Jacinda Ardern’s resignation as Prime Minister of New Zealand and leader of the New Zealand Labour Party may be a surprise – a pleasant one to many – but politically and personally it makes sense.

With an election looming, this year is going to be all about inflation and recession, giving little scope for being kind, which is Jacinda’s trademark and the basis of her popular appeal.

“Be kind” served her well in the wake of the Christchurch shootings and in keeping the country free of Covid for a year, but people need more than empathy when their mortgage payments have doubled and they are in danger of losing their house.

In personal terms, Ardern has spruiked her departure from the helm as an opportunity for more family life. The daughter she gave birth to in her first year as PM turns five this year so she will be able to do the school run with her. And there will finally be “time” for her and long-term partner Clarke Gayford to get married.

(By the way, how much time does it take to get married? More than having a baby to look after?)

There’s no institution as important as the family, not even the government, let alone the Labour Party, and there is no firmer foundation for the family than marriage. Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford deserves a fully committed mother and father – as do all New Zealand children.

Yet this is one of the great blind spots of Ardern and her political friends – a blindness spreading across the political spectrum as successive governments refuse to address the crumbling structure of the family. Cohabitation such as Ardern and Gayford have modelled is displacing marriage but is less stable and therefore less secure for children.

One of Ardern’s pet projects was reducing child poverty. By increasing welfare benefits and a tax break for low to middle income working families, as well as other social spending, she claimed to have lifted as many as 66,000 children out of poverty. Yet by the end of 2022 there were still (another) 60,000 children in severe deprivation.

The fact is that the poorest children in this country are those living with just a single parent (about 15 percent of all children). Another 15 percent of sole parent families live with other adults, but this doesn’t always improve their safety or wellbeing. Poverty reduction when families are fractured is a bottomless pit.

Ardern, who owes at least some of her self-confidence and success to being raised in the strong family culture of the Mormon faith, has done nothing to address such causes of poverty and misery among Kiwis.

On the contrary, she has championed the kind of sexual culture that undermines commitment and family bonds. Invited to give the prestigious Harvard Commencement Address last May, she made special mention of decriminalising abortion (and turning it into “healthcare”).

Since then, her government (with the help of the ghastly liberals in National) has banned pro-life counselling efforts near abortion clinics, and launched a free phone service facilitating home chemical abortions. Boosting abortions is, of course, one way to reduce poverty.

On top of that Ardern’s leadership has given us a law that, under the guise of promoting minority rights, threatens sanctions for anyone, even a parent, who discourages homosexual or transgender tendencies in the young. It’s fine, even obligatory, however, to encourage such tendencies in schoolchildren, along with the crudest forms of sex education.

Following the Christchurch shootings, and with the extra oxygen of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ardern gained global admiration for her leadership in a crisis. It seemed humane and wise, and perhaps hers really was the best way to deal with those events.

But when it came to a programme of national development, of direction, wisdom gave way to woke policies that were all too predictable: Zero Carbon, legalising recreational marijuana (a referendum rejected it), abortion, LGBTQ rights, supporting euthanasia (initiative from the libertarian party, Act), centralisation of health and other public services, a “co-governance” model of indigenous rights, miserliness with immigration…

In the light of these issues, Ardern looks just like any other left-wing politician. More attractive and therefore a little more plausible, but neither attractive or plausible enough when New Zealanders found they somehow had to foot the bill in the form of inflation and rising interest rates. Her popularity plunged and Labour’s with it.

We can give her this much credit, however: no leader will be able to do a better job unless he or she has the courage to face the fundamental shakiness of a society where the basic social unit, the family, is not respected, cultivated and supported.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet