New York Times says Jacinda Ardern ‘won’t save’ the UK or US
Since Jacinda Ardern was elected Prime Minister in 2017, Brits and Americans have openly expressed jealousy of New Zealand’s leadership.
But a writer for the New York Times says their fascination is naive and politically misguided.
London-based journalist Stephen Buranyi penned an opinion piece for the newspaper’s Monday edition titled Jacinda Ardern won’t save you.
While discussing the political “disaster” of Brexit, Buryani says the UK media and much of the public has taken to fantasising about a “competent foreign leader” taking over from unpopular Prime Minister Theresa May.
Their preferred candidate is Ardern, with op-eds in The Guardian, The Mirror and even conservative newspaper the Scottish Sun expressing a desire for her to be brought in as a “living, smiling antidote” to the current leader.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is another popular choice, particularly among Americans who are facing similar political turmoil. US publications have also admired Ardern’s leadership, particularly in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack.
Buryani argues that the international popularity of Ardern and Trudeau lies in their relative youth, charisma and physical attractiveness rather than any well-founded belief they could steer global powers like the UK or the US away from catastrophe.
“The real heart of the competent-outsider fantasy is that politics is still okay somewhere else, that there is a place it hasn’t become splintered, tribal and seemingly beyond control,” he writes.
“But these leaders don’t actually offer solutions to problems like Brexit or Mr Trump’s election. How could they? Neither New Zealand nor Canada has faced these kinds of challenges. Nor does their appeal lie in their fresh-faced, telegenic youth.”
He says the desire to return to an “idealised past of consensus” is at the heart of the British and American infatuation with Ardern, as both countries find themselves bitterly divided over political and ideological lines.
“Mr Trudeau and Ms Ardern are attractive because they still practice a brand of genial, inclusive liberalism, the so-called ‘third way’ that ruled Western democratic politics for the better part of the past 25 years, and in doing so, they nod to the familiarity and safety of our own political past.”
Buryani says the current New Zealand Labour Party is similar to the UK Labour Party during Tony Blair’s decade as leader between 1997 and 2007, and argues Blairite politics no longer has any place in either the UK or the US, which are now “structured by social division”.
“There is no substantive reason to think that leaders elsewhere would be better suited to deal with [division] than the ones we currently have,” Buryani says.
“Changing government, Mr Blair said in 1999, “is like sweeping away the entire management of a company” – but there are few people today who believe that management is what we truly need, and fewer still think that switching out the chief executive for a smarter, better looking one counts as change.”
Buryani’s piece is accompanied by an illustration showing Ardern wearing a medieval knight’s helmet, extending a hand to a burning London and New York while she dangles from a helicopter bearing the New Zealand flag.