St Jacinda’s world audience cannot accept the truth about…

Political obituaries were pouring in all day. Jacinda Ardern, it seemed, was just too good for this filthy political world. “A true world leader,” said Sir Keir Starmer. His difference from the world was “immeasurable,” said Justin Trudeau. And how the Prime Minister of New Zealand – a global progressive icon – was not sullied by losing an election but had the grace to step down, saying she is emotionally drained. In doing so, she began her final act: the Assumption of Saint Jacinda, a world leader now showing the world how to say goodbye.

That’s one way of saying it. Another is to say that her popularity was down and she had decided she would probably lose the general election this fall. But rather than let voters deliver a verdict on her zero Covid policy, she ran away. Doing so in an election year leaves little time for his successor to establish himself – thus condemning his party, Labor, to certain defeat. She may have used her campaigning skills to limit the damage, but instead she bailed out: the party and the country.

Ardern is, like Barack Obama, a case study in how a foreign leader can be revered abroad while deeply polarized at home. His flagship zero-Covid policy seemed to work, for a time, and the 2020 New Zealand general election was, indeed, a huge thank you for saving the country from the 35,000 deaths that the Imperial College of Neil Ferguson. It marked many firsts. She took maternity leave during her tenure. She united the country after the terrorist attack in Christchurch. She was a diplomat par excellence.

But for New Zealanders who had to live with his policies (and his taxes), things were rather different. Its failure to secure Covid vaccines with anything like the speed managed by Kate Bingham’s task force has left the Kiwis locked in long after the Europeans have flown away on holiday. The Delta variant then arrived anyway, leaving many to argue that zero-Covid pain had been for naught. Then came his draconian vaccination mandate, which forced hundreds of teachers, prison officers and others out of their jobs for refusing to take the vaccine.

Other zero-Covid policies are now bouncing back. Border closures have cut off the supply of immigrants that New Zealand has long relied on, now leading to chronic labor shortages. About a million famous traveling Kiwis have been barred from their own country; most have never forgiven him. In London, she was seen as so sympathetic to Beijing – seeking trade and reluctant to join in criticizing Chinese human rights – that the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network was in jeopardy. It doesn’t seem so slick now after the invasion of Ukraine drew a sharper line between democracy and autocracy.

Global applause for its early adoption of net zero has found little echo in New Zealand’s farming community, the backbone of the national economy. Growing up in the Highlands of Scotland, farmers referred to New Zealand as the Silicon Valley of farming, with techniques so advanced and efficient they needed no subsidies. It was (and remains) a wonder of the world. But now, under the threat of green levies, the rural vote has hardened against her – a bad enemy to make.

As is so often the case with national leaders revered by the outside world, his biggest problem was something domestic and boring. In his case, the so-called Three Waters Plan aims to overhaul New Zealand’s creaky plumbing infrastructure and grant Maori tribes “co-governance” of new public assets. Given that Maori make up 17% of the population, this seemed undemocratic to many. Voters started complaining about “Cindy and her three waters,” even though it wasn’t her idea and they didn’t know much about politics.

And to this must be added a general exhaustion with the pursuit of fashionable and polarizing politics: government departments being given Maori names, for example, the Pensions Commission becoming Te Ara Ahunga Ora and so on. Wellington’s protests against vaccination mandates, which were to be broken up by the police, have provoked scenes of political violence that are quite rare in New Zealand: and not at all welcome. All this adds to the appetite for a change, for someone boring, less controversial.

Enter Christopher Luxon, a 52-year-old bald Tory who once ran Air New Zealand and now leads the National Party. No one can accuse him of being charismatic or of being a political genius. Chosen as leader after just a year in parliament and still politically awkward, he would certainly have struggled in the October election against the experienced Ardern. But her likely successors as Labor leader are just as low-key as Luxon, just as annoying and as deeply committed to zero Covid as she is. With his eloquence, the election would have been in the balance. Without it, a National Party landslide now seems likely.

What about Luxon’s themes? The conservative bases: that public spending is out of control, taxes too high. That he would do a better job of managing the economy, fixing the groaning health care system, sorting out violent crime. Labor ended up being too fond of taxes and spending and started targeting the ‘utes’ (pick-ups) that Kiwis like to drive. On such trivial matters, even the most prestigious political reign can come to an end.

Speaking in London ahead of the Queen’s funeral, Ardern let slip that she was thinking about her own political mortality. “I’ll never really understand how she gave her whole life,” she said. Five years of her own work as prime minister, she said, had been enough – but to dedicate a lifetime to public service? “It’s a sacrifice.” One she had, naturally enough, had enough of. Fighting and (probably) losing an election just to save a few seats for your party is obviously too big a sacrifice.

You could call it the curse of Covid: Leaders who have locked themselves in have either lost power or seem poised to do so. Zero Covid has failed on its own terms, but it’s the authoritarianism – particularly over vaccination mandates – that has never been quite forgiven. New Zealand now wants to turn the page and rebuild, as Australia did last year. And that explains the Passion of Saint Jacinda: she thought her choice was to be rejected by the voters after an acrimonious election campaign – or to step down now and soak up the cheers of the world. For a global icon, there was really only one option.

Theresa May was born on 1 October 1956 in Eastbourne, Sussex, May is the only child of Zaidee Mary (née Barnes; 1928â1982) and Hubert Brasier (1917â1981).

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How long was Margaret Thatcher prime minister? As her support waned, she was challenged for her leadership and persuaded by the Cabinet to withdraw from the second ballot – ending her eleven-year term as Prime Minister. She was succeeded by John Major, her Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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Who was the longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century? Margaret Thatcher is the oldest PM in the 20th century. She was a very controversial leader. This led to the term Thatcherism.

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