1 Aug 2017

'When you’re in politics in New Zealand you can’t live in a bubble'

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 2:51 pm on 1 August 2017
Jacinda Ardern

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Shortly after her appointment as leader of the Labour Party yesterday Jacinda Ardern spoke with Jesse Mulligan about the challenges of becoming party leader just eight weeks from the election.

Jesse put some listener questions to her, but first asked how the day had been.

"It’s been a very intense couple of hours, I haven’t had the chance to sit and reflect I haven’t had a chance to speak to my partner yet or speak to my parents. When I reflect I’ll feel humbled and honoured."

What will her focus be over the next 8 weeks?

It’s really quite a hopeful thing we want to impart to New Zealanders. I think we’re inherently an optimistic country and when you’re in opposition you come up with lots of ideas but often they’re in response to crisis. We see how dreadful things like our housing situation is or what it means for communities when young people are out of work.

The challenge for us will be emphasising the solutions and ideas we have in response to that and getting that into a really positive vision for New Zealand.

Did she consider turning the job down?

No … When opportunities like this come to you it’s natural to have that internal thought of 'Do I have absolutely everything it takes?' I’ve been in politics for nine years, I’ve had to get over that pretty quickly, but all of that just came to the fore and all I felt was just confidence that I could lead the team.

This is an enormous opportunity for me that I’m going to take openly with both arms.

Did she sleep last [Monday] night?

A bit restless! I didn’t know Andrew’s intention until this morning. The decision was entirely in his hands I gave him my support from the very beginning and that support remained until he made this decision.

I’m very proud that Andrew nominated me in caucus today.

Thoughts on Andrew Little?

I’ve worked alongside him since the beginning of the year and saw how hard he was working for us. For him the key consideration in all of this was the success of the Labour Party. He’s a selfless, hard-working man, I admire him an enormous amount.

Chances for a new centre-left government?

We’re not satisfied with the vote Labour has currently. For us it’s about building a credible, stable, centre-left government and Labour needs to be at the core with a strong vote.

Thoughts on whether NZ needs to change the economic and political conversation - Is growth all? How do we measure success and happiness?

I think these are conversations we should be having, I think most New Zealanders would accept that purely viewing someone as an individual economic entity doesn’t take into account everything that individuals and communities need to thrive and succeed. Well-being is incredibly important. But Labour’s always recognised that, even back in the Fraser government you’ll see quotes from MPs then talking about individuals aren’t just economic entities.

That’s been with us for a long time. Perhaps what we need to do is place greater emphasis on that.

What does she say to suggestions that she lacks life and work experience?

I wouldn’t say I formed my political views at a young age. I formed my instinct and empathy at a young age and that’s what took me to the Labour Party – politics is a means to an end. The sport of politics I don’t particularly enjoy.

I did come in [to politics] at 28 so I was always going to have somewhat limited wider experience. Having said that, some of the experiences I had in that short time has been key to me in the period I’ve been in politics, as has the experience of being a New Zealand politician. When you’re in politics in New Zealand you can’t live in a bubble.

Every time I go back to the mighty Waikato and Morrinsville I can assure you, people are no holds barred in sharing their experiences, and that’s as it should be.

And will she still MC the Point Chevalier Primary School quiz night this Saturday?

An unequivocal yes to that question from the Labour Party's new leader.

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