Many commentators celebrated the increase in the number of charismatic, attractive and young world leaders — such as our own, Canada's and France's — when it was announced pacifist environmentalist Katrin Jakobsdottir, 41, would be the new prime minister of Iceland.

A pacifist environmentalist? Jakobsdottir is perfect.

But there's a problem with the roll call of exciting new leaders, which is that youth, charisma and attractiveness have everything to do with making people feel good and little to do with the ability to run a country.

Jakobsdottir, for instance, must show that she will tackle Iceland's addiction to hunting and eating whales.


Nature knows what qualities are important in leaders — which is why it gave all the charisma and attractiveness to Prince Harry, the younger brother, who will have few responsibilities.

Charisma is a shield and a cloak — protecting and hiding the bearer from all kinds of awkwardness. Add to this a common touch that Jacinda Ardern has in spades and the dangers are increased.

Multimillionaire banker John Key, for instance, had the common touch and was able to give the impression he was just one of the guys. It was only when you looked more closely you realised this was true only if "the guys" were Medici princes.

In just a few weeks, critical observation of the new Government has fallen tediously into party lines, with those on the right just making stuff up and those on the left remaining embarrassingly silent over anything that could be awkward for them, such as secret coalition documents.

If Ardern wants credibility in her refusal to share this paperwork, she needs a better justification than "don't wanna". The post-election discussion of MMP was a typical case of discussion that followed party lines rather than looking critically at the issue. Those who said MMP had failed meant "That's not the result I wanted". Those who said the outcome showed MMP working as it was supposed to meant "Phew — got the result I wanted".

Although the disastrous potential consequences of foreign meddling in domestic politics have been amply demonstrated in the US this year, on Wednesday the Government decided not to ban foreign donations to political parties as Australia has just done.

If a National Government had made this decision, the howls from commentators on the left would have been deafening. I predict by the time you read this, the howls from those on the right will have been equally — and equally disingenuously — clamorous.

And those on the left either will have been silent or have tied themselves in logical knots justifying the decision.


It doesn't matter how attractive they are or what side they are on, people entrusted with the responsibilities that politicians have need to be held constantly to account.

• Speaking of charisma or the lack of it — surely it's beyond time to put Don Brash to bed — preferably under 24-hour-a-day supervision.

It was disappointing to see a respectable broadcaster give him the oxygen of air time with Kim Hill, not so much because of the nature of his views but because everyone already knew only too well what those, in my opinion odious, views were.

The interviews served no purpose apart from letting the sanctimonious yet again congratulate themselves on being more enlightened and reasonable than Brash. Like that's hard.

• According to the US Southern Poverty Law Centre, which has the miserable honour of being an expert in such matters, there are 917 hate groups in America. This seems excessive, even by US standards.

If only they could all learn how to get along and form one big hate group.