Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern

The Right Honourable
Jacinda Ardern
Jacinda Ardern at the University of Auckland - 36148499793.jpg

Ardern during an election campaign
in September 2017
40th Prime Minister of New Zealand
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor-General Patsy Reddy
Deputy Winston Peters
Preceded by Bill English
36th Leader of the Opposition
In office
1 August 2017 – 26 October 2017
Deputy Kelvin Davis
Preceded by Andrew Little
Succeeded by Bill English
17th Leader of the Labour Party
Assumed office
1 August 2017
Deputy Kelvin Davis
Preceded by Andrew Little
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
In office
7 March 2017 – 1 August 2017
Leader Andrew Little
Preceded by Annette King
Succeeded by Kelvin Davis
17th Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
In office
1 March 2017 – 1 August 2017
Leader Andrew Little
Preceded by Annette King
Succeeded by Kelvin Davis
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Mount Albert
Assumed office
8 March 2017
Preceded by David Shearer
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for the Labour Party List
In office
8 November 2008 – 8 March 2017
Succeeded by Raymond Huo
Personal details
Born Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern
(1980-07-26) 26 July 1980 
Hamilton, New Zealand
Political party Labour Party
Domestic partner Clarke Gayford
Parents Ross Ardern (father)
Alma mater University of Waikato
Website Official website

Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern [əˈsɪndə ˈɑːrdɜːrn] is a New Zealand politican who has been the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand since 26 October 2017. She is also Leader of the Labour Party, having taken office on 1 August 2017, and has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Mount Albert electorate since 8 March 2017. She was first elected to parliament as a list MP at the 2008 general election.

After graduating from the University of Waikato in 2001, Ardern began her career working as a researcher in the office of Prime Minister Helen Clark. She later worked in the United Kingdom as a policy advisor to Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair.

The resignation of Annette King

In 2008, she was elected President of the International Union of Socialist Youth. Jacinda Ardern became a list MP in 2008, a position she held for almost ten years until her election to the Mount Albert electorate in the 2017 by-election, held on 25 February. She was unanimously elected as Deputy Leader of the NZ Labour Party on 1 March 2017 following the resignation of Annette King.

Ardern became Leader of the Labour Party on 1 August 2017 when Andrew Little resigned from the position following a historically low poll result for the party. Under her leadership, the Labour Party polled ahead of its traditional rival, the National Party, for the first time in twelve years. In the general election of 23 September 2017, the Labour Party won 46 seats (a net gain of 14), putting it behind the National Party led by Bill English, which won 56 seats[ New Zealand First subsequently announced they would enter into a minority coalition government with Labour, supported by the Greens.

Ideologically, Jacinda Ardern describes herself as both a social democrat and a progressive. A supporter of the labour movement, she opposes tax cuts for high-income earners as supported by the National Party, and supports a welfare state that provides a safety net for “those unable to support themselves”. On cultural issues, Ardern is a supporter of same-sex marriage, having voted in favour of the marriage equality bill in 2013, and supports the liberalisation of abortion law.

Early life of Jacinda Ardern

Born in Hamilton, New Zealand, Ardern grew up in Morrinsville and Murupara, where her father, Ross Ardern, worked as a police officer and her mother, Laurell Ardern, was a school canteen worker. She attended the University of Waikato, graduating in 2001 with a Bachelor of Communication Studies (BCS) in politics and public relations. Ardern was brought into politics by her aunt, a longstanding member of the Labour Party, who recruited a teenaged Ardern to help her with campaigning for New Plymouth MP Harry Duynhoven during his re-election campaign during the 1999 general election.

Ardern joined the Labour Party at a young age, and became a senior figure in the Young Labour branch of the party. After graduating from university, she spent time working in the offices of Phil Goff and of Helen Clark as a researcher. After a period of time volunteering in a soup kitchen in New York, Jacinda Ardern went to London to work as a senior policy advisor in an 80-person policy unit of then British Prime Minister Tony Blair. She never met Blair there, but did question him about Iraq at an event in New Zealand in 2011. She was also seconded to the Home Office to help with a review of policing in England and Wales. 

In early 2008 Jacinda Ardern  won election as the President of the International Union of Socialist Youth, a role which saw her spend time in countries such as Jordan, Israel, Algeria and China.

