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New Zealand

The myth of “St Jacinda”

Ardern: a “global icon”. Kerry Marshall/Getty

“Jacinda Ardern has had enough,” says Vera Alves in The New Zealand Herald, “and who can blame her?” Almost six years after becoming the world’s youngest female leader, aged 37, the Kiwi PM has announced she no longer has “enough in the tank” to do the job justice. And whatever you think of her policies, she has clearly had a “challenging half decade”. She has had to deal with a devastating terrorist attack in Christchurch, a massive volcano eruption, and, of course, the pandemic. “Oh, and in the middle of all of that” she became a mum, and the first world leader in history to take maternity leave. “This is a woman who needs a break.”

To read the political obituaries, says Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph, you’d think “St Jacinda” was just too good for our “grubby political world”. Keir Starmer praised her as a “true global leader”, Justin Trudeau talked of her “immeasurable” impact on the world. The truth is, like Barack Obama, Ardern is a leader who was worshipped abroad but “deeply polarising” at home. About a million Kiwis have never forgiven her for shutting them out of their own country during one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. New Zealand’s farmers resented her early embrace of net zero. As a result of all this, Ardern’s popularity among voters had been “tanking” and she was on course to lose the general election this autumn. Her choice was either to be thrown out in October or to “bow out now and soak up the world’s acclaim”. For a “global icon” like herself, there was really only one option.

👑🇳🇿 Ardern had clearly been thinking about this for a while. Ahead of the Queen’s funeral in September, she let slip that she was thinking about her own political mortality. “I will never quite understand,” she said of the late monarch, “how she gave her entire life.”