Grant Robertson could reconsider becoming New Zealand PM after Jacinda Ardern resigns


A woman with a traditional face tattoo and New Zealand’s first openly gay Deputy Prime Minister are just some of the names being thrown around to replace Jacinda Ardern for the country’s top job.

Ms Ardern announced on Thursday that she would be stepping down on February 7, after five-and-a-half years in office.

There is fevered speculation about who will step into her place with the spotlight now on a handful of contenders.

Potential candidates include Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Education Minister Chris Hipkins – while Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta may also have a chance.

Ms Ardern denied her declining popularity in the polls, significantly stemming from harsh Covid restrictions, was the reason behind her sudden departure.

In a poll published in December, Labour’s popularity slipped one per cent to 33 per cent while the country’s major centre-right party, National, rose one point to 38 per cent. 

Despite Mr Robertson already stating he has no intention to run the country, political analysts believe there is still time for him to reconsider.

Ms Ardern announced on Thursday in an emotional press conference that she would be stepping down on February 7, after five-and-a-half years in the top job

Political analysts say Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson may step into the top job, despite stating he has no interest in leading the country

Political analysts say Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson may step into the top job, despite stating he has no interest in leading the country

Senior Political Correspondent at the New Zealand Herald, Audrey Young, said Ms Ardern and Mr Robertson are in ‘are in a league of their own within the Labour Cabinet’.

In a piece for the publication, Ms Young said it’s possible Mr Robertson may feel a ‘responsibility’ to stay in his role as the minister for finance.

‘He should not feel burdened by the vow he made in 2014 to not seek the Labour leadership again, having lost narrowly to Andrew Little. He is needed now,’ she wrote.

‘The best option would be for Robertson to change his mind, to step up to become Prime Minister and to give Finance to (Education Minister) Chris Hipkins, or to Associate Finance Minister Megan Woods.

‘The second best option would be for Hipkins to become Prime Minister and obviously leave Finance with Robertson.’

Mr Robertson became the first openly gay man to hold the role of deputy PM in November, 2020. And if Mr Robertson does reconsider, he would make history as New Zealand’s first openly gay prime minister.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta became the first member of parliament to don a moko kauae, a cultural marking worn by Māori women

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta became the first member of parliament to don a moko kauae, a cultural marking worn by Māori women

‘I still get a lot of emails and messages from young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who look towards us to provide that kind of role-modeling,’ he said at the time.

‘So, I’ll keep doing my job the way that I’ve been doing it, but I’m very proud to have the role.’ 

Following Ms Ardern’s resignation, Mr Robertson made it clear he wouldn’t be throwing his hat in the ring.

‘In 2014 when I failed to secure the leadership of the Party for the second time I indicated that I would not put myself forward again. My position has not changed,’ he said in a statement.

‘It is a job that you must unequivocally want to do in order to do it the justice it deserves. 

‘I have every confidence that there are colleagues within the Caucus who are both capable of doing the role, and have the desire to take it on.’

Instead he said he would be committed to his role as finance minister.

Meanwhile Mr Hipkins, the education and police minister, rose to prominence for fronting the country’s response to the Covid pandemic.

Chris Mr Hipkins, the education and police minister, rose to prominence for fronting the country's response to the Covid pandemic.

Chris Mr Hipkins, the education and police minister, rose to prominence for fronting the country’s response to the Covid pandemic.

When asked about his intention on taking up leadership, Mr Hipkins said he wasn’t ruling anything out, but added ‘I think people just need a little bit of time’. 

Ms Mahuta became the first female MP to ever wear a moko kauae, a cultural marking worn by Māori women, in parliament and was also the first woman to hold the role of foreign minister.

Ms Mahuta has links to Māori royalty, with her father the adopted son of King Korokī.

She got the tattoo in 2016 and said it offers ‘positive ways to enable cultural expression and pride in being Māori. 

While a potential contender, it’s likely her role in the contentious Three Waters Reform will harm her chances of taking over leadership.

The reform involved council-run water, wastewater and stormwater services from 67 councils to instead be transferred to four large entities.

Another contender for PM, Kiri Allan, (middle) New Zealand's minister of justice, would also be the country's first openly gay leader if elected, as well as the first prime minister of Maori descent

Another contender for PM, Kiri Allan, (middle) New Zealand’s minister of justice, would also be the country’s first openly gay leader if elected, as well as the first prime minister of Maori descent

Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon said many residents were ‘not happy about losing control over their assets and infrastructure’. 

Another contender for PM, Kiri Allan, New Zealand’s minister of justice, would also be the country’s first openly gay leader if elected, as well as the first prime minister of Māori descent.

Ms Allan is a former lawyer and has held numerous ministerial positions for Labor since 2020. 

Upon announcing her resignation on Thursday, Ms Ardern said a good leader knew when to step down.

‘I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice,’ she said.

‘I would be doing a disservice to continue.’ 

WHO COULD REPLACE JACINDA ARDERN AS PM? 

Chris Hipkins – Education Minister, Remutaka MP

The favourite. The congenial 44-year-old, known as ‘Chippy’, is a close ally of Ms Ardern and Labour’s go-to political fixer, handed the COVID-19 ministry during the depths of the pandemic, then shifted to the police portfolio as law and order rose in prominence as an issue.

Andrew Little – Health Minister, List MP

Ms Ardern’s predecessor as leader who stood down to make way for his popular deputy back in 2017. 

That selfless masterstroke was lauded by his colleagues, but the 57-year-old former party president may have done his dash. 

Has taken major jobs in government, including health, security, justice and workplace relations.

Kiritapu Allan – Justice Minister, East Coast MP

First elected in 2017, Ms Allan quickly forged a reputation as a formidable speaker and advocate, becoming a Labour favourite. 

Entrusted with ministerial responsibilities after the 2020 election, the 38-year-old revealed a stage three cervical cancer diagnosis, entering remission and resuming full-time cabinet duties after medical leave. 

An outside shot, Ms Allan would become New Zealand’s first Maori PM and first openly LGBT leader. 

Michael Wood – Immigration Minister, Mt Roskill MP

Another who has rocketed up the charts during Ms Ardern’s leadership, Mr Wood is a favourite with the party’s left-wing flank for unapologetically championing progressive causes and his enthusiasm in combating the opposition Nationals. 

The 42-year-old has overseen major reforms as workplace relations and immigration minister this year.

Nanaia Mahuta – Foreign Minister 

Ms Mahuta became the first female MP to ever wear a moko kauae, a cultural marking worn by Māori women, in parliament and was also the first woman to hold the role of foreign minister.

Ms Mahuta has links to Māori royalty, with her father the adopted son of King Korokī.

She got the tattoo in 2016 and said it offers ‘positive ways to enable cultural expression and pride in being Māori. 

While a potential contender, it’s likely her role in the contentious Three Waters Reform will harm her chances of taking over leadership.

Grant Robertson – Deputy Prime Minister, Wellington Central MP

He’s ruled himself out, but the deputy prime minister has long been considered Ms Ardern’s heir apparent and many think the 51-year-old would be open to reconsidering should the party beg him to. 

A twice-defeated leadership candidate, Mr Robertson is perhaps parliament’s best debater, Ms Ardern’s closest ally and inexorably tied to her legacy. 

A former diplomat and adviser, Mr Robertson would create history as New Zealand’s first openly gay PM.

Source: Australian Associated Press 

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