Member of Parliament (2008–2017)

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
2008–11 49th List 20 Labour
2011–14 50th List 13 Labour
2014–17 51st List 5 Labour
2017 51st Mount Albert 2 Labour
2017–present 52nd Mount Albert 1 Labour

Ahead of the 2008 election, Ardern was ranked 20th on Labour’s party list. This was a very high placement for someone who was not already a sitting MP, and virtually assured her of a seat in Parliament. Accordingly, Ardern returned from London to campaign full-time. She also became Labour’s candidate for the safe National electorate of Waikato. Jacinda Ardern was unsuccessful in the electorate vote, but her high placement on Labour’s party list allowed her to enter Parliament as a list MP. Upon election, she became the youngest sitting MP in Parliament, succeeding fellow Labour MP Darren Hughes, and remained the youngest MP until the election of Gareth Hughes on 11 February 2010.

Ardern, with Phil Goff and Carol Beaumont, at an anti-mining march on 1 May 2010
Ardern, with Phil Goff and Carol Beaumont, at an anti-mining march on 1 May 2010

Opposition leader Phil Goff promoted Ardern to the front bench, naming her Labour’s spokesperson for Youth Affairs and as associate spokesperson for Justice (Youth Affairs).

She has made regular appearances on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme as part of the “Young Guns” feature, in which she appeared alongside National MP Simon Bridges.

Ardern contested the high-profile seat of Auckland Central or Labour in the 2011 general election, standing against incumbent National MP Nikki Kaye for National and Greens candidate Denise Roche. Despite targeting Green voters to vote strategically for her, she lost to Kaye by 717 votes. However, Jacinda Ardern returned to Parliament via the party list, on which she was ranked 13th. She maintained an office within the electorate while a listed MP based in Auckland Central.

After Goff resigned from the Party leadership following his defeat at the 2011 election, Ardern supported David Shearer over David Cunliffe. She was elevated to the fourth-ranking position in the Shadow Cabinet on 19 December 2011, becoming a spokesperson for social development under new leader David Shearer.

Ardern stood again in Auckland Central at the 2014 general election. She again finished second though increased her own vote and reduced Kaye’s majority from 717 to 600. Ranked 5th on Labour’s list Jacinda Ardern was still returned to Parliament where she became Shadow Minister of Justice, Children, Small Business and Arts & Culture under new leader Andrew Little.

Mount Albert by-election

Following her win in the by-election, Jacinda Ardern was unanimously elected as deputy leader of the Labour Party on 7 March 2017, following the resignation of Annette King who was intending to retire at the next election.Ardern’s vacant list seat was taken by Raymond Huo.

Leader of the Opposition (2017)

Ardern campaigning at the University of Auckland in 2017
Jajinda Ardern campaigning at the University of Auckland in 2017

At her first press conference following her election as leader, she said that the forthcoming election campaign would be one of “relentless positivity”.Immediately following her appointment, the party was inundated with donations by the public, reaching NZ$700 per minute at its peak. Ardern’s election was followed by a spate of positive coverage from many sections of the media, including international outlets such as CNN, with commentators referring to a ‘Jacinda effect’ and ‘Jacindamania’.

After Jacinda Ardern’s ascension to the leadership Labour rose dramatically in opinion polls. By late August they had risen to 43 per cent in the Colmar Brunton poll (having been 24 per cent under Little’s leadership) as well as managing to overtake National in opinion polls for the first time in over a decade.

In mid-August 2017, Ardern announced that a Labour government would establish a tax working group to explore the possibility of introducing a capital gains tax but ruled out taxing family homes. In response to negative publicity, Jacinda abandoned plans to introduce a capital gains tax during the first term of a Labour government. Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson later clarified that Labour would not introduce new taxes until after the 2020 election. The policy shift accompanied strident allegations by the Minister of Finance Steven Joyce that Labour had a $11.7 billion “hole” in its tax policy.

First leader Winston Peters

The Labour and Green parties’ proposed water and pollution taxes also generated criticism from farmers. On 18 September, the farming lobby group Federated Farmers staged a protest against the taxes in Ardern’s hometown of Morrinsville. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters attended the protest to campaign, but was jeered at by the farmers because they suspected he was also in favour of the taxes. During the protest, one farmer displayed a sign calling Jacinda Ardern a “pretty Communist”. This was criticised as misogynistic by former Prime Minister Helen Clark. During the campaign trail, Ardern expressed her support for easing restrictions on abortion by removing it from the 1961 Crimes Act.

