How the resignation of Jacinda Ardern as Leader of the Labour Party will shape the political year ahead for student voters
On January 19, the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, publicly announced her resignation from the role, after leading the country through five and a half years of significant events. On January 25, Chris Hipkins was sworn in as the new face of the job, after being the sole nominee by the Labour Party caucus. This change in leadership marks a significant change in advance of the year ahead, with the election date scheduled for October 14. Jacinda will remain Member of Parliament for the Mount Albert electorate until late April, as to not require a by-election for the seat.
Prior to Jacinda’s resignation, in late November 2022, the official 1 News-Kantar Public poll showed Labour support for the 2023 election sitting at 33%—5% points down from National (led by Christopher Luxon), at 38%. Now, in the wake of her resignation, the tables have turned: the same poll from late January shows Labour support has risen to 38%, with National support dropping to 37%—providing Labour with a 1% lead.
This change in Labour support makes sense, given Jacinda’s preferred PM ranking in December 2022 sat at the lowest it had been since August 2017. There are several narratives explaining this declining support: public concern over the rapidly rising cost of living, frustration from some over Covid-19 protocols, and, of course, concern that a female just can’t do the job as well. Remember, everyone, neither Chris Hipkins nor Chris Luxon get asked questions like, “Is it okay for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?” or “A lot of people will be wondering whether you two are meeting just because… you’re similar in age… and you’ve got a lot of common stuff there…?” (in reference to Jacinda’s meeting with fellow woman and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin). Whether the steadily increasing support for Labour is due to a fresh face, Chris Hipkins’s sharp cull of controversial Labour party policy, or misogynists redeclaring their love for red (see also: a white man with red hair), it’s clear that there is now an election to be had.
With such a big change to the status quo only nine months out from voting, the upcoming election win could be either Chris’s win in the ring. As an important (but oft-forgotten in the ongoing age of ‘phone-call’ polls—who owns a landline anymore?) demographic of the voting population, Craccum spoke to two students to see how the switch of faces at the helm of Labour will, or will not, impact their voting agenda.
Commerce student Daniel remarked, “I believe it was a good call to replace Ardern as Prime Minister. She was a good person to handle the many crises New Zealand faced in the previous years, however, the upcoming and current issues need a new PM to provide new perspective and response.” However, he also told Craccum that the change in Labour’s leadership will not change the way he votes, as “after having no say in the previous elections, being able to witness the results and outcomes of government decisions allowed me to choose the way I would vote regardless of any leadership change.”
In contrast, law student and fellow namesake, Chris, says the change in leadership will impact how he votes, saying it will make him “more policy focused… Chris Hipkins has cut out more controversial parts of Labour’s reform, so it’s a much closer set of policies between the two major parties.” When asked what he thought of the change in leadership, he commented, “I think it was a good call for a change in leadership. Jacinda was quite focused on reform, but generally people are more concerned with getting through the present moment, like with the floods, and Covid. Chris Hipkins seems to be keyed into this.”