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Former prime minister Jacinda Ardern against a red zig zag background
Former prime minister Jacinda Ardern (Image design: Toby Morris)

The BulletinApril 5, 2023

Jacinda Ardern draws a line under her political career and an era

Former prime minister Jacinda Ardern against a red zig zag background
Former prime minister Jacinda Ardern (Image design: Toby Morris)

Ardern will deliver her valedictory speech tonight after announcing she has new roles to step into and ruling out ever returning to politics in this country, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.


Ardern bows out of politics in New Zealand for good

Farewell tours are funny things really. In the music world, artists often announce it’s their last gig and then return, two years later. Elton John hinted at leaving behind a life of touring in 1977 and we know how that (never) ended. Unlike Elton, you get the sense that former prime minister Jacinda Ardern really does mean it when as she says good-bye to the political brick road in New Zealand, confirming to Newshub that this was the end. Extended versions of the Newshub and 1News interviews with Ardern are able to be watched here. Before I get into what comes next for Ardern, in the spirit of duty that rang true in Ardern’s interviews, I am recommending you read Alex Casey and Tara Ward’s review of them. You don’t need to have watched them to enjoy.

A ‘very complicated relationship with media’ to the end

The choice was made not to speak to a single press gallery reporter as part of Ardern’s exit. It was hers to make and perhaps wisely and dutifully, she seems doggedly determined to avoid entering into the present-day news cycle beyond the usual farewell fare (she still landed the front page of the Herald this morning). I also think it’s fair to note, as the NZ Herald’s Claire Trevett has done, that her approach to media is markedly different to John Key’s when he left office, and that for the press gallery that chronicled her time as prime minister during a fairly extraordinary era, Ardern “did not even have a few words in passing to acknowledge the moment on Monday.” It is emblematic of what Duncan Greive described as Ardern’s “very complicated relationship with the media”.

Don’t expect Ardern to pop up with advice for current or future prime ministers 

As Stuff’s Luke Malpass notes in an assessment of her legacy, it is highly unlikely that Ardern “will suffer from relevance deprivation syndrome or will pop up in media giving gratuitous advice or criticism to Hipkins or Luxon if he becomes prime minister in October.” She has no interest in becoming the face of misogynistic abuse or threats hurled at women online and while she acknowledged in her interview with John Campbell on 1News that there is “a small group who hold some very extreme feelings” about her, she always “felt well cared for.”

Taking some of the heat out of politics

Ardern said that while it wasn’t the main reason for her resignation, she did think her “departure might bring the tempo, the heat, the friction that had come into politics, that it might take it down a peg and, if it did, that would be good for New Zealand.” It might be specious editorialising to draw this conclusion from Ardern’s well-crafted words, but you wonder if Ardern had a sense of needing an act of symbolism to draw a line under the 2020-2022 Covid era before the rest of us did, and that while she “had nothing left in the tank”, her resignation, much like her acceptance of the Labour party leadership in 2017, was ultimately an act of duty. Ardern will deliver her valedictory speech in parliament around 5.30pm tonight and will then cast off into the future in a special envoy role for the Christchurch Call and join the board of Prince William’s Earthshot trust.

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