Jacinda Ardern’s Temperature Blazing Trails for New Zealand’s Labour Party

  • +The Labour party won re-election by a landslide, establishing an absolute majority in Parliament.
  • +Kiwis showed the Labour party its highest support of the last 50 years.
  • + Ardern has shown that when it seems the most unthinkable, overcoming populism and promoting unity remains possible
jacinda ardern new zealand labour party

Why is Ardern’s Heat level Blazing? 

Answer: The Labour party won re-election by a landslide, establishing an absolute majority in Parliament.

On October 17th Jacinda Ardern blazed through the New Zealand general elections, gaining almost 50% of seats in parliament. This landslide win marked the first absolute majority in Parliament since 1996.  After facing criticism from the National Party and other conservatives about the strictness of covid-19 regulations and their effect on the economy. They cited a “lack of pragmatism” in which the cure was worse than the disease. But the New Zealander vote showed that Ardern’s leadership is just what the nation needs. 

Her goals in this upcoming term are to rebuild New Zealand’s economy following the global pandemic and address social inequality. Ardern famously implemented the world’s strictest covid-19 regulations, closing the country’s borders by March 25th, requiring everyone to self-isolate, and closing all non-essential businesses. Her leadership was hailed around the world as being a role model for all other states for preventing and tracing infections across the country.  

However, closing business as well as borders—forgoing vital tourism revenues—led to New Zealand taking a hard economic hit. Between April and June, New Zealand’s economy shrank 12 points and is now in what reporters call a ‘Covid recession’. The opposition holds that her measures represent a large economic failure, and only led Kiwis into unemployment and a recession not seen since 1987.  Even so, her policy plans for the future of New Zealand remain the most popular in order to drive the country through these hardships.

Through it all, polls showed around 80% of New Zealanders supported the government’s decisions and trusted them to make the best choices for the good of the citizens. Despite the opposition’s efforts to discredit measures taken by Ardern’s government, her direction in policy and leadership strategy have achieved great praise by the liberal international community. Her example is worthy of following and she is teaching the rest of the world a lesson on crisis management and guidance.  

Who is changing Ardern’s Temperature?

Answer: Kiwis showed the Labour party its highest support of the last 50 years.

Ardern is blazing, and her popularity is one of the biggest drivers of her success. Her first term as the youngest PM at 40 years old served the nation’s worst terror attack, volcanic eruption, and recession all in 3 years. She has faced all with her promised ‘relentless positivity’. The 2017 ‘Jacinda-mania’ that put her in power three years back has remained a constant as she leads citizens through each crisis.  Her empathy towards the people of New Zealand, and her presence and understanding when drafting legislation are renown at home and abroad. 

Even before the covid-19 pandemic, Ardern’s popularity was hot all across the country. Citizens respected her for her politics as well as her crisis management. Now that her party burst through these elections, with the trust of the citizenry placed upon them, Ardern is on fire. This boost in popularity is just what she needed in order to get Kiwis through another national crisis. 

According to Suze Wilson at The Conversation, Ardern is expert at using three key points in her addresses to the public: direction-giving, meaning-making, and empathy. Since she first got elected as MP, Ardern has considered herself first and foremost a public servant with no leadership ambitions. Her connection with voters allowed the Labour party to run a historic campaign after the resignation of the then Labour leader Andrew Little. Her campaign raised over $1 million during the mere seven weeks before election when her candidacy was announced.  She has dedicated her career, and first term, to addressing the New Zealand Housing Crisis, child poverty, and social inequality. Her policy orientation as a self-professed social democrat and leadership style have maintained her position as a widely-loved prime minister. 

This same connection with voters and key strategies of crisis management have managed to not only allow her to garner the initial support of voters, lead through three crises, but maintain enough public support to rebuild New Zealand’s economy following strict covid-19 closures. Additionally, due to these same extreme guidelines, New Zealand now had the ability to fully reopen and have life back to ‘normal’. In fact, the New Zealand Treasury reported on October 23rd “[t]he NZ Activity Index indicated a recovery in September, and card spending appears to have recovered following a dip in early October. Business sentiment and activity indicators rose in the September quarter, and indexes of manufacturing and services industry performance showed signs of improvement.”

A recovering economy and clear strategies for the future reinforce trust for the government. In the last 9 months, the prime minister has laid down the foundations for a solid government that is respected and trusted to get life back on track. With public opinion, parliament, and independent institutions by her side, Ardern is set up to blaze during her upcoming term.

What is driving Arden? 

Answer: Her determination to get New Zealand through the pandemic and offer a better life than pre-Covid levels.

As previously stated, Ardern is a self-professed social democrat who claims she wants to empower all Kiwis and address inequalities — especially those exacerbated by the pandemic. Her future plans include continuing her work with the Labour party to address problems of inequality and lack of housing in New Zealand.  In the coming weeks, Ardern will be forming a new government, in which she is expected to partner with the Green Party as well as the National Party in order to revitalize the economy, “[t]hings that will aid our economic recovery quickly we will need to expedite,” she told reporters. 

As a ‘consensus-builder’, it is likely that Ardern looks to expand her work to include other parties in order to gain further support with a super-majority of voters. She has gained the reputation of an exceptional leader both at home and abroad; now what hangs on the balance the next 3 years is living up to the promise of her person. The prime minister is driven by her vision of making New Zealand a more equitable place, where people, pandemic or not, can live with dignity and prosperity. Her policies are driven by the promise to ‘build back better’, looking inwards to invest in and employ New Zealand. 

She further faces pressure from the National and Green parties to integrate other ideals into her policies. Other parties see it as her responsibility, as she has expressed, to work for all Kiwis, and include policy ideas outside of Labour. There is particular pressure from the Green Party to have greater focus on environmental policy and restrictions when ‘building back’.

If during the next 3 years New Zealand’s economy recovers, businesses come back, employment rises, and inequality is lowered, Ardern is well on her way to solidifying her place as one of the greatest leaders New Zealand has ever seen. Her same policy agenda of lowering inequality and tackling poverty within the country is now playing into her post-covid rebuilding. The Labour party has laid out plans to offer loans to schools, universities and businesses in order to mitigate the effects of the lockdowns. This is understandably a lot of responsibility, and we will have to see if she is able to also carry New Zealanders into and through this next phase. 

What does this mean for you? 

Answer: Ardern has shown that, when it seems the most unthinkable, overcoming populism and promoting unity remains possible.

Let’s face it – who cares about what an island in the south pacific is doing? But hear me out:

The success of New Zealand amidst arguably the worst public health crisis the world has faced in the last 100 years speaks to a larger culture of unity than simply following guidelines. 

Not only have the people been consistent in following health regulations across the country, but have continually shown confidence that those are the correct and wisest choices for the people. When all over the world people find themselves frustrated and desperate about the confusing back-and-forths of public health measures, how have Kiwis maintained faith and patience through all?

For starters: their political culture is notoriously devoid of populist tendencies. According to the Guardian, over the past 20 years citizens have expressed a general satisfaction with the government. They reported that media channels with a populist agenda do not even “[take] a foothold” in the country. In addition, Ardern is keen in promoting a collective, “a team of 5 million” as she puts it. This impulses citizens to keep others in mind when going through such crises. 

Ardern managed to showcase that women are not only incredibly capable of leading through all types of situations but that they can do it with those qualities for which they have been historically ridiculed. Empathy, compassion, openness, and of course, ‘meaning-making’.

Francia Morales

Editor in Chief for Research and Analysis