I distinctly remember where I was when I heard that Jacinda Ardern was resigning as New Zealand’s prime minister. Sitting at my laptop late at night on Wednesday, January 18.
I was in pretty much the same place nearly six years ago when the Ardern story began. Then too, it had seemed surprising.
In 2017, Ms Ardern was New Zealand’s new opposition leader. The 37-year-old shot to fame because she complained about the inherent sexism and unfairness of being asked about her likely plans to give birth. The question was asked twice over within 24 hours of Ms Ardern becoming leader of the Labour Party. The justification for this line of questioning was, in one interviewer’s words, as follows: New Zealanders had a right to know if there is a chance their potential prime minister would take maternity leave.
As it turned out, the row actually helped Ms Ardern. She went from relatively unknown politician to a known name. When her party scraped into office, Ms Ardern became prime minister of a quickly cobbled coalition. Three months later, her office announced she was having a baby and would take six weeks of maternity leave. However, Ms Ardern stressed that she intended to be “fully contactable” during maternity leave.
In 2020, Ms Ardern led her party to a historic victory. Never before, since 1996, when New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system, had a single party achieved an outright majority in the unicameral parliament. Ms Ardern’s Labour Party did so.
Fast forward to the present and Ms Ardern has abruptly announced her decision to step down from her job as well as party leadership because there wasn’t “enough in the tank”.
The phrase is as brusque as her departure.