New zealand

Alone and defenceless: the tragic death of Captain Cook

The principal purpose of Captain James Cook’s last voyage, which began in Plymouth on 12 July 1776, was to discover the elusive Northwest Passage. Attempts had been made before, in vain, from the Atlantic, but this time it would be from the west, from the Pacific.  On the way, Cook was to return an Anglicised Polynesian named Mai to Raiatea, ‘a ragged volcanic island’ about 130 miles north west of Tahiti. Mai takes up much of Hampton Sides’s narrative, offering ‘a poignant allegory of first contact’, before being deposited home with his cargo of English domestic farm animals and his suits.  Prior to that, Cook had investigated, in New Zealand,

Has Bazball rescued — or ruined — cricket?

The date 6 June 2021 was a grim day for cricket. As the world was adjusting to life after the pandemic, a Lord’s Test with a full house felt like ‘the promised kiss of springtime’. And so it was, until the final afternoon, when New Zealand challenged England to make 273 in 75 overs. The gesture was recognised as generous by all except the faint souls in the England dressing room, rendered frit by the possibility of defeat. Thousands of spectators, bewildered by five hours of fearful prodding, withdrew their consent. Cricket has witnessed more profound changes in the past decade than in the previous 100 years With ‘the Hundred’

How the National party toppled Labour in New Zealand

Just three years on from Jacinda Ardern’s phenomenal outright victory, New Zealand’s Labour government has collapsed, slumping to half its vote from 2020. It is on the verge of losing some of its safest seats and languishing behind in most of the Māori electorates. The centre-right National party has won, with Labour prime minister Chris Hipkins calling Christopher Luxon to concede defeat. The National party and its libertarian coalition party, ACT, are in a strong position to form a government, with Luxon, a relative newcomer to politics, becoming the country’s next prime minister. With more than three-quarters of the vote counted, Labour’s vote was a shade higher than 26 per cent

In defence of ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees

When someone asks ‘How are you?’ you have to assume your interlocutor is only being polite.Anyone who returns a ball-by-ball commentary about their aches and pains, work-life balance and reduced chances of summer fun thanks to the heat storm should immediately be sent to Coventry for the rest of time. That said, I am just back from wintry New Zealand where I have been in a Channel 4 series called Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins. Despite my pledge that I’d never do any more shows with the word ‘celebrity’ in the title, this one brought out the Bond Girl manquée in me and I couldn’t resist. I can’t say any

Jacinda Ardern was the queen of coercive kindness

Jacinda Ardern has resigned as Prime Minister of New Zealand. After a period of reflection over the summer break, she concluded that she no longer had ‘enough left in the tank’ to do the job justice. Fakery wasn’t the problem with Ardern. Sincerity was Cynics claim she is jumping ship before the electoral defeat that opinion polls suggest she and her Labour party will suffer in October’s general election. That’s an unkind thing to say. It must disappoint Ardern that, after almost six years at the helm, New Zealand still contains such unpleasant people. If there is one thing that Ardern is all about, and to which she has dedicated

Must we now despise colonial architecture too?

Here’s a thing. A disturbing book about disturbing cities. And it’s full of loaded questions. Like Hezbollah, the publisher uses the silhouette of an automatic weapon as its logo. This is a trigger warning. Jonathan Swift wrote: All poets and philosphers who find  Some favourite system to their minds  In every way to make it fit  Will force all Nature to submit. So I give you Owen Hatherley, an architectural critic of the left, adept in the predictable tropes of Guardian-sprache, who exists in a world, as he often tells us, defined by concepts of colonial domination, exploitation and ocean-going misery. As Lionel Trilling observed, leftish people are always glum

