Jacinda Ardern appears to be a politician with ambitions, but what drives her? Is she in the right party? She’s long been associated with the Labour Party but her website profile wouldn’t look out of place in the Green Party.
A bit about Jacinda ardern
Politics is not an easy place to be – but I believe New Zealand has the potential to be even better than it is, and Parliament is one place where I can help make that happen
When I was pretty young I lived in a small town called Murupara, a place that was forgotten during the economic reforms of the 1980s, and which lost its main source of employment when the forestry industry was privatised. I saw then the level of poverty that exists in some parts of our country; I saw the impact of a lack of work and hope, and what happens when we don’t invest in our kids.
That’s why I’m in politics.
I believe in an Auckland and a New Zealand that owns its future, and its assets, that is smart and grows the economy by investing in Research and Development and clean technology, has a world class public transport system that we can be proud of, invests in children, and is genuinely a world leader on environmental issues.
And why do I want to strive for all of this on behalf of Auckland Central? That’s easy – because it’s my home; one I know we can make even better than it already is.
To me that’s vague waffle and immensely underwhelming.
Her background (according to her):
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “what did you do before this?”
Like many Kiwis, I was getting experience overseas. I worked as an Assistant Director in the Department for Business and Enterprise in London, trying to improve the way they regulated small businesses. I also worked on a review of Policing in England and Wales.
I lived in New York, making meatballs at a soup kitchen, and before that, I was at home in New Zealand, working for Helen Clark.
For many years I was also the President of an international political organisation with consultative status with the United Nations – it took me around the world from Beirut to Geneva, but also taught me how to manage an international Board – and that home was where I wanted to be.
International political experience and working for Helen Clark. Outside of politics there seems to be little or nothing.
Wikipedia has more details:
Born 26 July 1980 so she is now 35.
Ardern grew up in Morrinsville and Murupara, where her father, Ross Ardern, worked as a policeman. She attended Waikato University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. She joined the Labour Party at a young age, and became a senior figure in the Young Labour Party.
She didn’t mention Phil Goff in ‘My Experience’.
She later spent time in London, working as a senior policy advisor. In early 2008 she won election as the President of the International Union of Socialist Youth.
Her Labour party profile has more detail on her UK experience:
Before entering Parliament Jacinda worked for two and a half years for the Better Regulation Executive in the UK Cabinet Office. Her role as an Associate Director was to improve the way that local authorities, in particular, interfaced with business. She was also seconded to the Home Office to assist with a review of policing in England and Wales.
That means she must have gone to the UK at about the start of 2006. She would have left school about 1997-98, so that gives her about eight years to get her University degree and work for Goff and Clark.
After a high placement on Labour’s party list for the 2008 election (her ranking at number 20 virtually guaranteed a seat in Parliament) Ardern returned from London to campaign full-time. She also became the Party’s candidate for the Waikato electorate. Ardern was unsuccessful in the electorate vote, but was elected as a List MP.
That’s a high list placement for someone who has been overseas, but she obviously had good contacts back in New Zealand. It looks like it could be a planned career path.
She came a distant second in Waikato in a strongly National leaning electorate, getting about 23% for her personal and Labour’s party vote – in 2011 the Labour candidate got a lower personal (18.4%) and party (16.44%) vote.
Soon after the 2008 election defeat Phil Goff replaced Helen Clark as leader and he appointed Ardern as Labour’s spokesperson for Youth Affairs and as associate spokesperson for Justice (Youth Affairs), outside the 28 top ranked MPs (along with Grant Robertson, Chris Hipkins, Kelvin Davis, Iain Lees-Galloway, Carmel Sepuloni and Phil Twyford).
