PM Jacinda Ardern Discusses Global Scrutiny
Optimism is baked into Jacinda Ardern’s character, Spinoff editor Toby Manhire writes in a feature about the prime minister published in The Guardian. At school, her mother once revealed, she convened a “happy club”. When she was made leader of the Labour party, with weeks to go before the 2017 election, the campaign was built around a self-described “relentlessly positive” outlook.
And while Labour’s manifesto remained essentially unchanged, people suddenly started to listen. “Let’s do this,” went the slogan. Her opponents sneered that it was all just “stardust”, but the party surged on a wave of Jacindamania.
As for being pronounced a “game changer” for women, Ardern welcomed the idea she might inspire others, but was eager to present a truthful picture. “I think people don’t want us to be perfect,” she said. “I’m making an assumption here, but everyone knows that raising kids is hard work and I don’t expect they’d want someone to gloss over that or pretend it’s easy. I can do what I do because I have help and I try to talk about that a lot.”
What about the “anti-Trump” label, Manhire asked her.
Following the Christchurch attacks, Ardern was asked at a press conference if she agreed with Trump’s downplaying of the rise of white supremacy. “No,” she said, bluntly. Trump had by then called to offer his condolences, and asked what he could do to help. Ardern’s suggestion was that he could provide “sympathy and love for all Muslim communities”.
At Waitangi in early February, Manhire had asked Ardern about the international attention she had attracted – for being young, for being a new mother. It just wasn’t something she thought about, she said, hardly at all. Of course she needed to project New Zealand’s voice, but her focus was on domestic priorities. Today, in the most appalling circumstances imaginable, she has the world’s ear. What would she like to see other nations, other leaders, draw from New Zealand’s experiences?
“Humanity. That’s it. Simple,” she says. “People have remarked upon the way we’ve responded, but to me there was no question. You need to remove some of the politics sometimes and just think about humanity. That’s all.”
Original article by Toby Manhire, The Guardian, April 6, 2019.
Photo by Jessie Casson.