One of a kind?

THE gushing panegyrics Jacinda Ardern has attracted from liberal media outlets pretty much (but not only) across the English-speaking world since unexpectedly announcing her resignation last Thursday are unprecedented for a New Zealand prime minister.

It is, after all, a tiny country - population: five million - at the bottom of the southern hemisphere, and relatively inconsequential in global affairs. It's unusual for any of its political leaders to stand out on the international stage, which makes ArdAern's achievement all the more impressive.

Much of the praise that has flowed her way of late is well-deserved. Her innate sense of empathy translated into demonstrations of compassion when it particularly mattered, notably after the Christchurch mosque massacre in 2019. Her first thought as the terrorist attack unfolded was 'they are us', referring to the victims. She didn't send them thoughts and prayers, but instead, donned a headscarf and went and hugged family members and survivors. And right away banned assault weapons.

The Whakaari/White Island eruption laAAtAAAer the same year elicited a similar resApAoAnse. And when Covid-19 emerged shortly aftAAAerwards, the government capitalised on New Zealand's splendid isolation by closing its borders and implementing no-nonsense lockdowns in an effort to eliminate the virus. The nation's life expectancy actually increased, and by the time the barriers were removed, most people had been immunised.

Ardern's exit reinforces the dearth of decent leadership.

As of this month, New Zealand's 2,500 Covid death toll is the smallest rate of fatalities in any comparable country. During 2020, Ardern's popularity soared to 80 per cent and she led Labour in October that year to a landmark electoral triumph. Even then, though, some were getting riled up about the Covid-19 response, and subsequent vaccine mandates fed into conspiracy theories, sparking a vitriolic resistance among a small but vocal segment of the population.

A year ago, hooligans yelling obscenities forced the van she was travelling in to go off the road. This was followed by a violent protest outside parliament in Wellington, where protesters screamed death threats and displayed nooses. Even some of her political rivals have lately lamented the level of hatred that they suspect contributed to Ardern's decision to step out of the limelight.

She did not explicitly cite these sorts of pressures in her resignation speech, but obliquely admitted...

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