But a seven-minute series of questions from David Seymour, leader of the libertarian ACT party in Parliament on Tuesday, caused an out-of-character outburst.
Turning to his deputy, Grant Robertson, Ardern muttered to himself—though not so inaudibly as to avoid being picked up by domestic microphones and entered the official parliamentary record—”he’s very arrogant. [expletive]”
Considered a globally influential, empathetic leader and an antidote to populist politicians elsewhere, Ardern has been criticized at home for handling the economy as it emerged from a long period of isolation during the pandemic. Ardern’s centre-left Labor Party has been lagging recently in opinion polls ahead of next year’s national elections.
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The small island nation is grappling with many of the pressures seen elsewhere: inflation, rising interest rates and housing affordability issues. It also faces domestic problems, such as a series of raids on jewelers and corner robberies that have led to a perception among some voters that its administration is soft on crime.
“The government is under a lot of pressure,” said Seymour, who was the subject of Tuesday’s disrespectful remarks. “I was quite surprised to know Jacinda for 11 years,” he said, describing the incident as “out of character”.
Seymour said the prime minister later texted to apologize, pointing to his mother’s wise advice: “You shouldn’t say it unless you have something nice to say.”
Seymour said he responded by wishing Ardern a “Merry Christmas”, pointing out that there was full water under the bridge. “This is Kiwi style.”
The prime minister’s office confirmed in an email that he had apologized to Seymour, but did not comment further.
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The Ardern government is facing opposition to a number of quick-button policies that are on the legislative agenda for the coming year, including changes to water management, a world-first plan to tax agricultural emissions, and revisions to hate speech laws.
In an interview with national broadcaster Radio New Zealand on Monday, Ardern said that his administration has implemented some of these policies over the summer—while Parliament is in recess “and only [ask] Whether it’s from a spending perspective, an investment perspective, or just a focus perspective, these are the things we need to prioritize at this point.
As for Seymour, she joked that she might have an exaggerated understanding of her own importance: Later that evening, when an unsuspecting aunt asked if she’d like to join her for dinner, “Why would you want to have dinner with a girl? arrogant” – Ardern ending with the word used by .
The joke bombed, he said. He had not followed the news of the day.