Jacinda Ardern – leadership by example, with some wee mistakes

Jacinda Ardern has been widely applauded throughout New Zealand and around the world for the way she has handled the terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on 15 March. She has deserved this praise – she claimed “I just think I’m displaying humanity”, but she has also lead by example, with most of the country following her lead.

Stuff:  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reflects on the week

“I don’t think I’m displaying leadership. I just think I’m displaying humanity.”

Leadership by example is one of the most effective forms of leadership.

“Even off the back of today, you’ve had thousands of people exposed to a faith they may not have been exposed to. It’s really a bringing together of communities. In that regard, I think we are all forever changed. In many ways, but particularly that.”

“In politics we can choose to model behaviour. That’s part of the reason I was very deliberate in choosing to not name the terrorist, and to call it terrorism. But ultimately it will be up to every individual, media outlet and politician to take responsibility for our positions and language.

Not naming the terrorist was strongly symbolic from Ardern, although many had chosen not to name him before that. I had already chosen not to name him, and have continued with that stance for now.

But the media have a responsibility to report facts, and names of murders and terrorists are basic facts, so should be recorded in public.

She was confident she reflected the values of the majority, and the public response would confirm she was right, but while “this attack was brought to us by someone who was not a citizen”, we cannot hide from the fact that the ideology also existed here.

The non-naming was reflecting an already established practice of many. Ardern was perceptive to that, and as a leader amplified what others were doing.

“I genuinely believe that all I am modelling are the values of New Zealanders. On every occasion when I’ve had an opportunity to share words, all I’ve reflected in my mind is ‘what are New Zealanders feeling right now? What are the words I’m hearing expressed around me? How do we all feel?'”

She can’t and hasn’t reflected how we all feel. There have been many feelings, emotions and reactions.  But I think there is no doubt that Ardern captured and boosted the feelings of the vast majority of New Zealanders.

“One of the things we can all do is never allow New Zealand to be an environment where any of that hostility can survive. [But] terrorism doesn’t have borders, we’ve seen that now. So we can do our bit in New Zealand but actually we need to try and play a leadership role too.”

Which she did admirably. If you read comments at Whale Oil and Kiwiblog, some on twitter and Facebook, and some here, not everyone admires how Ardern has done things. Some people will never like her regardless of what she does, that seems to be ingrained in some in politics. And some seem to resent her success at leading the country in a time of real need.

One think in particular Ardern bashers have been going about is her wearing of a scarf. I think criticisms have been misguided and in some cases way over the top. Ardern did not make it compulsory, she chose to do it herself, as did some others. I’m sure she was acting on considered advice.

I presume Ardern will have heard some of the criticisms, but she continued to wear a scarf or head covering on other occasions. She was obviously comfortable that she was in the main doing something that was appreciated by those who mattered the most, the victims of the shootings, which included the whole Muslim community. So I applaud her to sticking with her symbolic gesture.

It wasn’t a mistake to antagonise people who would have found something to feel offended about whatever she did. They are a part of ‘all New Zealanders’, but a small minority.

(It’s interesting to see the predominance of ‘New Zealand’ and ‘New Zealander’ over the past week and a bit).

A separation between Whale Oil and Judith Collins is evident on this issue. Collins in Parliament on Wednesday:

I would like to thank the Prime Minister for the work she did on Saturday. I thought it was outstanding. I know there has been unfortunate comment on the internet about the fact that she chose to wear a scarf. I wear a scarf, and I do whenever I enter other people’s places of worship, where that is appropriate. It is a mark of respect, and I thought it was the right thing to do.

While the most prominent, Ardern is not the only politician who has shown leadership over the Christchurch terrorism. Most other Members of Parliament have also stepped up and shown leadership. Collins in that same speech:

One of the things I know is that Muslim New Zealanders have been with us since 1850. Islam is part of New Zealand, as all other religions are that are here, and those who don’t have religion, because it is something that people have as a belief system and it is part of who they are.

We are very lucky in New Zealand that with our 220 ethnicities, we have not had anything like this before. I hope that when we get to the bottom of what could be done in the future to help stop this happening again, I think that we will have a much safer and a much better community from it.

Another issue that Ardern showed leadership on was addressing our inadequate firearm laws. She ensured that we acted quickly, and she made sure she had the other party leaders working with her on making changes. Credit to all of them on that.

I think Ardern did make some mistakes in the heat of the moment. She delved into legal and procedural issues that are not her place to be.

Newshub: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern considering deporting alleged gunman

The Prime Minister is considering legal options to deport Brenton Tarrant, but says the alleged gunman will face justice in New Zealand.

