Steve Braunias: The secret diary of Jacinda Ardern



“Elimination strategy is working,” I told Cabinet.

They nodded.

“Let me be perfectly clear,” I said to them. “The elimination approach focuses on a zero tolerance towards new cases, rather than a goal of no new cases. Do you understand?”

They nodded.

“It’s all very well to set goals, and it’s all very well to achieve goals, but do goals decide a game?”

They nodded.

“No, that’s where you’re wrong,” I said. “Intolerance decides a game, doesn’t it?”

They nodded.

“That’s better,” I said. “Okay. Auckland should come down from level 4 to level 3 at midnight on Tuesday. Do we all agree?”

They nodded.

“Good. Because we have to ask ourselves what’s better – zero cases, or zero tolerance? I think we all know the answer to that.”

I turned to Dr Ashley Bloomfield. He looked a bit off-colour.


James Shaw popped his head around the door today, and said, “All good about the Scotland thing?”

I said, “What Scotland thing?”

He said, “You know. The COP26 climate talks.”

“Oh. That. Sure, I guess. Are you taking any staff with you?”

He was holding on to the door. “One or two,” he said.

“That all?”

“Well,” he said, “nine.”

“Have you sorted out securing MIQ spots on their return?”

He rubbed his chin, and said, “No, but I was hoping …”


“Could you have a word? Get it sorted?”

I closed my eyes for a second. When I opened them again, he’d gone.


I went with Ashley to the 1pm conference. He was still looking a bit off-colour.


Trevor Mallard popped his head around the door today, and said, “I’m about to send you an email.”

“What email?”

“I’m proposing to restrict some access to Parliament to staff who haven’t had their Covid-10 vaccination.”

“I think I already read about that in an interview you gave this morning.”

“Must dash,” he said.


I met Ashley for a drink.

“My shout,” I said.

“I can get my own drink,” he said.

We sat in silence for a while. “Well,” I said, “our elimination strategy is working. Cheers.”

He said, “Critics say to me, ‘You can say it’s working until you’re blue in the face, but that doesn’t change the fact that the elimination strategy has failed to get the numbers of community cases to anywhere near zero, and yet the Government has brought Auckland down from level 4 to level 3, which has been described by Dr Michael Baker as a calculated risk.’ Oh and by the way he actually later amended that remark, describing it as ‘an uncalculated risk’. Bloody Michael.

“And then,” he said, “the critics say to me, ‘You can talk about not tolerating the virus until you’re blue in the face, but you need to get rid of the virus and to get rid of the virus you need some zeros, and plainly you don’t have zeros, we had 14 on Wednesday and then 23 the next day, the numbers have hovered above 20 for most of the last fortnight.’ Bloody Hosking.”

“You know,” I said, “don’t take this personally, but …”

“But what?”

“You look a bit blue in the face,” I said.

He nodded.

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