As a young woman, fresh out of Waikato University with her communications degree tucked under her arm, Jacinda Ardern came to Wellington and worked as a researcher alongside the old master Helen Clark.

She must have thought then that to be Prime Minister, sentiment wasn't something to be indulged in.

Clark had turned firing Cabinet Ministers into an art form, in her time no fewer than 10 ministers were sacked or "resigned," although a number on good behaviour bonds found their way back into the fold.


Ironically Ardern's first job in politics was out campaigning for the rambunctious Harry Duynhoven in New Plymouth in the election that brought Clark into office.

Duynhoven was himself suspended from Clark's Cabinet after he broke electoral law by renewing his Dutch citizenship.

So she cut her teeth on political comings and goings but that doesn't make the top political job any easier.

Firing the formidable Meka Whaitiri from her portfolios after some argy-bargy when she was in Gisborne with a new staff member can't have been easy.

There were so many political considerations to be taken into account, not the least was the Māori caucus which Whaitiri is the co-leader with another firebrand Willie Jackson.

With all seven Māori seats now being back in the Labour fold after more than a decade, the party has to nurture them - and sacking one of them is a political risk.

If it was about proving she was a tough leader, Jacinda Ardern would have been much safer firing Clare Curran, who deserved to be shown the door months ago.

But on this one the PM apparently had nowhere to go.


Laying a finger on a staff member, regardless of the circumstances, can never be countenanced. Even though Whaitiri disputes events surrounding the altercation it was obviously enough to force Ardern's soft, and no doubt reluctant hand.

It's the first time in her life that she's had to sack someone but it now at least serves as a warning to others that she's capable of doing it.

Hopefully it'll make Whaitiri, who has had few failures in her life, reflect on why so many staff have passed through her office in less than a year.

She certainly should know how to be tolerant with her electorate predecessor the late Parekura Horomia making her wait for eight hours before seeing her for a job interview - he hired her on the spot.

She'll obviously have to wait longer than that though before she's reconsidered for a Cabinet slot - but if Jacinda Ardern learned anything from Helen Clark, the door's still ajar.