Issue 385 February 1, 2018
The news that Jacinda Ardern and her Partner Clarke Gayford are expecting their first child in June, as expected, made headlines across the world.
New Zealanders rejoiced and save for a few politicians and even fewer media persons, hundreds of thousands of people congratulated the young Prime Minister, wishing her well during her pregnancy.
Mr Gayford scored points accepting to be a full-time father while his Partner manages the country and leads a coalition government and implement promised reforms.
Labour MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan writes in this issue (Homelink), “It is wonderful to have a woman Prime Minister of child-bearing age, let alone one who will deliver her baby while in office… I am also proud because it normalises both motherhood in politics and full-time fatherhood. At a time when the women’s rights movement continues to fight to advance the status of women in New Zealand and globally, it is a powerful statement against rigid gender norms and stereotypes.”
The Right to Privacy
While transparency and accountability are twin aspects of political life in New Zealand, it is unfathomable that Prime Ministers must reveal everything that happens in their private lives.
The ‘right to know’ does not extend beyond their political realm.
As Ruby Hamad wrote in The Guardian (UK), being Prime Minister today involves more responsibility, over a more centralised government, exercised in a more punishing media culture and more adversarial political one, than was imaginable even in the 1980s.
“A Prime Minister must discharge these responsibilities from the endearing but hopelessly amateurish surroundings of an adapted terraced house,” she said.
Realty of life
Aside from her infectious excitement, it is refreshing to see her so deftly sweep aside any potential arguments that she cannot be both Prime Minister and a Mother.
“Not that we can blame the many women who feel like they cannot have a similarly demanding job and be devoted mothers, given women are still navigating a system that assumes women will be the primary caretakers of children and does so very little to help them juggle their professional and personal lives.”
Clement Atlee, Labour Party Post War Prime Minister (UK) wrote a number of essays on ‘The Politics of Character.’
“If a politician does not display courage, the chances are that he (or she) will never become the Leader, or that if he (or she) does, he (or she) will not last very long. Neither will he (or she) endure ‘if he cannot trust.’ No one can lead who is afraid of losing his (her) job.”
Fresh legislative measures
“In addition to being the country’s third female prime minister and the first to be sworn in while pregnant, Ardern’s government is implementing a swath of legislation to ease the burden for working families, such as increasing paid parental leave.”
Ms Ardern has plenty to do and the Labour-led Coalition government has a long way to go. She needs the support of people- not just her supporters but also her adversaries.
Democracy thrives in a country which provide for alternate government every few years- if history is of any help, in the case of New Zealand, every nine years.