But a seven-minute series of questions in Parliament on Tuesday from David Seymour, who leads the libertarian ACT party, led to the outburst.
Turning to her deputy, Grant Robertson, Ardern muttered under her breath, though not inaudibly enough to avoid being picked up by internal microphones and entering the official parliamentary records: “He’s such an arrogant guy. [expletive].”
Widely regarded globally as an effective and empathetic leader and an antidote to populist politicians elsewhere, Ardern has been criticized at home for her handling of the economy emerging from a long period of isolation during the pandemic. Ardern’s centre-left Labor Party has been trailing in opinion polls of late ahead of national elections next year.
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The small island nation is dealing with many of the pressures seen elsewhere: inflation, rising interest rates and housing affordability issues. He also faces localized problems, such as a series of jewelry store break-ins and neighborhood store robberies, at least one fatal, that have led some voters to perceive his administration as soft on crime.
“The government is under a lot of pressure,” said Seymour, who received the profane comment Tuesday. “I was pretty shocked because I’ve known Jacinda for 11 years,” he said, describing the incident as “out of character”.
Seymour said the prime minister texted her later to apologize, taking note of her mother’s sage advice: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say it.”
Seymour said he responded, wishing Ardern “Merry Christmas,” indicating that it was all water under the bridge. “That’s the Kiwi way.”
The prime minister’s office confirmed in an email that it apologized to Seymour, but offered no further comment.
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Ardern’s government faces opposition to a number of hot-button policies on its legislative agenda for next year, including changes to water governance, a world-first plan to tax agricultural emissions and revisions to hate speech laws.
In an interview with national broadcaster Radio New Zealand on Monday, Ardern said his administration would reflect on some of those policies over the summer, when Parliament is in recess, “and just [ask] ourselves, whether it’s from a spending perspective, an investment perspective, or just a focus perspective, those are things we should be prioritizing right now.”
As for Seymour, he joked that he might have an exaggerated sense of his own importance: Later that night, when an unsuspecting aunt asked him if he’d like to go to dinner with her, he replied, “Why would you want to have dinner with an arrogant guy? , ending with the word used by Ardern.
The prank backfired, he said. She hadn’t caught up on the news of the day.