Preliminary results from the 2017 general election indicated that the party got a more modest 35.79% of the vote to National’s 46.03%. Labour gained 14 seats, increasing its parliamentary representation to 45 seats. This is still the best result for Labour since losing power in 2008.

Following the elections, Ardern and Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis entered into negotiations with the Greens and New Zealand First parties to explore forming a coalition since the rival National Party lacked sufficient seats to govern alone. Under the country’s mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting system, New Zealand First held the balance of power, and was, therefore, able to practically choose the office-holder. Following the release of special including overseas voting results on 7 October, Labour gained an extra seat, raising its presence in a parliament to 46 seats. Jacinda Ardern welcomed the results and remarked that they would give Labour an advantage in negotiations to form the next government.

Prime Minister (2017–present)

Ardern with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy at the swearing-in of the new Cabinet on 26 October 2017
Ardern with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy at the swearing-in of the new Cabinet on 26 October 2017

On 19 October 2017, New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters announced that his party would form a coalition with Ardern, making her the next Prime Minister, and the second youngest in New Zealand’s history (after Edward Stafford). This coalition will receive confidence and supply from the Green Party.

On 20 October, Ardern confirmed that she would hold the ministerial portfolios of National Security and Intelligence, Arts, Culture and Heritage, and Vulnerable Children, reflecting the shadow positions she held as Leader of the Opposition. She was officially sworn by Patsy Reddy on 26 October 2017, alongside her cabinet and Deputy Leader Winston Peters.

Ardern is New Zealand’s third female Prime Minister, after Jenny Shipley (1997–1999) and Helen Clark (1999–2008).[

Political views

Jacinda Ardern speaking at a Labour Party event in 2016
Ardern speaking at a Labour Party event in 2016

Ardern has described herself as a social democrat, a progressive, a republican, and a feminist. She has cited Helen Clark as a political hero. In her parliamentary maiden speech in 2008, Ardern affirmed her support for the welfare state as “a necessary safety net, and a support for those who are unable to support themselves”, and has spoken in support of trade unions.

In 2017, she opposed the National Party’s plans for income tax cuts for high-income earners, and described capitalism as a “blatant failure” due to the extent of homelessness in New Zealand.

Ardern voted in favour of the 2013 Marriage Equality Bill, a bill which allowed same-sex couples to legally marry in New Zealand and in 2004, she paid $20 to have her name included in a “full page ad in a major New Zealand newspaper supporting the Civil Union Bill.”

Jacinda Ardern supports the liberalisation of abortion law and advocates removing abortion from the Crimes Act of 1961. Ardern supports student loans being kept interest-free and has also expressed interest in the area of mental health. Ardern also took strong objection to the idea that women should have to tell their employer about their plans to take maternity leave in the future.

Ardern believes the retention or abolishment of Māori electorates should be decided by Māori, arguing, “[Māori] have not raised the need for those seats to go, so why would we ask the question?” She supports compulsory teaching of the Māori language in schools.

In August 2017, Ardern advocated a lower rate of immigration to New Zealand, suggesting a drop of around 20,000–30,000. Calling it an “infrastructure issue”, she has argued, “there hasn’t been enough planning about population growth, we haven’t necessarily targeted our skill shortages properly…”. However, she wants to increase the intake of refugees.

Ardern acknowledges global warming. She has called for carbon emission reduction targets to be enshrined in New Zealand law.

In September 2017, Ardern said she wanted New Zealand to have a debate on removing the monarch of New Zealand as its head of state. On 20 October 2017, after the conclusion of coalition talks with NZ First, Ardern said she wanted New Zealand to have a referendum on whether recreational marijuana should be legalised.

Personal life

Ardern was raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church), but left the church in 2005 because it conflicted with her personal views, in particular, her support for gay rights. She is not religious and in January 2017 said she was agnostic.

Her partner is television presenter Clarke Gayford. They have a ginger and white polydactyl cat named Paddles.

Upon the announcement of her pregnancy on 19 January 2018, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that she would temporarily relinquish her position to Peters, following the birth of her child, for a period of six weeks. Winston Peters became Acting Prime Minister on 21 June 2018, when Ardern went into labour. Her six-week maternity leave is scheduled to conclude on 2 August 2018.

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