The common theme in international media is the Labour leader as antithesis to Donald Trump – but not everyone is bowled over.
A landslide win for the New Zealand Labour Party saw the acclamation flow abroad for Jacinda Ardern. Similar plaudits were forthcoming for Jacinta Ardern, Jacinda Adern and Jacinta Adern.
I didn’t get past the first sentence of this one from Australia, but it’s certainly a new angle.
“In New Zealand — a small-c conservative or small-c centre kind of country where the love for Ms Ardern had generally lagged behind her profile abroad — she now has a mandate more in line with her international adoration,” was the verdict from the New York Times.
Ardern’s remarks in her victory speech on Saturday night about political polarisation and why elections “don’t need to tear people apart” seemed designed at least in part for foreign ears – and many were listening.
The New Zealand election had provided “an endorsement of an inclusive brand of leadership that may ripple beyond New Zealand’s borders”, wrote Matthew Brockett and Ainsley Thomson for Bloomberg.
“In an age of populism and confrontation, Ardern’s message of empathy and kindness married with skillful crisis management won her Labour Party its biggest share of the vote in more than 70 years. That contrasts starkly with the divisive politics in the US as Donald Trump and Joe Biden face off for the presidency.”
There was a similar theme in the editorial column of the Irish Examiner, contrasted Ardern with “her polar opposite, Trump”. Qualities evinced by Ardern – “an empowering sense of collegiality or the timeless wisdom of fostering solidarity” had “not constrained Trump’s bombast”, it noted.
Ardern’s leadership in the face of the Covid crisis was a constant theme. The New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz put it this way: “Donald J Trump accused Jacinda Ardern of competently handling the coronavirus pandemic in order to get re-elected. Speaking at a rally in Wisconsin, Trump called Ardern’s use of public-health measures to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on her nation ‘a sleazy political move like you wouldn’t believe.’ ‘This woman wanted to get re-elected, so she decided to go after the coronavirus and beat it,’ he said. ‘This woman is a disgrace.’”
In India’s Economic Times, an editorial ran: “New Zealand’s population is just 5 million. But Ardern’s win has an important lesson for politicians here: to win elections, one can charm voters by pursuing worthy, not necessarily popular, causes for the well-being of society – call it ‘wokeness,’ call it ‘first world socialist notions’ – with the same hard-nosedness many find easy pursuing populist ones.”
Ardern had provided the Pacific with “lesson 101 in how to win a general election and maintain national unity”, wrote Nemani Delaibatiki in the Fiji Sun. Fijian politicians could take a leaf out of her book in the 2022 election. “We need to look at the Ardern manual to strengthen our national unity despite our differences.”
There were messages, of course, from premiers around the world. But we’ll ignore all of them except for these tweets from two of the planet’s greatest spiritual leaders.
I congratulate Jacinda Ardern on her party's resounding victory in the New Zealand general election. I admire the courage, wisdom and leadership, as well as the calm, compassion and respect for others, she has shown in these challenging times. https://t.co/J5dN0Gldk2
— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) October 17, 2020
Truth always wins out! This wonderful leader told people the truth. She just recently Increased testing and tracing because seven people were infected, but it worked – as opposed to our leader, this woman saves lives!
— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) October 17, 2020
You can’t win ’em all, however. In the Australian, Gideon Rozner wrote of an “incompetent leader”. While Ardern was “a brilliant politician”, she was “a grossly incompetent administrator … Hiking income tax, re-regulating the industrial relations system and a bloodcurdling plan for 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030 could turn the corona-induced economic shock into a permanent state of impoverishment for thousands of Kiwis.”
It echoed another piece a few days earlier in the Murdoch-owned paper, by the Oz’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan, condemning the “princess of woke”. “No international halo is so shabby, or so fraudulent, as that worn by New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern,” he wrote, in an op-ed headed, “Jacinda Ardern goes global, but Kiwis pay the price”.
The Rozner column, which bemoaned a “largely uncritical and compliant media”, quoted Oliver Hartwich of the New Zealand Initiative thinktank warning “New Zealand could end up a failed state”. The conclusion: “The only hope for New Zealand now is that, whatever horrifying plans that Labour has in store, Jacinda Ardern is just as hopeless at actually implementing them in her second term as she was in her first.”
Previous commentaries by Gideon Rozner include calling Meghan Markle “annoying and preachy” and a paean to Penthouse magazine as exemplar of “the free exchange of ideas that accelerates mankind’s never ending search for beauty and truth”.
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