Tess McClure in Auckland
On Thursday, the prime minister said abuse or threats to her and her family had not been a decisive factor in her decision to resign, and that she simply “no longer [had] enough in the tank to do it justice”. Prominent New Zealand political leaders and public figures, however, say that “constant vilification,” abuse and personal attacks have contributed to that burnout – with some MPs saying the prime minister was “driven from office”, and calling for New Zealand to reexamine its political culture.
“It is a sad day for politics where an outstanding leader has been driven from office for constant personalisation and vilification,” Māori party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said in the wake of Ardern’s surprise resignation on Thursday. “Her whānau [family] have withstood the ugliest attacks over the last two years with what we believe to be the most demeaning form of politics we have ever seen”.
Former prime minister Helen Clark, New Zealand’s first female elected leader, said that Ardern had faced “unprecedented” attacks during her tenure. “The pressures on prime ministers are always great, but in this era of social media, clickbait and 24/7 media cycles, Jacinda has faced a level of hatred and vitriol which in my experience is unprecedented in our country,” she said. “Our society could now usefully reflect on whether it wants to continue to tolerate the excessive polarisation which is making politics an increasingly unattractive calling.”…