Yes, the PM did have something to say in Napier – NZ will go to the polls on 14 October (without her leading Labour’s campaign)

Buzz from the Beehive

Hard on the heels of our Buzz from the Beehive earlier today, the PM has made two announcements – the 2023 general election will be held on Saturday 14 October and she will not be campaigning to win a third term as Prime Minister.   She will be stepping down as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party.

Her resignation will take effect on the appointment of a new Prime Minister.

It turns out we were remarkably prescient with the headline on our earlier post: If you are looking for the PM, try Napier – and for good measure she might have something to say.

She did have something to say – something much more momentous than (fair to say) your Point of Order team had expected.

Our earlier post noted that Jacinda Ardern had posted nothing on the Beehive website in the first 18 days of 2023 (but nor had most of her colleagues).

This does not mean the PM has not at least thought about her job over the holiday period.

A bundle of media reports suggest she has been busy working on how best to get her team into shape for the general election later this year and polishing her policy programme to optimise its appeal to the public.

The media conjecture which underpinned our thinking was right on one score.  She was preparing to announce the election date (although the pundits mostly were picking this would be announced after the first cabinet meeting next week).

The pundits also foresaw the announcement of a Cabinet reshuffle some time soon.

They did not pick that this would be necessitated by the  need for Labour to choose a new leader and Prime Minister.

Oh – before we start conjecturing on who will succeed Ardern, her deputy, Grant Robertson, has declared he is not a starter.

The Beehive post says –

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces resignation

Jacinda Ardern has announced she will step down as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party. Her resignation will take effect on the appointment of a new Prime Minister.

 A caucus vote to elect a new Party Leader will occur in three days, on Sunday 22 January.

“Being Prime Minister has been the greatest honour of my life and I want to thank New Zealanders for the enormous privilege of leading the country for the last five and a half years,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“With holding such a privileged role comes responsibility, including the responsibility to know when you’re the right person to lead, and also when you’re not.  

“I have given my absolute all to being Prime Minister but it has also taken a lot out of me. You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges that inevitably come along. 

“Having reflected over summer I know I no longer have that bit extra in the tank to do the job justice. It’s that simple. 

“I have spoken to the Governor-General this morning to let her know.”

The PM ticked off a list of issues she has tackled.

In addition to an ambitious agenda that had sought to address long term issues like the housing crisis, child poverty and climate change, she said, her government also had to respond to a major biosecurity incursion, a domestic terror attack, a volcanic eruption and a one in one hundred year global pandemic and ensuing economic crisis.

The decisions that had to be made had been constant and weighty, she said.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved over the last five years in spite of the many challenges thrown at us. We’ve turned around child poverty statistics and made the most significant increases in welfare support and public housing stock seen in many decades.

“We’ve made it easier to access education and training while improving the pay and conditions of workers. And we’ve worked hard to make progress on issues around our national identify – I believe that teaching our history in schools and celebrating Matariki as our own indigenous national holiday will all make a difference for years to come. 

“And we’ve done that while responding to some of the biggest threats to the health and economic wellbeing of New Zealanders, arguably since World War Two.”

Ardern was optimistic about her party’s prospects at the general election.

“The Labour team are incredibly well placed to contest the next election. They are the most experienced team in the country and have shown they have the skills necessary to respond to whatever comes their way.”

An no, she insists she is not jumping overboard from a doomed ship.

“I’m not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election, but because I believe Labour can and will win it. We need a fresh set of shoulders for the challenges of both this year and the next three. 

“As to my time in the job, I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader – one who knows when it’s time to go,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Her press statement makes several points on electing a new leader:

  • Jacinda Ardern will remain the MP for Mt Albert through till April. That means there will be no requirement for a by-election ahead of the General Election on October 14.
  • The Labour Caucus has seven days to ascertain whether one individual holds more than two-thirds support within caucus to become the new leader and Prime Minister. A caucus vote for a new leader will occur in three days on 22 January.
  • If no-one receives two-thirds support within caucus, the leadership contest will go to the wider Labour membership. This can happen in a short time frame and the Prime Minister has recommended to the Party that the process, if required, conclude no later than 7 February.

The statement from deputy prime minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson is to be found on the Scoop website.

He says he is not putting himself forward to be a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party.

In 2014 when he failed to secure the leadership of the Party for the second time (he reminds us) he indicated he would not put herself forward again.

My position has not changed.

Robertson said he had been a close-up witness to Ardern’s work as leader and Prime Minister.

The level of intensity and commitment required of Prime Minister is an order of magnitude greater than any other role. It is a job that you must unequivocally want to do in order to do it the justice it deserves.  I have every confidence that there are colleagues within the Caucus who are both capable of doing the role, and have the desire to take it on.  They will have my full support.

It is a privilege to be Minister of Finance.  I recognise that as the country faces a challenging economic environment, experience, stability and continuity are critical. I remain absolutely committed to fulfilling that role, or any other one the new Leader will ask me to undertake.  I am also committed to running in the 2023 election to help secure a further term for a Labour led government.

I will not be making any further comment on the leadership until the process has concluded.

It has been the honour of my working life to have supported Jacinda as Minister of Finance and as Deputy Prime Minister.   Her intellect, judgement and empathy mark her out as one of New Zealand’s finest Leaders.  I believe that history will judge her tenure as Prime Minister as a period where New Zealand not only weathered many storms, but also made huge progress in becoming a stronger, fairer and more inclusive nation.  

As a colleague, a friend and a New Zealander I am incredibly grateful for her service and commitment and wish her every joy and success in the future.

When he nation recovers from the resignation bombshell, it should take note of the second statement Ardern posted today –

General Election to be held on 14 October 2023

The 2023 General Election will be held on Saturday 14 October 2023, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

“Announcing the election date early in the year provides New Zealanders with certainty and has become the practice of this Government and the previous one, and I believe is best practice,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Most recent elections have been held in the latter months of the year, so this year’s timing keeps with that tradition and is similar to the 2020 election date.”

Labour would be standing on its strong record of progress, Ardern said.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved over these two terms. We are a strong, experienced and effective team that has successfully steered New Zealand through the greatest challenges our country has faced in decades.

“While I won’t be contesting the election, I know the issues that impact New Zealanders most will remain the focus of the Government through this year and into the election.

“The ability for families to make ends meet, to create new opportunities to get ahead and keeping the economy strong and stable in the face of international headwinds will continue to be our focus,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The Governor-General has been advised of the election date.

The Government’s intention is that the House will rise on Thursday 31 August and Parliament will be dissolved on Friday 8 September.

Writ day will follow on Sunday 10 September and nominations will close at noon on Friday 15 September.  Advance voting will start on Monday 2 October 2023.

The last day for the return of the writ will be 9 November 2023.

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