One election year. Two Chrises wanting to be Prime Minister.
From this week, the Weekend Herald will run its eye over the performances of Labour leader and Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and National Party leader Christopher Luxon and judge which Chris has won the week.
It won’t be scientific. Sometimes it won’t even be fair. A small thing such as the choice of tie could swing it either way in a close week.
The past week has put Hipkins at a distinct advantage, purely by dint of him becoming Prime Minister without having to go through the trials of an election campaign.
That ensured he got the vast majority of headlines, as well as a better view, a new desk and a security detail.
Appropriately for an education minister, he promised the three Rs: reprioritise, refresh, and refocus.
The best response Luxon could summons to try to dampen Hipkins’ parade was to say that it was little more than a “new leader, same team” and so we could expect more of the same.
He appeared to have forgotten that the exact same thing could be said about his own move to the leadership little more than a year ago, and he too promised a refresh and expected people to buy it.
Hipkins gets points off for repetition: delivering at least 15 iterations of “I have nothing to announce yet” at his first proper press conference. He promised a “back to basics” approach as well as a “very forward looking” one.
Both Chrises kicked off the year talking about that gnarly and complicated issue; co-governance.
They both strutted their stuff at Ratana, where they were convincingly overshadowed by the departing Jacinda Ardern.
Both set their out their positions – and both implicitly accused the other of making the debate divisive, thereby making it more divisive.
Luxon gets points for not being too much of a chicken to state his position there – his position was pretty much the same as every other recent National leader, but a bit nicer than Judith Collins’.
Hipkins position was that co-governance was good to go, but people were confused about it and so it might need to happen a bit more slowly to get more people used to it.
He warned of that, by way of a waka metaphor in which some people were paddling slowly and others at speed – a metaphor that brought to mind National’s old campaign advertising involving Labour, the Greens and various others in a boat all paddling in different directions.
Hipkins easily had the better hat, even if it looked like one he’d won in a drinking game at the pub.
That was because Luxon did not wear a hat at all, breaking the cardinal rule of Ratana - always wear a hat. Perhaps Luxon was warned that former National Party leader Don Brash was once likened to a colonial tea planter when Brash turned up in his hat.
Lines of the week:
Luxon: “It’s a new leader, same team, same story.”
Hipkins: “Tag, you’re it” - Hipkins reveals what Ardern’s text to him was, ahead of being sworn in.
Chris Hipkins: Jacinda Ardern’s resignation and Hipkins’ ascension meant Luxon was almost invisible all week.