“In cases where you have seen deportation, it’s generally at the conclusion of a sentence being served,” she told media. “He’s not going anywhere until he’s faced justice here”.

“Absolutely charges and the trial itself will happen in New Zealand. As for the remainder, I’m seeking advice. He will certainly face the justice system of New Zealand.”

I don’t think deportations are the Prime Minister’s call to make.

Ardern also made comments about how the trial of the terrorist might bee run to deny him publicity, and she also tried to influence the media on how they would cover the trial.

From NZ Herald:

This raised the prospect of Tarrant conducting his own defence at trial and using the high-profile prosecution to promote his beliefs, which were detailed in a manifesto before Friday’s shootings.

Speaking to media this morning, Ardern said this was “something that we need to acknowledge and do what we can to prevent the notoriety that this individual seeks”.

This is not an area she should be involved in.

“Lifting his profile was one of them. That’s something that we can absolutely deny him.”

But when it comes to the alleged gunman’s court appearances, Ardern said the media had a part to play in preventing the wider public from hearing his extremist views.

Neither this.

Asked what could be done to prevent the accused from having a platform, Ardern said this was something that was “very early on” in her thinking.

“I’ve only had beginnings of conversations – that’s something I think we really will be looking to the media around its kind of coverage.

“Of course, people will want to know what is happening with the trial. But I would hope there are ways that it could be covered without adding to the notoriety that this individual seeks.”

She should not be getting herself involved in how the police and how the courts conduct the trial. There should be a clear separation between that and politicians. At least she acknowledged this.

She said any decisions about having the trial behind closed doors was not up to her.

“That’s why, as I say, this is a conversation I think really the media can play a strong role in.”

The media will do things as they see fit – and some journalists also made statements in the heat of the moment that may be put aside when the reality of responsibility of covering the trial goes.

Ardern should play no part in either how the media covers the trial, or how the trial is conducted – that is up to the prosecution and the court, ultimately primarily the judge.

I’m sure she understands that and will back off from this.

But in general she has done a very good job of leadership and promoting humanity.



Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  24th March 2019

    Attempting to censor not only the video but the manifesto is a major mistake.

    I also hope her wearing the hijab does not encourage wearing and maintaining symbols of conflict and division.

    Other than that she has done well.

    • Are stars symbols of conflict and division?

      Are crosses symbols of conflict and division?

      Are hoodies symbols of conflict and division?

      Is it divisive claiming that the free choice of what one wears is a symbol of conflict?

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  24th March 2019

        I suspect you can answer your own questions. Gang patches certainly are. Do we want more gangs or fewer?

        • Blazer

           /  24th March 2019

          patches are symbols of ‘belonging’,unity.Just as other logos you find for say Rotary and various clubs where people of common interests associate.Some are actually called associations or federations or unions.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  24th March 2019

            As I pointed out earlier the meaning of symbols is in the eye of the beholder. The same symbol may induce love, hate or indifference.

            • Blazer

               /  24th March 2019

              ‘ Gang patches certainly are. ‘…..yet you appear adamant.

    • “Attempting to censor not only the video but the manifesto is a major mistake. ”

      I don’t believe either were decisions made by Ardern. Not her call to make.

      I think that circulating and showing the video is an extreme affront to the victims, and I have no problem with any attempt to minimise it’s purpose and it’s grossness.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  24th March 2019

        Censorship is certainly the Government’s call, indirectly if not directly. I understand the video impact on victims case but am unconvinced that warrants what is surely a futile attempt to ban it given its historic importance. Banning the manifesto is just outrageous.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  24th March 2019

          The victims’ rights are greater than any ‘historic importance’

          If that was your wife or your children, would you want this final indignity and invasion of privacy made public ?

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  24th March 2019

            You cannot undo what happened and the video has gone around the world and cannot be brought back.

    • Norm Grey

       /  24th March 2019

      I keep wondering if things had been the other way around – a Muslim terrorist had killed 50 kiwis.
      Would NZ’s Muslim community shown similar sympathy and support and gone to various
      “occasions” not wearing their scarves?

      • I think that almost all New Zealand Muslims would have been horrified by an attack like that – because of people being killed. And also concerned about what they would be subjected to by people associating them with the attack, even though they would have had nothing to do with it an dno responsibility for it.

        Do you think that some people wil have blamed all NZ Muslims?

        Note that last week kiwis were killed, citizens of and residents of New Zealand.

        What do you think NZ Muslims would have done if there had been an attack like that?

      • Do you think if we had had such and attack that the blog that promotes itself as the biggest and best in the country would be peddling crap like this?


