Ardern’s Heat Level: Running Hot, Aware of the Ides of March

  • + Jacinda Ardern enforced strict border laws in light of COVID-19.
  • + With New Zealand recording just 6 cases, Ardern was uniquely proactive.
  • + The decision typifies her will to make tough calls for the good of people.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Why is Ardern’s heat level Hot?

Answer: She is keeping New Zealand Corona-Free. 

In late October of 2017, Jacinda Ardern was instated as the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand, from which she began her steady rise toward her current status as one of the world’s most respected and virtuous politicians. Through a strong track record of measured policy, in association with a pragmatic dynamism seen among few political leaders nowadays, Ardern embodies the notions of courage, persistence and proactivity.

On the 14th March, Ardern made the strict ruling that all travellers coming into New Zealand, irrespective of nationality, would be legally required to self-isolate for 14 days; with the exception of incoming travellers who had departed from a Pacific Island nation, with no known Coronavirus cases. This was promptly followed by the decision to implement a series of further border restrictions, which even included the request for the New Zealand national cricket team to return home from an ongoing series in Australia.

In doing so, Ardern essentially made New Zealand the first relatively unaffected country to implement proactive measures to stem the spread of COVID-19. As such, New Zealand only had 6 known cases of the virus, all of which were found in Auckland. However, Ardern went a step further, making what was potentially an even more emotionally-straining decision in cancelling the 1-year public memorial service for last year’s Christchurch Mosque shooting

What is driving Ardern’s decision?

Answer: Her values of empathy and compassion.

As such, nearly a year ago to the day of the pre-emptive Coronavirus policy, Ardern faced what was her biggest challenge as Prime Minister: her country was rocked by a targeted mass-shooting. But in a subsequent period of utter clarity and grit, Ardern left the world moved by her equilibrium in strength and compassion. In a speech two weeks post the events, Ardern depicted this balance, defiantly marking her position against terror and discrimination, of which she made very clear “is not welcome here.” However, where other leaders might have strayed into words of physical retaliation, retribution and focusing on the perpetrator, Ardern sought to inspire, to lift her society up and to place the responsibility on her country to collectively exemplify “the values (that) represent the very best of us.”

To this end, Ardern moved in a near unprecedentedly efficient manner, successfully passing a law that banned the use of all semi-automatic weaponry in the country. Concurrently, however, Ardern enacted the values of a leader that recognises the importance of empathy and virtue. From all accounts, Ardern spent hours upon hours among the impacted communities, going from conversation to conversation, ensuring that her mark and promises were left in the hearts and minds of those who had suffered. And unlike what has commonly come to be known and expected in modern politics, these promises held weight, in which Ardern has made a long-standing habit of ensuring that her word is anything but arbitrary. To this end, Ardern’s handling of the Christchurch shooting all but left the world pining for such noble statesmanship, which was far more likened to a bygone era. 

Undoubtedly, the element of gender must also be considered, insofar that Ardern acts as a clear depiction as to why it is so important for the world to maintain a more balanced gender equation with respect to its global Heads of State. This was something discussed in depth at RAIA’s recent Women in Politics Seminar, along with our recent article linked below, in which the historical and empirical benefits of female political leaders are widely portrayed and analysed. In the context of Ardern’s leadership, however, it is arguable that, like many leaders, she will encounter no greater test than that of the global COVID-19 outbreak. 

What is changing Ardern’s temperature?

Answer: Her continuous reinforcement of values protecting the interest of the people.

With this in mind, Ardern’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak should come as little surprise. What it reinforces is Ardern’s steadfast willingness to put the foot down when required, on the premise that what she does will always have the best interest of the people at its core. In turn, Ardern has proved on multiple occasions that she holds the bravery to implement such tough decisions, of which will often look far beyond your typical economic metrics. This is precisely what makes her different and such a breath of fresh air.

Importantly, Ardern does face an impending election at the end of 2020 and, despite her positive international reception and astute handling of the Christchurch shooting and the Coronavirus, she is no shoe-in to take out the race. As such, New Zealand remains a heavily divided country on the political spectrum, with a solid split between Ardern’s progressive, centre-left constituency and the nation’s strong conservative base. With this in mind, despite her inherent nature of consistency, transparency and integrity, it remains to be seen as to whether this will be enough to keep her in office.  

What does this mean for you?

Answer: True leadership still exists.

Irrespective of New Zealand’s 2020 election outcome, however, Ardern invariably presents herself as being in a sort of league of her own. Of whom that listens to her invariably become engrossed in the leader’s forthright commitment to veracity, and seeking out what is right. This matters for you, if for nothing else, than to serve as a reminder that true leadership and statesmanship can and should still be demanded in our politicians. Nothing will galvanise a population like a steady-figure of composure, fortitude and virtue. Through tragedy and adversity over the course of two consecutive March 15th dates, these all-too valuable traits have accompanied Ardern every step of the way.  

Even the great Julius Caesar himself failed to see off the Ides of March, whereas Jacinda at least to this point in time, has managed to come out with her head held high. A leader of what is only a small nation, numbering less than 5 million inhabitants, Ardern has truly made a loud and memorable impact throughout her time in office to-date. And if she has proven anything throughout this time of unwavering ups and downs, it’s that the world can still recognise, and ultimately treasures, a leader of upstanding character.

NOTE: Shortly after the completion of this article, Jacinda Ardern enforced an indefinite, nationwide border lockdown, for all non-citizens or residents. From now until further notice, only New Zealanders will be able to enter the country. Considering New Zealand’s current relatively low number of COVID-19 cases (28), this move to stem the spread of the virus can be considered one of the most proactive and preemptive amongst global leaders, to-date. 

Daniel Bloch

Project Development Team Leader