It gives one a warm feeling to see a brilliant, compassionate, progressive political leader succeed in a world that often seems committed to elevating the worst of the lot. The Anglosphere, for example, has seen a couple of buffoons elected to lead its two most important countries. But, gemlike amidst this male dross, is Jacinda Arden, prime minister of New Zealand.
Last Saturday, Prime Minister Arden’s Labor Party was re-elected in a landslide, its biggest win in 60 years. It also achieved the highest result for any party since the country switched to a proportional representation (PR) voting system in 1996. Labor received almost twice the support of its main opponent, the National Party, led by the Thatcher-admiring Judith Collins whose major promise was massive tax cuts.
Populist parties were also routed, in part because as one pundit commented “A huge reason that our politics is not so extremely polarized and so far out there is because we no longer have Murdoch-owned press in New Zealand, and it’s never taken a foothold.” PR voting may also have helped maintain sanity.
Ardern’s popularity is a result of her decisive and compassionate leadership, exhibited at its best during her empathetic response to the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques and in her leadership of the country’s successful effort to stamp out the coronavirus. (There is currently no community spread and people are no longer required to wear masks or maintain physical distance.)
While joyously celebrating her victory, she promised to govern for all New Zealanders. And she means it. Even though her party has a majority in parliament, she has held out the possibility of forming a coalition government. She explains, “We are living in an increasingly polarized world, a place where, more and more, people have lost the ability to see one another’s point of view.”
Ardern joins that other gem of democratic leadership, Angela Merkel. Is it mere coincidence that perhaps the two most civilized of world leaders are women? In any case, I join with London mayor Sadiq Khan who congratulated Ardern on her victory saying they shared a vision for “an inclusive, fairer and greener future.” Count me in, Sadiq.