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  • Thu, 16, Jul, 2020 - 5:00:AM

Jacinda’s strength is undeniable

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visits the Muslim community the day after the Christchurch mosque shootings / Kirk Hargreaves / Wikimedia Commons

“I’m under no illusion, it will be tough,” said Jacinda Ardern in early 2018. The one-liner could reasonably contend for Ardern’s official slogan. The phrase would suit any number of the situations she’s faced. The economic recovery from COVID-19, perhaps. Maybe the response to any of the disasters that befell her first term.

At the time, she was referring to becoming a parent.

Even the staunchest Ardern hater would be hard-pressed to deny that this woman has been through a lot. In the three long years since Winston Peters announced his support for the sixth Labour Government, the country has experienced unprecedented turbulence. In March 2019, it was a tragic act of white supremacist terrorism. In December 2019, a deadly volcanic eruption. Come New Years, the world was shaken by a life-threatening virus. All of which Ardern has responded to with various degrees of aplomb. Literally, every time this country is in strife, you’ll catch the words ‘Jacinda’s doing great’ blowing in the wind.

Whether she has made a great Prime Minister is up for debate, as it always should be. But as a crisis leader, she’s excelled.

When Simon Bridges (throwback) debuted the moniker ‘Part-time Prime Minister’, I was shaken by the sexist overtones. Now, it just seems silly.

As I said in 2019, “The point is not whether Simon Bridges is a misogynist, but whether the term ‘part-time Prime Minister’ – being lobbed at a PM not long back from taking six weeks maternity leave – carries sexist overtones.

I think it does. I think it idealises a hyper-masculine, capitalist, work-yourself-to-death mentality that needs to be abolished. A Prime Minister’s day job is varied, collaborative, improvised and ever-changing. No two people will ever perform it the same way. In many ways, I imagine it’s like being a parent.”

Todd Muller’s reasons for resigning the National leadership are not for me to speculate. But I think it’s fair to say that the resignation highlights Ardern’s stamina.

And I certainly can’t believe that Neve Te Aroha is a measly two years old. It seems a lifetime since her birth was announced.

"I am not the first woman to multi-task,” she said at the time. “I am not the first woman to work and to have a baby."

It’s true. But few have faced the particular challenges she has. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves; Jacinda Ardern is a very privileged woman, who has received a lot of help – and we can debate her performance in various different areas. But one thing that (in my view) is not up for debate, is Ardern’s strength. At this point, it’s impossible to deny.

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Abigail
Johnson

Regular Contributor All Articles