A beaming new mum at the political apex of a country is quite a novelty. No wonder there's been international coverage of baby Neve's arrival.

When you think back to most of last century's political leaders you realise how far we've come.

The predominant image is the alpha male. The strong leader, decisive, with an iron will. A father figure if you like.

It's an image that even female politicians had to conform to. Think of Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady.

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You suspect, though, in this new era of public sharing of private lives that we want to like our political leaders as pseudo-friends. Less sternness, more personal affability.

Jacinda Ardern, we know, is an intelligent and highly capable woman. And she must be tough, to survive the scrutiny and criticism of political life, but it's her natural empathy and warmth that's key to her political success.

And now she's a new mum.

Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford with their new baby girl at Auckland Hospital on June 21. The photo was posted on Ardern's Instagram account. Photo/File
Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford with their new baby girl at Auckland Hospital on June 21. The photo was posted on Ardern's Instagram account. Photo/File

We'd be naïve to think the political benefits aren't being exploited and further contemplated by Labour's image makers and the Prime Minister herself.

It will be interesting in the weeks and months ahead what images of Jacinda and baby Neve will be made available to us. Will the "first family" be appearing in a photo shoot in one of the women's magazines?

And what exactly are we being sold by these images?

We're being sold compassion, caring, unconditional love, all those feelings we have as a parent. Jacinda Ardern and Labour's spin-machine won't be selling something that isn't real. It will tug at our heartstrings because of its familiarity.

It struck me, seeing the Instagram post of Jacinda holding her new baby that there's potential to tap into an iconic image of another mother with child, Mary and the baby Jesus.

For centuries that image of mother and child was used to convey the compassion and tenderness of the Christian church.

Madonna with Child and cherubs, 1480-1520, by Andrea d'Assisi known as Ingegno, Assisi, Umbria, Italy, 15th-16th century.
Madonna with Child and cherubs, 1480-1520, by Andrea d'Assisi known as Ingegno, Assisi, Umbria, Italy, 15th-16th century.

Her role had to be virtually created by the patriarchal church to fulfil a need. Mary's part in the gospels was negligible.

But a bit like politics today, the early Christian church was in the propaganda business, in competition with other faiths and religions for people's attention, so it found a way to present what people wanted, which was an icon of female compassion and love.

Undeniably people gained solace from praying to Mother Mary when their real lives met with adversity and suffering.

This is the novelty factor of Jacinda and child, it's a historically powerful image, with the potential to still resonate deeply with us. It can be used to sell this Government as a compassionate and caring one.

Image-making is a fact of political life and crucial to the appeal of popular leaders, but there's always a dual nature to an image, it can inspire, give us confidence, but it can also come to stand in for values lacking in the real world.

Labour has been very good at presenting a kinder face. Now they've got some great image capital, let's hope it's used to improve the life opportunities of all new children born in this country.

Image matters, but policy and real-world achievement will determine how many of us regard this Government.