature. The speaker emphasized the importance of creating space for reflection, whether through reading, conversation, or quiet contemplation. Lastly, they touched on the debate around the monarchy in New Zealand, expressing a current apathy towards the issue due to the functional and simple nature of their government system.

    • New Zealand's political landscape and the ambiguity towards republicanismThe shifting public focus and economic climate influence New Zealand's political discourse, making it challenging to prioritize constitutional changes and transition away from monarchy.

      New Zealand's political landscape faces challenges when it comes to transitioning away from monarchy and determining what constitutional changes should follow. This ambiguity results in a lack of urgency towards republicanism. Additionally, the political conversation tends to cycle between traditional issues and newer challenges, such as climate change and technology, with the public's focus shifting depending on the economic climate. On a personal note, maintaining privacy and support systems, especially for politicians with families, is crucial for effective leadership in politics.

    • Leading politicians face unique personal challenges during campaignsTrusted friends and family offer support, but overly cautious communication may not resonate with voters, and gaffes can sometimes be turned to advantage with humor and transparency.

      Leading political figures, like a prime minister, face unique challenges in their personal lives during campaigns. While the public spotlight can be intense and demanding, having a small group of trusted friends and family to confide in and disconnect from politics can provide a valuable source of support and respite. However, being overly cautious and nuanced in communication may not resonate with voters, and there's a risk of raising unrealistic expectations that can ultimately lead to disillusionment with democratic institutions. A gaffe, despite its potential for embarrassment, can sometimes be turned to advantage if handled with humor and transparency. In the case of the prime minister mentioned, a seemingly innocent mistake about using the wrong verb during a COVID-19 briefing became a memorable moment that humanized her and showed her vulnerability to the public.

    • Using humor in a crisisTransparency and a sense of humor can help maintain public confidence during crises. Leaders who can connect with the public and show their human side can build trust and resilience.

      During times of crisis, transparency and a sense of humor can help maintain public confidence. Prime Minister Ardern shared an experience where a meme circulated about her during the pandemic response, which she chose to address publicly by using it during a press conference. This lighthearted moment helped alleviate tension and gave the public something to laugh about during a difficult time. Ardern's decision to own up to the situation and embrace the meme showcased her ability to connect with the public and demonstrate her character as a serious leader in a challenging political climate. Despite the meme continuing to follow her, she viewed it as a reminder of the importance of staying grounded and maintaining a sense of humor even in the midst of adversity.

    • Chris Hipkins' Interview: Unclear Policies but Clear Crisis HandlingDespite his effective crisis management during COVID-19, Chris Hipkins' interview left voters seeking more clarity on his policies and stance on key issues.

      During a campaign interview, Chris Hipkins came across as a likable and articulate politician, but it's unclear if he provided a clear sense of his policies six weeks before the election. He focused on his handling of COVID-19 and the changes it brought to politics, but avoided taking a clear stance on China and human rights. As a smaller country, New Zealand's voice may not automatically be heard in international situations. Despite his previous leadership and handling of COVID, there's a possibility he may be out of office soon due to polls. Overall, Hipkins showed resilience and emphasized the importance of handling crises effectively. However, voters may be seeking more clarity on his policies and stance on key issues.

    • Understanding Smaller Countries' Role in Global PoliticsSmaller countries like New Zealand offer valuable insights into larger nations' political landscapes, and their leaders can effectively contribute to global issues by focusing on intellectual discipline rather than direct confrontation with larger powers.

      Being the leader of a smaller country like New Zealand comes with both advantages and challenges. Jacinda Ardern, the current prime minister, is an exception to the rule of mid-term prime ministers who lost re-election, and her global recognition sets her apart from her predecessors. While it may be tempting for leaders of smaller countries to seek praise and recognition on the international stage, it can be challenging and potentially ineffective for them to take on global issues, such as criticizing larger powers like China. Instead, looking at other countries, like New Zealand, can provide valuable insights into understanding larger nations, such as the US and the UK, and their unique political landscapes. This intellectual discipline can help us gain a clearer perspective on global politics.

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