Chris Hipkins steps up as Prime Minister riding a storm

Let us look up and see ahead: Chris Hipkins and Carmel Sepuloni, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Designates (Instagram CS)

And with Deputy Carmel Sepuloni, he has an opportunity to weather it

Venkat Raman
Auckland, January 22, 2023

Many of his adversaries have already written off Prime Minister Designate Chris Hipkins, National Party Leader Christopher Luxon has said that he does not expect ‘any change’ in the government direction but our view is ‘do not underestimate the young man from Lower Hutt.’

Hipkins is not a babe in the woods. He has been a Member of Parliament since November 2008 and in these 14 years, he has seen the upside and downturn in politics; he has wide experience in government and public sector and has a ringside experience of politics, having worked for Helen Clark and Trevor Mallard when they were respectively Prime Minister and Education Minister. He was the General Secretary of the Labour Party and hence knows how politics works.

Engaging with the future leaders: Chris Hipkins with his Youth Advisory Group (Instagram)

The persistent challenges

In an era of coups and in-house piques and leaks, the unanimous choice of Hipkins as the Leader of the Labour Party demonstrates unity and solidarity. Otherwise, a Caucus which has 64 members – the largest in history – could have popped up at least three or four contenders. But the Labour MPs know that this is not the time to test their muscles but to enter the election mode with a sense of purpose.

Hipkins is aware of public ire, which was directed towards Jacinda Ardern, for that is what happens in a democracy. Problems are thrown at the Chiefs and any or all shortcomings are also his or her responsibility. This is where the buck stops.

New Zealanders face the cost-of-living crisis, perpetrated by spiring prices of almost every essential item, supply chain issues, shortage of skills with a majority of employers crying out for migrant workers to do jobs that cannot be filled by locals, rising crime and much more.

Opponents of the Labour Party do not wish to recognise that all these challenges are found in almost all countries of the world, except perhaps China, India, the Middle East and a few others.

May you grow to be a good guard: Chris Hipkins with a soon-to-be-a-Police Dog (Instagram)

But public anger has been pronounced more on the government’s unpopular policies such as ‘undue privileges and advantages to sections of the population’ and the Three Waters Reform Bill, just to mention two.  Arden has been accused of ‘dividing the Nation,’ an accusation that Hipkins must try and amend.

Carmel Sepuloni, the Deputy

By opting himself out of the race for Prime Minister, Grant Roberson had naturally lost his post of Deputy, although Hipkins may retain him as the Finance Minister since Robertson has been performing that role well.

As the Deputy Prime Minister, Sepuloni could perhaps take Foreign Affairs or more serious roles such as Justice, Courts and Corrections, where significant reforms are needed. She could even be a successful Foreign Minister, articulating New Zealand’s policies.

She has proved to be a worthy lieutenant to Ardern during the Covid-19 pandemic, ensuring that the Department of Work and Income processed payments to people quickly and efficiently.

We have known Sepuloni has an honest and hard-working MP and Minister and her role as the Deputy Prime Minister will be invaluable for Hipkins.

The Prime Minister Designate is likely to bring fresh faces into the Cabinet and try to repair the damages caused by inefficiency and inadequacy in administration. We await his announcement.

A strong pillar of support to the government: Carmel Sepuloni with Jacinda Ardern in Parliament (Instagram)

About Chris Hipkins

Christopher John Hipkins was born on September 5, 1978 in the Hutt Valley. His mother Rosemary Hipkins is employed as Chief Researcher at the New Zealand Council for Education Research. He attended the Hutt Valley Memorial College (now known as Petone College) and later earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts, majoring in Politics and Criminology from Victoria University, Wellington.

He worked as Policy Advisor at the Industry Training Federation (Wellington), Training Manager at Todd Energy (Taranaki) and Advisor to Helen Clark and Trevor Mallard during their tenure respectively as Prime Minister and Education Minister.

Hipkins has been an elected Member of Parliament from the Remutaka (earlier known as Rimutaka) Constituency since 2008. When the Labour Party formed the government in 2017, he was appointed Minister of Education.

An evening out with Indian Newslink: At the Diwali Festival organised for the Fiji Consulate and Trade Commission on November 2, 2018 (INL Photo)

He initiated reforms in the education sector, abolished the National Standards and Chartered Schools, refused to rename Victoria University as the University of Wellington (since a majority of students, staff and alumni resisted a change) and proposed merging all 16 polytechnics into a single entity called, the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology but set a future date for action as a response to the terrorist attacks in Christchurch on March 19, 2019.

After the spectacular victory of the Labour Party in the general election 2020, Hipkins was reappointed as Education Minister. Following the resignation of Dr David Clark as Health Minister in November 2020, he was entrusted with the responsibility of Covid-19 Minister, a role which he performed well until its abolition a few months ago.

New Zealand is at crossroads of democracy and divisive politics. Hipkins has an opportunity to redeem the Labour Party from facing what appears a certain disaster in the general election due to be held on October 14, 2023.

But that is more than 38 weeks away.

As it is often said, a week is too long in politics.

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