Jacinda Ardern goes on her own terms because not all politicians leave in disgrace - Alexander Brown

Jacinda Ardern has resigned as New Zealand’s prime minister, setting the new standard for political exits.

The 42-year-old cited burnout, with the weight of trying to protect her country through the pandemic a heavy burden, especially without any illegal parties to keep her occupied.

Because that’s the thing. This is that rare political departure, leaving on her own terms undefeated and without any major scandal, at least at the time of writing.

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She has not called and lost a referendum that would go on to damage the economy more than Covid. She has not promised an impossible Brexit deal, did not appoint someone known as a predator and lie about parties through lockdown, or even tank the economy.

New Zealand's Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern speaks during the One Planet Summit in New York. Picture: AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

We don’t have dignified exits in Britain. Even winners like Tony Blair only went after several years of lying to Gordon Brown and then, in case the Iraq war wasn’t enough, tarnished his legacy even further by taking money from regimes like Saudi Arabia, as well as advising a Kazakh dictator on public relations.

He was also a Middle Eastern peace envoy, which is like asking Andrew Tate to give advice on toxic masculinity.

Instead, Ardern is resigning because she just doesn’t want to do it anymore, seeing the faff of a difficult election and falling approvals ratings and going, nah, absolutely not.

It’s going out at the top, leaving with your head held high, quitting while you’re ahead, which I think is a gambling term, but I’m not sure because betting shops are a parasite on our high streets I avoid.

Who hasn’t wanted to quit their job at some point, getting bored, frustrated or just ready for a new challenge. You just don’t usually see it in politics.

The usual moving-on point from jobs is two years – happy two years and five months at The Scotsman to me – but Ms Ardern managed half a decade. She’s earned walking off into the sunset.

Because leaving things early is brilliant. So very little good happens after your second pint. Your team is probably not coming back from 3-0 down, your abusive and distant partner is not going to change.

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When I was younger, I went to work at a newspaper abroad, excited to learn a new language and live by the sea. Instead, I left after three months because I was paid more than all my female colleagues, the editor wanted me to make up quotes and threatened to dock pay for typos.

It could have been a great experience, but instead I simply walked, and that flight home was one of the greatest reliefs of my life. I didn’t have to do it anymore.

Ardern’s situation is exactly the same – two equally important people leaving very important significant jobs they did not enjoy.

Too many of us do things out of obligation, staying at a party we aren’t enjoying, having a second date when we know they’re boring, eating vegetables.

The soon-to-be former Prime Minister of New Zealand has seen a lot of hard work ahead and decided, no I don’t think I will. Now that’s leadership.



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