Jacinda Ardern is not a saint, she is just a regular politician. Time to take her off her political pedestal and use her global appeal for real progress – and not for the 'woke' agenda, argues Tom Bromwich.

Whilst Covid-19 ravaged the world and its largest economies were forced into the corner of lockdown, New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has had a relatively 'good' crisis. Indeed, she is reaping praise domestically and internationally.

Is this praise truly warranted? Is it genuinely because of her political record and talent? Or is it just a blown-up fad perpetrated by the squishy centre and soft left to highlight that a Labour Prime Minister – who incidentally is a woman – has managed to navigate the crisis better than her male counterparts including Boris Johnson, former US President Donald Trump, and Emmanuel Macron?

It is true that Ardern and her government have handled the crisis well for a small country with a population of just over 5 million. Yet, as a small country, New Zealand could lock down its economy with ease. That is why you saw the country do so after seeing just 2 new cases in Autumn last year. The nation's low population density and isolated position also played a part in New Zealand success in keeping infection rates and deaths low.

This is good for New Zealand, who thrives predominantly off agriculture and tourism, but it also makes the fawning over Ardern's response to coronavirus all the more disingenuous.

New Zealand's lockdowns also present difficulties. Ardern's zero-COVID policy, aiming to eliminate the virus before anyone has even been vaccinated, is flawed. A virus doesn't go away just because no one has it. This mentality has gripped Ardern's government and has left the country yo-yoing in and out of lockdown.

Whilst they do this, the squishy centre and soft left re-emerge from their bashful hibernation. After spending the first half of 2020 praising Keir Starmer, Angela Merkel, and Macron's 'successful' coronavirus responses – just to be humiliated by reality which has proved otherwise – the centre-left have latched onto a new psychosis, a caricature. To the centre-left, Jacinda Ardern has become a symbol of progressivism: a breast-feeding, casual, young, progressive woman – the antithesis to their bogeymen, Trump and Johnson.

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Yet, these individuals may find themselves disappointed once more. Ardern spent 3 years in coalition with New Zealand's Nigel Farage, Winston Peters. Ardern was nevertheless content with her deputy – a man who has questioned the integrity of Asian reporters, vowed to disincentivise immigration, proposed legislation which would ban non-citizens from owning property, and claimed (without basis) that immigration is inextricably linked to high youth suicide. It seems she would surround herself with unsavoury characters just to maintain power – hardly a progressive ideal.

Ardern also has a chequered past on speaking truth to power. For a leader who has made tackling climate change central, she failed to challenge then-President Trump's record on it. She promised "transformational change" but in this aspect failed. Ardern's government has previously been embroiled in a major sexual assault scandal which she was criticised for failing to tackle boldly.

She failed to deliver her ambitious progressive policies such as her flagship 'Kiwibuild' housing policy – building 100,000 new affordable houses by 2030 – and she refused to comment or watch the evidence suggesting that Maori children were being forcefully taken from their mothers. This female icon, a beacon of progressive politics, a leader branded as 'being different', is ultimately a fraud.

The Jacidamaniacs across the West would not feel sufficiently 'woke' when they realise that the Ardern government is not as progressive as you would expect. Social media posts gushing over Ardern's government as 'the first' to grant bereavement leave for parents who have suffered miscarriages, or for Ardern being 'the first' to give birth whilst in office are not entirely true.

India and the Philippines were first to grant paid leave for miscarriages. The Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was first to give birth in office. Are these squishy centrists and soft leftists overlooking the achievements of third world nations in favour of Ardern and Western-centric news? Surely not.

Yet, given 'wokists' remained silent after Ardern failed to condemn Aung San Suu Kyi's persecution of Rohingya Muslims, it is possible that it doesn't suit the woke agenda to tarnish Ardern's reputation. Ardern serves to contrast, pitting her against leaders they dislike. Sadly, Ardern has exposed 'wokists' as sheep willing to jump from woke bandwagon to the next – only to be let down.

Whilst Ardern has her faults, she also has massive appeal. Take her off her political pedestal and stop using her as a means to contrast 'Boris Man Bad'. Only then can real progress be made.

Unfortunately for those like me, once the centre and left fixate on something, they very rarely let it go.

21 votes

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