Ardern: A graceful resignation from an inspiring leader

It came as a surprise. People in the UK and elsewhere woke up to the news that Jacinda Ardern, the admired prime minister of New Zealand is to step down next month. She announced the news in an emotional speech at the Labour annual caucus meeting on Thursday.

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.

In resigning, Ardern is once again a role model for the world. History is littered with despots and politicians who have clung to power for too long. Hung on when, even if they are not exhausted, citizens are exhausted of them. In this country, Blair, Johnson and Thatcher come to mind and worldwide, too many despots to mention.

Ardern has always been different. Caring not cruel. Dedicated more than ambitious and avaricious. She had earned a reputation as a compassionate and credible prime minister, admired internationally, perhaps more so than she currently is at home. She steered her country through the pandemic, the Christchurch terrorist killings and the deadly Whakaari volcanic eruption.

Vera Alves, writing in the New Zealand Herald, says she is surprised that Ardern didn’t resign earlier:

In fact, the only surprising thing about today’s announcement is the fact that it didn’t happen a long time ago, when she first started getting hate for trying to steer the country away from mass death in a global pandemic. I’m not sure any other Prime Minister in history has had to deal with the level of vitriol Ardern has had to put up with on a regular, exhausting basis. They wouldn’t give it a rest so she went ahead and decided to give herself a rest.

Everyone laughed at Michael Gove dancing at a night club but that was because we were surprised that Govey was a real human. Ardern danced at a night club and got right wing and misogynist flak.

Those misogynists will no doubt now be saying, we always said a woman wasn’t strong enough for the job.

Jacinda Ardern ended her resignation statement with a comment so typical of her:

I hope… I leave behind a belief that you can be kind, but strong. Empathetic, but decisive. Optimistic, but focused. That you can be your own kind of leader – one that knows when it’s time to go.

Every leader should take that to heart.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Yeovil Yokel 19th Jan '23 - 8:01am

    Hear, hear Andy – she’s such a contrast to the thieving non-entities currently running the UK.

  • Oh for someone of that calibre in our own country!!

  • George Thomas 19th Jan '23 - 10:23am

    Someone smart enough to do more good than harm, someone inspiring enough to give their nation hope, someone graceful enough to step away at the right time.

    Of course she wasn’t perfect and didn’t get everything right, but I don’t think we have a political leader equal to her in the UK currently and quite possibly haven’t throughout my lifetime.

  • As a kiwi in London for almost 40 years I’ve never used my right to vote in NZ (as I wasn’t paying tax there). I broke that rule 3 years ago. Not that she needed my vote. I was there during the Christchurch shootings . My brother and sister in law (both Drs) were caught up in it. I’ll never forget the impact she had on what happened next. After showing amazing empathy with the victim’s families she wasted no time in using the nationwide feeling to change laws on gun ownership. As a kiwi who couldn’t visit home for a couple of years I totally supported NZers right to be alive above my right to visit. Some people deride zero covid but it was never the Chinese version. There was every chance that a vaccine would be found and NZ opened up as soon as enough people were vacinated. Look at NZ’s covid death rate compared with the UK’s. Labour will stuggle to stay in power in the October elections (and their chances are probably reduced without her) but she’s deserved some family time. She can obviously do what she wants but it’s clear that she could follow in NZ’s other great female PM, Helen Clark and finda global role given her international recognition and respect. Her exit is like the rest of her last six years – of the highest class. Makes me proud to be a kiwi.

  • I too was surprised by this announcement. It will be a difficult for NZ progressives.

    I note this assessment by a leading NZ blogger (I suspect a Green Party voter)

  • Over Jacinda Ardern’s six years, one party in the UK has provided five Prime Ministers, which is a sobering thought. Her style of leadership can be seen as one of the most powerful responses to the horrors of the extreme right and anti-politics populism that party politicians can offer. It supports a rekindling of my belief that working for democratic parties can sometimes look like a serious vocation that we need never be ashamed of.

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