Jacinda Ardern’s tricky China policy

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has had a busy week on the international circuit. On Friday she appeared in front of a packed audience at London’s Chatham House to discuss New Zealand’s international outlook and to laud what she described as a ‘gold standard free trade agreement’ signed with the UK. And though New Zealand is not a member of Nato, Ardern was also invited to attend its leaders’ summit in Madrid on Wednesday, along with other leaders of the Asia Pacific. Arguably it was Ardern’s tempered warnings about China that stood out. In a speech to the summit, Ardern said: ‘China has in recent times… become more assertive

New Zealand’s worrying battle over transgender rights

Last year, the equalities minister Liz Truss set aside laws which would have allowed people to self-identity as the legal gender of their choice. For those worried about the effect self-ID could have on women-only spaces, Truss’ move was a welcome relief. But campaigners for women’s rights should not be too complacent. As recent developments across the world in New Zealand show, it only takes a general election to trigger a massive move in policy in a matter of months. Two years ago, the New Zealand campaign group Speak Up for Women thought that self-ID had been taken off the table when Tracey Martin, the New Zealand minister for internal

Jacinda Ardern is New Zealand’s Gorbachev

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is currently leading a trade mission to the United States, with a meeting between her, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris pencilled in for later this week. Her appeal on the world stage is evident – the New York Times over the weekend hailed her ‘inspiring’ – but there is a considerable disconnect now between her high regard internationally and the discontent she is facing domestically. Ardern has several goals. One is spreading the word post-Covid that New Zealand is open for business. But she also wants to beef up international trade and regional security. The US has attempted to pivot to Indo-Pacific in recent years, but that plan

The danger of learning too much from Covid

When Ray Bradbury was asked if his dystopian vision in Fahrenheit 451 would become a reality, he replied: ‘I don’t try to predict the future. All I want to do is prevent it.’ In the hot embers of the Covid-19 pandemic, it may not be enough to foresee infectious disease threats if we lack the ability to forestall them. After all, predictions were made about 2019. In a Ted talk four years earlier, Bill Gates warned about what he later called ‘Disease X’, a respiratory disease that would cause millions of fatalities. Devi Sridhar, a professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, addressed the Hay Festival in 2018

James Forsyth

The Australian trade deal is about more than just trade

What happens with an Australia trade deal won’t just reveal how serious this country is about free trade but also how committed it is to helping democratic countries stand up to China. China is Australia’s largest trading partner but since Australia called for an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus, Australian-Chinese relations have severely deteriorated. Beijing is now trying to use this economic relationship to get Canberra to fall into line.  China has imposed huge tariffs on Australian barley and on wine for the next five years, while technical reasons have been found to bar most Australian timber and beef from the country. If in these circumstances the UK failed

In Fortress New Zealand, faith in Saint Jacinda is starting to fade

Wellington Jacinda Ardern recently told an American television host that she finds it ‘slightly offensive’ when outsiders assume every other New Zealander starred in Lord of the Rings. Quite so. New Zealand has only one real film star in 2022, and that’s the Prime Minister herself. But the way things are heading, she might best suit an adaptation of Lord of the Flies. The place has gone mad. Many countries, even nearby Australia, have responded to the arrival of the Omicron variant by drastically easing many of their formerly draconian measures in response to Covid, in particular the widespread use of lockdowns, or what some might prefer to describe as

A reappraisal of James Courage

James Courage is one of those fine writers who, though he enjoyed considerable success in his lifetime, has now more or less slipped from view. None of the eight novels he published between 1933 and 1961 is in print and most of them are impossible to find secondhand. The same goes for a collection of his short stories published in 1973. He is chiefly remembered for A Way of Love, a bold novel about a homosexual relationship that was published in 1959 and became a minor cause célèbre in New Zealand when it was banned there. Courage was born in New Zealand in 1903, but came to Oxford University in

New Zealand’s zero Covid strategy is becoming unsustainable

New Zealand has done remarkably well over the past 18 months at protecting its citizens from the worst of the Covid pandemic – better than almost any other country in the world. Only 26 people have died of Covid in the country, after it has aggressively locked down at the first sign of a case and closed off its borders to the rest of the world. But as we have recently learned in Afghanistan, an exit strategy can easily undermine all your previous achievements. New Zealand is now in a very difficult situation. It is currently facing its first outbreak of the Delta variant, but only a small proportion of

