Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern is New Zealand’s trailblazing Prime Minister, Labour Party Leader, and Member of Parliament for the electorate of Mount Albert. In her rapid ascent to PM, the term “Jacinda Mania” quickly gained traction across the nation out of almost obsessive admiration for her. Since then, Ardern has repeatedly made headlines for her unique leadership style. Among these, her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and giving birth to her first child while in office are the most well-known. With a communications degree in politics and public relations from New Zealand’s University of Waikato, Ardern defines herself as a progressive, feminist social democrat. Ardern leans towards highly empathetic, people-focused policies, often seen as the characteristics of ‘girl-power’. The strength in her femininity has proven to be one of her most recognizable and commended features. Her young age combined with her progressive policies and efficient attitude leads her to be seen as an archetype for the western feminine leader of tomorrow. 

Along with her role as PM, Ardern also holds various ministerial positions, including the Minister of Child Poverty Reduction; Arts, Culture and Heritage; and National Security and Intelligence. Her policies are particularly focused on a head-on approach to addressing liberal left wing issues in New Zealand such as mental illness, families and children, and climate change among many others. With the general election coming up in September of 2020, Ardern is once more on the campaign trail to see the Labour Party’s reelection. 

The immense attention that Ardern has garnered worldwide, despite being the representative of a relatively small nation in the international field, warrants a deeper look into her power, how she allocates it, and why. The ‘girl power’ in Ardern’s femininity is seen as the underlying motivator 

Profile: Background and policies

Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern was born into a middle-class mormon household, the daughter of a police officer and a school catering assistant. With one older sister, Ardern spent the first decade of her life in the Bay of Plenty region in Murupara, notorious for its gang activity among the indigenous Māori. Upon her sister facing a violent encounter in school once, her family moved to Morrinsville, a provincial town in Waikato immersed in the agricultural industry. Having emancipated herself from the Mormon religion at the age of 25 due to her conflicting belief in gay marriage rights, Ardern now describes herself as agnostic. 

Born in 1980, Ardern stands to turn 40 in July of 2020. She shares a daughter with her partner Clarke Gayford, who is a broadcast personality on an adventure fishing show called Fish of the Day. Ardern discovered her pregnancy mere weeks into her role as Prime Minister, giving birth to Neve Te Aroha still in her first year in her seat. Taking only six weeks of maternity leave during which she relinquished her power to her Deputy PM, Winston Peters, Ardern is the first leader of a nation to give birth while in power. She famously said, “I’m just pregnant, not incapacitated” in response to critics questioning her ability to govern. 

Ardern’s involvement with politics began at the age of 17, during which her aunt enlisted her to support the Labour Party. She soon became a researcher for MP Phil Goff at the time. Her experience before herself becoming MP of Mount Albert in 2017, includes noticeably being on the staff as a researcher for Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who was infamously branded by the as weak in her femininity.  Ardern remains close to her, seeing Clark as her political hero and mentor. This is why we see a sharp emphasis on her female power in her leadership. 

Inclination toward Liberal Policy making

Whether it is her partner’s direct involvement with nature on a regular basis that inadvertently exposes Ardern more greatly to the risks of climate change, or Ardern’s inclination for a nation-wide maternal instinct emphasized by her daughter’s birth, Ardern stays true to her values and that of the nation. Her own experience on maternity leave was likely powerful as a lawmaker, in which her understanding of family life will have strongly solidified itself from both the perspective of a mother and member of parliament. Meanwhile, critic’s judgements of her pregnancy likely emphasized the need for both effective and symbolic government support of families given societal norms and stereotypes. 

Ardern was also elected into Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, then Leader and finally PM. Under her leadership, the Labour Party vote dramatically increased, with patterns across the nation shifting to favour Ardern and Labour. Such numbers backed what many people said: Ardern has the ability and momentum to create significant change in the nation. This resulted in a highly effective, head-on approach of pushing her policies and work through with power, willing and confident to deviate from the norm and create her own path. 

Reelection as a PM with Celebrity Status

With General Elections occurring in the September of every three years, Ardern stands to possibly be reelected in September of 2020. The results of how the COVID-19 pandemic plays out (or doesn’t, given NZ’s success in having nearly eradicated the virus at publication date) are likely to be a major defining factor in Labour’s success. Able to resort to ‘normality’ once more with no restricting distancing measures, the campaign trail can pick up once more on a personal level.

Johanna Katherina Jakobi

Research and Analysis Intern