We will continue to be your single source of truth. . . . Unless you hear it from us, it is not the truth. —Jacinda Ardern
On January 19, 2023, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation, saying she “no longer has enough in the tank” to stay in the role until the coming October election.1 Many New Zealanders, who lived through some of the harshest lockdowns in the world under Ardern’s leadership, are rejoicing.
But media and politicians alike have piled praise on Ardern’s premiership while dismissing her critics as an extreme fringe. Guardian journalist Jess Philips said that Ardern “presented the world with the kind of leadership that uniquely [leaned] on her emotional intelligence. . . . She leaves a legacy she can be proud of.”2 Ardern’s Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, thanked her for her “empathic, compassionate, strong, and steady leadership over these past several years,” and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Ardern “has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength. . . . She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities.”3 The only mention Philips made of Ardern’s critics was in reference to a “constant threat of abuse” from “people who hate progressive women and believe they are damning masculinity; anti-vaxxers outraged by her tough Covid stance; those with a general loathing of all politicians.”4 Major New Zealand news outlet Stuff said Ardern had faced “vile vitriol directed at her by oafs and lunatics.” (That line was hyperlinked to an article titled “Jacinda Ardern: An Inspirational Role Model and Victim of Ingrained Misogyny.”)5 Many look up to Ardern as a role model of leadership, but does she warrant such adulation?
Ardern has been active in politics since joining the Labour Party at the age of seventeen. She went on to become president of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY), where she advocated “progressive answers to the  financial crisis,” including “redistribution between the north and the south and . . . between the poor and the rich.”6 Both the IUSY and Ardern herself have advocated “decolonization” (seeking to revert the impact Western powers had on their colonies and reasserting elements of native cultures in its place).7 While leading the IUSY, Ardern adopted the organization’s Soviet-inspired use of “comrade” in her speeches and led a movement against “today’s dominating economical system of Western capitalism.”8 . . .
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1. Maroosha Muzaffar, “Jacinda Ardern Resignation—Live: Justin Trudeau Leads Tributes to ‘Immeasurable’ New Zealand Prime Minister,” The Independent, January 19, 2023, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/jacinda-ardern-resignation-new-zealand-polls-prime-minister-b2265025.html.
2. Jess Philips, “Women Suffer Guilt, Abuse and Disapproval. No Wonder Jacinda Ardern Is Knackered,” The Guardian, January 20, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jan/20/women-guilt-abuse-disapproval-jacinda-ardern.
3. Tess McClure, “Jacinda Ardern Resigns as Prime Minister of New Zealand,” The Guardian, January 19, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/19/jacinda-ardern-resigns-as-prime-minister-of-new-zealand.
4. Philips, “Women Suffer Guilt, Abuse and Disapproval.”
5. “How Outgoing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Will Be Remembered,” Stuff, January 21, 2023, https://www.stuff.co.nz/opinion/131021947/how-outgoing-prime-minister-jacinda-ardern-will-be-remembered;
Nadine Roberts, “Jacinda Ardern: An Inspirational Role Model and Victim of Ingrained Misogyny,” Stuff, January 19, 2023, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/300788291/jacinda-ardern-an-inspirational-role-model-and-victim-of-ingrained-misogyny.
6. Steve Elers, “It’s Important to Understand What Drives the Prime Minister,” Stuff, May 16, 2020, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/300012145/its-important-to-understand-what-drives-the-prime-minister.
7. John McCrone, “New Zealand Challenged by Māori Academics to Decolonise Its Legal Training,” Stuff, January 9, 2021, https://www.stuff.co.nz/pou-tiaki/123424061/new-zealand-challenged-by-mori-academics-to-decolonise-its-legal-training; This is a divisive issue in New Zealand; the historically indigenous Māori make up only 16.5 percent of the overall population, but there is an ongoing debate over the replacement of English names and language with Māori ones for official business, and there are special seats in Parliament for Māori representatives; Stephen Wright, “Welcome to Aotearoa? The Campaign to Decolonize New Zealand’s Name,” Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/welcome-to-aotearoa-the-campaign-to-decolonize-new-zealands-name-11658914200.
8. Elers, “It’s Important to Understand What Drives the Prime Minister.”
9. The United States boycotted the 2019 Christchurch Call over concerns that it violated the free speech protections of the U.S. Constitution.
10. Sharon Marris, “Coronavirus: New Zealand Brings in ‘World’s Toughest Border Restrictions’ to Fight Outbreak,” Sky News, March 14, 2020, https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-new-zealand-brings-in-worlds-toughest-border-restrictions-to-fight-outbreak-11957379.
11. Government of New Zealand, “COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020,” https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/110021/136704/F-593373296/NZL110021.pdf.
12. Amelia Wade, “COVID-19 Coronavirus: Controversial Bill Passed to Enforce Alert Level 2 Powers,” New Zealand Herald, May 13, 2020, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/covid-19-coronavirus-controversial-bill-passed-to-enforce-alert-level-2-powers.
14. Flat White, “Government Is Not the Divine Source of ‘Truth,’” The Spectator, July 26, 2022, https://www.spectator.com.au/2022/07/government-is-not-the-divine-source-of-truth.
15. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, “President Xi Jinping Meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern,” November 18, 2022, https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/zxxx_662805/202211/t20221118_10977830.html.
16. Lucy Craymer, “New Zealand’s Ardern Hopes to Lead Trade Mission to China Once Border Controls Allow,” Reuters, December 9, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/new-zealands-ardern-hopes-lead-trade-mission-china-once-border-controls-allow-2022-12-09/.
17. Washington Post Editorial Board, “The World Needs China to Come Clean about Its COVID Deaths,” Washington Post, January 16, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/01/16/china-covid-death-toll/.
19. Sadiq Khan, Twitter, https://twitter.com/SadiqKhan/status/1616004311145713667.