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Why New Zealand's Pro-COVID Lockdown Prime Minister Just Threw in the Towel

Comedian Lewis Black had a hilarious set about New Zealand as it relates to its proximity to the rest of civilization. It’s a hellacious journey to get there, and he quipped that if he was to travel this long, the people should have the courtesy to speak another language: “I did not come this far just to hear English again.” He also quipped that people say it’s a beautiful country, but he doesn’t know because a) by the time he got over the jet lag, he had to leave, and b) after 16-plus hours on an airplane, any land mass is beautiful. Still, the island nation became notable in recent memory for pretty much banning all firearms and, like their Australian neighbors, became a fortress island during COVID.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Labour, has led New Zealand since 2017. She won another term in 2020, but she’s throwing in the towel for a simple reason: she can’t do the job anymore. Ms. Ardern, 42, admitted her resignation is primarily grounded in the fact that she didn’t have much left in the tank to execute her duties as prime minister. She will vacate her office no later than February 7, triggering a new general election, where the right-of-center National Party is set to win (via The Guardian): 

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced her resignation in a shock announcement. 

At the party’s annual caucus meeting on Thursday, Ardern said she “no longer had enough in the tank” to do the job. “It’s time,” she said. 

“I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple,” she said. 

Her term as prime minister will conclude no later than 7 February. 

“I am human, politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can. And then it’s time. And for me, it’s time,” she said. Ardern said she had reflected over the summer break on whether she had the energy to continue in the role, and had concluded she did not. 


Who will replace Ardern, however, is not yet clear: deputy leader and finance minister Grant Robertson, who would be considered a frontrunner for the role, said on Thursday that he would not be seeking the position. In a statement, he said “I am not putting myself forward to be a candidate for the leadership of the Labour party.” 


Since December, the more conservative parties were comfortably ahead of Labour. Maybe Ardern thinks she can boost her party’s chances of pulling an upset with her premature exit, but who knows? The anti-gun, pro-COVID lockdown prime minister is going, so I’m content with the situation. If, at 42, Ms. Ardern admits she can’t do the job anymore, how does Joe Biden, 80, who has invariably more responsibilities and stress, do the job? We all know he can’t, but it brings up a question about who is running the country because it’s not him.  

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