Jacinda Ardern. Sebastian Kurz. Emmanuel Macron. Justin Trudeau…roll call of the young
With Jacinda Ardern’s ascent (by coalition-deal-making on Thursday) to New Zealand’s highest office, that’s four national leaders under the age of 45.
Ms Ardern, 37, is feisty and, it has to be said, extraordinarily lucky. She only became leader of New Zealand’s Labour Party in August. She managed to insert herself into the national (and international) debate about gender equality by an angry riposte about male interviewers’ questions to female politicians. Then, came the national elections and Labour didn’t win but was in second-place in a contest that had no victors.
It’s taken weeks for the party to cobble together a coalition with the small New Zealand First party, and to also secure support from the Green Party. All of this means that Ms Ardern will become New Zealand’s youngest prime minister since 1856.
We’ll have to see how she does. Being young and female is no guarantee of success beyond the initial headlines. As is normal for political fortunes (they rise and fall) Canada is now not entirely convinced about Justin Trudeau, whom it elected with reasonable enthusiasm in October 2015.
Mr Trudeau went on to become an international heartthrob (his youth, his tick-all-the-boxes cabinet). He also seems to be an aspirational symbol of North America especially after the US elected old, fat, politically incorrect Donald Trump.
But youthfulness is nothing to boast about, mostly because it doesn’t last. Mr Trudeau was once the youngest leader at G7 summits. In May 2017, he lost that distinction to France’s Emmanuel Macron. Mr Macron, in turn, will lose his place …one day. The only way to have a place in history is by sound policy and action.
That said, there’s still some way to go for Sebastian Kurz. He’s 31, led his People’s Party to victory in Austria on Sunday, October 15. But here’s the truly killer fact about Mr Kurz’s youthful trajectory: He became a minister in the federal government four years after he left college!
Hard to beat. Until it’s beaten, that is.