29 January 2023
Whether you admire or loathe Jacinda Ardern as the Prime Minister of New Zealand, you have to admit, she was different. Unique. Popular. One of a kind…
Shortly after 11 am on January 19, I stepped into a lift on the Paris end of Collins Street.
‘OMG! Jacinda Ardern has resigned.’ One of the smartly dressed young executives exclaimed. ‘I can’t believe it!’
‘Do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?’ I asked.
She gave more inspiring speeches, met more celebrities, spoke at more prestigious Ivy League universities, and appeared on more US TV talk shows than any New Zealand Prime Minister before. Much like her comrades over the ditch, Barack Obama in the US and Justin Trudeau in Canada, she was a master media communicator. She built a global following and excelled at personal branding.
People on the left loved and admired her because she was ‘authentic’. She showed kindness and spoke more from the heart than the head. This set her apart from the New Zealand Prime Ministers before her.
Her progressive leadership style placed global issues ahead of local and put her at the forefront of the global fight against Covid and Climate Change. She became a powerful symbol of hope and social justice for many. Her commitment to creating a fairer, more equitable world was admirable and led many comparing her to a modern-day princess.
Her popularity also led to her being immortalised by artists as popular pop culture figures like Princess Leia from Star Wars, Wonder Woman, and Rosie the Riveter, further enhancing her image as a modern-day princess.
Meanwhile, back home where New Zealanders live, things were turning to chaos under her leadership. Many were suffering, in part, due to her policies.
Her opponents felt she had too much focus on herself and what the international media said about her. She was more interested in public accolades, particularly from international celebrities, than keeping the economy moving back home.
Every Prime Minister is a mixed bag of policy winners and losers. Some take off, have lasting impact, and be celebrated. Others not so.
I don’t mean to be cruel when I observe that those who ‘loved’ her, did so based on feelings about her ‘style’. While those who judge her harshly, do so critically, based on ideas, policies, and ‘substance’.
Only time will tell how New Zealanders judge and remember their former Prime Minister. My observation is she will be remembered more like a popular princess than a competent Prime Minister.