In a telling interview with Jack Tame on TVNZ's Q+A this week, Jacinda Ardern said democracy had delivered her a Government — but she just "couldn't get the numbers" for a capital gains tax.
"One of the people I need to make the case to was New Zealand First — and I wasn't able to do it. And I just have to accept that."
A more experienced political leader would not have allowed themselves to be boxed into such a corner in the first place.
But in Labour's eagerness to form a coalition with New Zealand First, it did not secure the policies that Ardern campaigned on in 2017 within the Coalition Agreement.
As Ardern admitted on television, she had campaigned for the capital gains tax. She still supported it. But she had thrown in the towel.
This is not good government.
But it is indicative of the position she finds herself in where her prime ministership is still not so well established that she feels confident to go over the top of the junior coalition partner and appeal directly to the public to back her. Or to exert muscle around the Cabinet table to achieve support.
Nor has there been any substantial movement in Ardern's war on child poverty or in providing affordable housing — two other issues she campaigned on so convincingly in 2017, but which are proving rather intractable in office.
This will be disappointing to a Prime Minister who can be her own honest critic.
Fran O'Sullivan: Ardern's line in the sand on FTA with US
Fran O'Sullivan: Big issue is visible to everyone but Ardern
Fran O'Sullivan: Why Jacinda Ardern may be flying into a storm
Ardern clearly has superb communication skills.
In Australia 10 days ago, she performed convincingly in front of a Melbourne audience with a strong focus on government and good governance.
Yes, she was attacked in typical Credlinesque fashion by former Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott's ex-chief of staff Peta Credlin on Sky TV over her stance on criminal deportation.
But she has not been so crass as to fire back two words that give the lie to Credlin's canard: the name of the Australian charged with the largest massacre in Australasia in recent times, the slaughter of 51 Muslims in Christchurch.
Watching Ardern, I was reminded of former Irish President Mary McAleese in her prime.
McAleese used her time in office to address issues concerning justice, social equality and social inclusion. She described her presidency's theme as "building bridges".
Ardern has that similar capacity to move a nation. And also to move people around the world.
But she is still learning — not simply to be a Prime Minister. But also to be a Cabinet Minister.
Ardern's style is in sharp contrast to Helen Clark — Labour's first female Prime Minister.
Clark became PM after the 1999 election following a lengthy period in Parliament including a prior stint as Deputy Prime Minister.
By 2005 she had consolidated personal power to be "President in all but name", at the same time retaining her own high popularity ratings.
Ardern — like Finance Minister Grant Robertson — was a staffer in the Prime Minister's office while Clark was in power. She is a mean mimic and when it comes to party tricks, long ago learnt how to ape Clark's deep baritone voice perfectly.
But there are lessons Ardern could take from the master — if she chose.
When it came to difficult political issues, Clark used every lever at her disposal. She described her style as an active chairman of the board — "direct, task-focused, active".
Clark compromised to get her policies in place and learnt to muster a majority for them.
In business forums, Clark has made the point that it is impossible to be a decisive Prime Minister without strong backing. But a Prime Minister must use the power at her command, including on foreign affairs.
But whereas Clark was supported by a strong cohort of experienced Labour Cabinet Ministers when she came to power, and a more than competent deputy in Michael Cullen, Ardern's senior ministers lack Cabinet experience.
Her deputy is New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters, with whom she must negotiate to get Labour's policies in place.
This is confusing for the business sector.
For instance, this week Labour flagged a substantial reform of the Resource Management Act. This is long overdue. But NZ First has not put to rest doubts about whether it will support any resultant legislation.
Clark also had a very strong chief of staff who worked the levers for her and brokered majorities — when it mattered — to get the Government's legislation through Parliament.
When major issues arose — like the foreshore and seabed affair — she would get her own Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to form informal task forces reporting to Cullen.
Ardern's role is complex. According to the Cabinet Manual, the Prime Minister is head of the Government and the Executive and as such must form and maintain a Government, and allocate portfolio and ministerial rankings.
But other aspects of the role are difficult in a coalition environment. For instance, while the PM determines the Government's general policy direction, when it comes to specifics such as the embarrassing failure to get capital gains tax legislation drafted, she was at the mercy of Labour's junior partner NZ First.
Procedurally, the PM approves the Cabinet agenda, leads meetings and is the final arbiter on procedure; can dissolve Parliament and call an election; is Minister in charge of the Security Intelligence Service; and also leads a political party and its caucus.
Is Ardern up to it?
At the halfway mark she is still at the trainer wheels stage when it comes to the prime ministership. The next 12 months will be critical.