Ardern was elevated to 13 on Labour’s 2011 list, the head of the newbies. Here are those MPs still in Parliament:
13. Jacinda Ardern
14. Grant Robertson
15. Andrew Little
16. Shane Jones
17. Su’a William Sio
23. Kelvin Davis
24. Carmel Sepuloni
27. Stuart Nash
28. Clare Curran
30. Chris Hipkins
31. David Shearer
33. Phil Twyford
37. Iain Lees-Galloway
41. Kris Faafoi
45. Rino Tirikatene
47. Megan Woods
49. David Clark
Ardern had moved to Auckland Central, which was held by Labour’s Judith Tizard comfortably until she lost to Nicki Kay in 2008. In a close contest Ardern lost to Nicki Kaye in 2011 but she retained her place in Parliament via the list.
Phil Goff resigned after the 2011 loss and David Shearer was elevated into the Labour leadership. And he elevated Ardern to Labour’s front bench at number four, spokesperson for Social Development, Children, Associate Arts Culture and Heritage.
Then in September 2013 Shearer resigned and David Cunliffe became Labour’s leader. His reshuffle dropped Ardern back to six, spokesperson for Children, Police, Corrections, Arts, Culture and Heritage.
Ardern was placed at five on Labour’s 2011 list due to Shane Jones dropping out of contention. She had another close tussle with Kaye in Auckland Central, losing by 600 votes – but that was likely to be more to do with strategic Green voting. In the all important party vote Labour got just 21.67%
So how has that trended in Auckland Central?
- 1996 – 37.14% (party vote, Judith Tizard MP)
- 1999 – 41.50%
- 2002 – 44.1%
- 2005 – 45.24%
- 2008 – 34.55% (Kaye won the seat off her with National getting 40.08%
- 2011 – 25.11%
- 2014 – 21.67%
Auckland has been also strongly contested by Greens, Nandor Tanczos since 1999 followed by Denise Roche since 2008.
But the declining Labour Party vote doesn’t look pretty.
After the 2014 defeat David Cunliffe sort of resigned, triggering another leadership contest. Grant Robertson promoted a joint ticket with Ardern as his deputy. Two centre city career politician candidates. They lost out to the inexperienced union backed Andrew Little. Robertson had also lost to Cunliffe.
While Little has placed Robertson at number three on the front bench and given him the challenging Finance responsibility Ardern has slid down to nine, with Twyford, Hipkins, Sepuloni and Davis all leapfrogging her.
Her current party profile:
Press releases from Ardern on Labour’s website show a fairly low level of activity.
Posts on her own website also show a low level of activity too.
She’s more active on her Facebook page, perhaps that suits her target constituency more.
If Andrew Little decided to step down what would Ardern’s chances be if she stood for the leadership?
She would presumably have mixed support from Labour’s caucus.
She doesn’t seem to have much support at The Standard where she doesn’t often rate a mention. After this weeks Herald promo of her leadership chances – Labour’s support recovers to 30s – got no similar promotion.
Jacinda is a run of the mill MP. Parliamentary staffer to Labour MP; been one of the 2% for a long time now, Grant faction and seen successive Labour defeats while in caucus.
I, too, have been wondering re the promotion of Jacinda Ardern – a very sneaky move to use her to undermine Andrew Little.
They are both active in Labour.
And it’s hard to see strong support from the unions for Ardern or Ardern/Robertson.
If she did succeed due to ‘last remaining cab on the rank’ and become Labour leader will voters see past her lightweight feel-good look-good self promotions and wonder where the substance is?
Ardern is a career politician. I see little sign of her being any more than that yet.
Perhaps she is targetting a leadership bid should Labour lose again in 2017, and has her sights set on the 2020 election. She’ll still only be forty then.
If she wants something other tha polituics in her CV she has time to take a break from Parliament for a couple of terms and get some real life experience, not political position by friendly appointment but proving she can get an understanding about real life and real people outside the bubble vacuum left by Helen Clark.
That would allow her to return via Labouir’s list in 2023 and perhaps contest the 2026 election leading Labour with something of substance behind her.
Otherwise it looks like her career is destined to be an ineffectual career in New Zealand followed by an appointment to the UN.