Putting the commie in committee

Last month an epidemiologist called Professor Michael Baker described the UK government’s decision to free its people from Covid restrictions on 19 July as ‘barbaric’ and an ‘experiment’. Professor Baker lives in the little-known hermit kingdom of New Zealand — a country which, under the guidance of people like himself, has banned almost all foreign travel and imposed long domestic lockdowns. Such is the grip Baker and his friends have on the country that the appearance of just two Covid infections in the entire population caused the nation to go into a hysterical spasm, with much bed-wetting, shrieking and governmental resignations. You are allowed to die of anything in New

A new take on New Zealand wine

‘The doors clap to, the pane is bright with showers.’ With ‘summer’ determined to do its worst, there is one obvious question. How were the English able to invent cricket and tennis? Apropos tennis, there is another obvious question. How long will Wimbledon remain mired in sexism? It has now been established beyond peradventure that women are at least as good as men at everything. Anyone who claims that those who were born female — an increasingly irrelevant criterion — are not as strong as men is likely to encounter the wrath of the criminal law. Quite right too: supposed free speech must not be allowed to trump common sense.

Laurel Hubbard is the beginning of the end of women’s sports

When women’s professional soccer was deemed good enough for our TV screens a couple of years ago, I was watching with a friend and her four-year-old son. He was enthralled by the game, and asked his mother, ‘Are boys allowed to play football as well as girls, mummy?’ This little boy’s comment clearly highlighted the insidious sexism prevalent in all aspects of competitive sport. When it comes to soccer, rugby, weightlifting, darts, you name it, commentating, sports writing, sports photography and so many other operational aspects of competitive sports are dominated by men. Female sports champions can be such important feminist role models for girls. Look at Martina Navratilova, Jessica

A novel approach to New Zealand’s wine

The last Saturday of lockdown — inshallah — and we were discussing literature. Specifically, when does a detective story become a novel? T.S. Eliot edited the World’s Classics edition of The Moonstone and gave a copy to A.E. Housman, with the inscription: ‘The best detective story in English or any other language.’ Surely Eliot was right. The Moonstone and The Woman in White are superb detective fiction. But they are not novels. Poor Wilkie Collins did try to write novels. Nobody read them. Nobody was wise. We more or less agreed. Ian Rankin, Reginald Hill, P.D. James, Dorothy Sayers, James Lee Burke: all regularly cross the frontier into novelism. Perhaps

The strangeness of Britain’s BLM mania

The conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd makes last summer’s Black Lives Matter mania in British institutions look even stranger. The British Museum, Oxbridge colleges, Sir Keir Starmer, football teams, government departments, Kew Gardens, the National Trust and numerous corporations indulged in various forms of self-abasement. Some ‘took the knee’. At the Ministry of Defence, the permanent secretary, Sir Stephen Lovegrove, broke professional political impartiality by emailing his staff about the ‘deep roots’ of ‘systemic racial inequality’ in Britain, and signing off with a BLM hashtag. He was subsequently promoted to be the UK National Security Adviser. It was never clear why, among the many dreadful

Has the shine come off Saint Jacinda?

For a short time it seemed as if Jacinda Ardern, the popular premier of New Zealand, could do no wrong in the eyes of the British political establishment. The New Zealand PM was held up as the Platonic ideal of a liberal, centrist leader who had saved her country by locking down during the pandemic. The praise of Ardern reached fever pitch in October last year, when she romped home in the New Zealand elections. Labour MPs gushed over Jacinda’s ‘real leadership’ and suggested that: ‘Jacinda shows what a competent, moderate, progressive, emotionally intelligent, immensely likeable & unifying Labour leader can achieve.’ Meanwhile, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon,