Back in January, Jacinda Ardern stunned the world when she used her first press conference of 2023 to announce her resignation as Prime Minister.
It brought to an end the five-year tenure of the reluctant premier, a politician who never sought the country’s highest office, yet found herself at the coal face for one of the most tumultuous periods in New Zealand’s history.
Ardern left politics a little under three months later, leaving her successor, Chris Hipkins, to lead the Labour Government into the 2023 general election.
While Ardern was made a Dame in the King’s Birthday Honours, and accepted dual fellowships at Harvard University and a trustee position with the Earthshot Prize, the latter moves are a testament to her huge popularity internationally.
As to how she will be remembered locally, two veteran political journalists have differing views.
When Ardern resigned, Newstalk ZB political correspondent Barry Soper joined The Front Page, the Herald’s daily news podcast, to weigh in on her legacy in the immediate aftermath.
“She’ll be remembered as quitting early. She’ll be remembered, I would imagine, for her outpourings of grief on the mosque shootings, but she certainly won’t be remembered for policy,” Soper said.
“I think there won’t be a lot of memory about Jacinda Ardern other than, she was a young woman that was appointed to the job of Prime Minister, a job she once claimed she never ever wanted to do. The second term was overwhelming for her. But really it just shows you, given the overwhelming support she had two years ago, how ill-equipped she was to do the job by quitting a year early.”
NZ Herald senior political correspondent Audrey Young joined the podcast in April, around the time of Ardern’s valedictory speech, and echoed Soper’s sentiments that Ardern would be remembered for her reluctant leadership, and her compassion after the Christchurch terror attacks, but had kinder words for her policy achievements.
“Two stand-outs are in child poverty reduction and climate change. And while she didn’t make the progress she wanted to in either of those, the legacy is that she put in place the legislative architecture to ensure progress will be made by future governments. And that’s absolutely a sound legacy.”
Listen to the full episode for more from Barry Soper and Audrey Young on Dame Jacinda Ardern’s decision to quit and thoughts on her time in office.
The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am. It is presented by Damien Venuto, an Auckland-based journalist with a background in business reporting who joined the Herald in 2017.