      • Fight4NZ

         /  24th March 2019

        Along those lines I keep wondering how this guy with his wannabe tough, violent, no-fear, white supremacist hard man ambition chose to attack a bunch of soft, unarmed families and friends while in prayer? Could he have found an easier target if he tried?
        Guess he was too intimidated to choose for example mongrel mob HQ. Wouldn’t have lasted 2 minutes and never been heard of again.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  24th March 2019

        I don’t think that NZ followed Jacinda Ardern’s lead at all; that makes it sound as if we wouldn’t have reacted with sorrow, sympathy and the rest had she not. It was a spontaneous nationwide response.

        I suspect that some people will think that the gun law changes were done by her and other decisions about the murderer will be, when no PM can have that much power.

  2. Corky

     /  24th March 2019

    ”Some people will never like her regardless of what she does, that seems to be ingrained in some in politics. And some seem to resent her success at leading the country in a time of real need.”

    I have never had a strong dislike of Jacinda. In fact she was on her way to being a National Party asset. I had a dislike of her liberal ignorance.

    It’s fate that annoys me. Fate has taken a mediocrity like Jacinda and imbued her with undeserved power. Someone on this blog called her the new Mother Theresa. At the moment that wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

    However, Jacinda has been painted into a corner. She will have to put on an equal display of empathy should there be a revenge attack. I doubt she will be able to muster the passion.
    That’s when she will be torn apart politically. The capricious hand of fate taking what it has given.

    On her wearing a scarf: I find our leader wearing an Islamic scarf( the gesture) deeply offensive to my sensibilities. However, given the circumstances, it would be churlish, petty
    and pathetic to object to such a gesture. It was the right thing to do especially for religious observances.

  3. adamsmith1922

     /  24th March 2019

    In the post you wrote ‘Not naming the terrorist was strongly symbolic from Ardern, although many had chosen not to name him before that. I had already chosen not to name him, and have continued with that stance for now.’

    Whilst I understand why Ardern and others take this view it is not one that personally I agree with. It seems to me that it is a denial of reality. Does it mean we should no longer refer to Anders Breivik by name, or Osama Bin Laden.

    Sinilarly whilst I have sympathy with banning the video, it seems illogical that here in NZ were the atrocity took place we are unable to see the enormity of the crime, Yet outside NZ there is likely to be relatively easy access. As for banning the written manifesto that is outrageous and akin to the Nazi book burnings.

    • duperez

       /  24th March 2019

      It doesn’t seem to me a denial of reality. It is a denial of some glorification and a mantle of hero by and for some other lunatic somewhere in the world.


      • Kitty Catkin

         /  24th March 2019

        Why not just call him NoName ?

        The comparison between Nazi book burnings and banning the ‘manifesto’ is totally specious. This is not an established work by a famous author, it’s the murderous rants by NoName who doesn’t deserve to have it seen.

        • adamsmith1922

           /  24th March 2019

          The comparison is not specious. This ruling is censorship of a most appalling kind. It is thought control by the government. It is wrong. It is oppression.
          What renders it even worse is that we will have to rely on a privileged group to interpret what the alleged perpetrator thought.
          It is the thin end of potentially a very large wedge.
          On the tenuous grounds cited by the censor I look forward to the banning of the Koran,the Bible, Mao’s Little Red Book, The Protocols Of Zion, Rushdie’s Satanic Verses etc.

  4. Duker

     /  24th March 2019

    PG you seemed to have relied an incorrect report when saying deportations are not her call, she seems to have put in correctly in this report which hasnt paraphrased her

    Ardern was asked by reporters yesterday whether Tarrant was likely to be deported to Australia.

    “I don’t want to go to far down that track while we’re obviously in early stages. Charges have been laid, we can expect additional charges, he’ll be appearing in the High Court on the 5th of April, so there’s obviously a process that needs to be gone through here.

    “But I can say I am seeking advice on what will happen thereafter.”

    it was clearly a questions which she answered directly

    As part of the investigation some of his planning of his terrorism acts may have occured in Australia, so they could seek his extradition ? But as his likely sentence here is LWOP and I cant see his family wanting much to do with him.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  24th March 2019

      A friend who spent some time in solitary after being convicted of bank robbery paints a bleak picture of life (in both senses) there. NoName will be watched 24/7 on camera, won’t ‘even have a shoelace to neck himself with’) won’t have any contact with other prisoners for his own safety…

      The experience of prison(7 years) was enough to convince my friend that crime was a mug’s game and he went straight.. NoName will be brought out in a box, no second chances.


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