Time International - 02.03.2020

(Jacob Rumans) #1
Time March 2–9, 2020

However, Ardern has infused New
Zealand with a new kind of soft power.
When she visited the U.K. to meet Queen
Elizabeth II, who is still New Zealand’s
head of state, she wore a kahu huruhuru,
a feathered cloak bestowed by Maoris
on people of honor. Lots of world lead­
ers try the trick of celebrating a nation’s
first peoples by donning the local dress.
But Ardern, visibly pregnant at the time,
didn’t wear her gift with the awkward­
ness of Western leaders who show up at
local photo shoots in guayaberas or floral
headdresses. She rocked it. “Other coun­
tries want to be associated with what
she represents,” says Hayward. “That’s
what’s unusual. She’s not having to ask
for the time. The doors are opened be­
cause it’s helpful for other leaders to be
associated with her.”
Ardern claims that she has not set out
to make her personal life political, but
is merely trying to be open and human.
Yet after she became only the second
woman in the modern era to have a baby
while leading a country (Benazir Bhutto
of Pakistan was the other), she and her
partner Clarke Gayford—a celebrity TV
fisherman—arranged their family life in
the most obvious yet surprising way pos­
sible; he is the primary childcare pro­
vider, with other relatives subbing in.
Ardern is at pains to note that this domes­
tic situation was organized for practical
purposes and not to make a statement. “It
wasn’t like we sat down at the table and
said, ‘Well, which one of us is going to stay
at home?’ ” she says. “That was decided.”
The next time the couple gets to rethink
that arrangement may come on Sept. 19,
the anniversary of the day New Zealand
women were given the vote, and the date
for which Ardern has called an election.

“Know us By our deeds,” Ardern tells
the audience at Big Gay Out, a rally in
Auckland organized by the New Zealand
AIDS Foundation. Enormously popular in
the rainbow community, Ardern has come
to the festival to announce more funding
for LGBTQI+ mental health and research
and then meet some voters.
After her speech, she gets so jammed
up by selfie takers and huggers that her
Labour Party guide, who is wearing a red
tuxedo jacket and a striped shorts­and­
vest ensemble, has difficulty clearing a
path alongside the drag­queen ukulele

duos and catwalk contests and military
recruiters to the Labour Party’s tent,
where a line of about 50 young people
are waiting for more selfies and hugs. It’s
an exuberant event among her fan base—
Ardern gave up her Mormon faith partly
because it conflicted with her work to ad­
vance LGBTQI+ rights.
The days ahead may not all be so
sunny. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t
admire her authenticity and compassion,
but there’s a sense among her supporters
that she may have bitten off more than she

can chew and among her opponents that
her government has failed on most of its
promises. Ardern wants people to know
her administration by its deeds, but it
may not have successfully done enough of
them to have earned their trust. Polls sug­
gest that the Nationals will draw 46% of
the votes, Labour 41% and the Greens 5%,
which puts them neck and neck. But 46%
of people would opt for Ardern as Prime
Minister and only 11% her opponent.
It’s not as if Ardern’s government has
sat on its hands: the minimum wage has
risen from $15.75 to $17.70 in local cur­
rency, and will reach $18.90 in April.
Teachers and nurses, among others, got
a raise. Ardern introduced a well­being
budget, so that any project requiring
funding has to demonstrate how it makes
people’s lives better. Paid parental leave
was increased from 18 weeks to 22 weeks.
Almost 150 million trees were planted.
In perhaps her boldest strike against
climate change, she canceled all further
offshore oil and gas exploration. “We’re
moving to 100% imported energy,” says

Ardern wants

people to know her

administration by

its deeds, but it may

not have successfully

done enough of them



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