Today is the Labour Day in New Zealand. A public holiday that mainly celebrates the institution of the 40 hour week. This practice was introduced before the Labour Party was formed, and is now a relic of the past. Just like the Long Playing record of Norm Kirk, Labour’s Prime Minister between 1972 and 1974, when he died in office. Kirk was an MP based in Christchurch, where my extended family also live, and I remember being there around the time he died. It’s one of my earliest memories, though my family on both sides were not Labour, and weren’t exactly mourning. Anyway, my point is that Big Norm would be turning in his grave if he knew what Jacinda Ardern is about to do because of Covid 19.
Firstly the context about the new authoritarian policy regime Ardern is imposing. Auckland had been in lockdown for a long time, or so it seems, and although she claims it is because Delta is so bad, it is actually because people are not complying with her dictates. Her bureaucrats and academic experts have only just realised that if people meet up in private homes it is likely to spread the virus; up until now, all the draconian measures have focussed on regulating public space, and keeping people at home. So, in a fit of pique, Ardern has decided to scrap the existing system based on ‘levels’, and will move to one that will seem like a trafficlight. This is being sold as an end to nation-wide lockdowns, but will not be an end to lockdowns when the hospitals are overwhelmed. If this change seems reasonable, one needs to remember that most of the country has been on zero Covid since last year, and has also had restrictions for months.
So the headline should be that Ardern is now going to let the virus out of the Auckland region, and open up the artificial border that has been expanding over recent weeks. When the going got difficult she decided to give up, and she has got a new group to blame. Having observed that most of the Auckland cases have not been vaccinated she has decided that this is the cause of the problem, not the initial failure in border control. She claims that Delta hunts out the unvaccinated, and usually leaves the vaccinated alone. Besides the rather overwrought hyperbole here, there is a not very subtle attribution of blame. Where the unvaccinated were initially seen as innocent victims, they are now being blamed for their own predicament, and for infecting the others, the responsible citizens. The ones that reacted positively to all the fearmongering and scare tactics, and booked two doses of the experimental Pfizer drug.
The ‘unvaccinated’ will now be blamed for the spread of the virus to the rest of the country, and will be denied particular rights and liberties. For Ardern the blame is mostly focussed on the young, but her imposition of vaccine certificates applies to everybody, including half-vaccined older people like me, who suffered considerable side effects the first time, including chest pains. Ardern always claims that the Pfizer drug is completely safe, and last night was the first time one of the major media companies ran a story on the possibility of side effects. Though downplaying the role of causation, there is a health committee to which reports of side effects are made (though some doctors refuse to do this) , and there have been a significant number of reports of myocarditis. Health officials even acknowledged that one middle-aged person had died as a result of the Pfizer injection. But the media barely reported this, or the other less life threatening conditions, and never asked Ardern about the safety of Pfizer afterwards.
It seems that younger men in particular are at risk of myocarditis, but, if they want to go to musical festivals or drink at bars over the summer, they will have to be double-dosed and have a vaccine certificate. Which brings us to the ban on haircuts for the unvaccinated, and asking hairdressers to decline service if no certificate is presented to them. I heard Ardern say this live on the car radio, and when I saw it on the TV news I noticed the relish with which she said it. As someone who obviously dyes her hair regularly, with or without the help of a hairdresser, this is clearly a big deal to her. While she is mostly beholden to health advisers and academic experts, this was obviously her own idea. She thinks that the group opprobrium over bad hair is enough incentive to get the young people to the vaccination queues, but there are some academics (like Rod Jackson) who want a far more widespread and punitive use of vaccine certificates.
So is this a real volte face for Ardern, who used to claim we were all on the same team of 5 million, and should be kind to each other? The ‘velvet glove’ has really come off now, and she actively wants to discriminate against the recalcitrant young people, and poor people in ethnic groupings, despite both categories being key supporters of her and her party. But it is, in fact, really not much of a change. She imposed draconian lockdowns without even mentioning the complete suspension of freedoms of speech and assembly. This is despite these things apparently being enshrined in a Bill of Rights, legislation which was passed by one of her Labour predecessors (not Kirk). Ms Ardern obviously believes that civil liberties are just things that she bestows on those that are being good subjects, and can also be permanently removed from the bad people. The problem is that there is no limit to this. If even hairdressers are meant to discriminate over clients, aren’t other businesses going to do the same. Professor Jackson seems to think that all the unvaccinated should be dismissed from their jobs, not just the recalcitrant teachers and nurses that have not got with the programme.
So why would the great Labour leader, Norm Kirk, be turning in his grave? Well, that is because Ardern is forcing unionised workers to be injected with the experimental Pfizer drug, or be dismissed from their positions without regard for their performance. At this stage, this vaccine mandate is being applied to middle class professionals, a group that dominates the Labour Party and remaining trades union. But Norm Kirk was working class: he left school without any qualifications, and went on to build his own house, before eventually becoming Mayor of Kaiapoi (a town north of Christchurch). He would have taken a common sense approach, based on working class values and basic ideas of fairness, and he also has nothing in common with a prima donna like Ardern. She is actually from a very conservative background in rural Waikato, the daughter of a policeman involved in a fringe religion. So the authoritarian streak was always there, she is just dropping the charade of the liberal feminist.