Bryce Edwards: Ardern’s stardust and substance on display in New York 

Bryce Edwards: Ardern’s stardust and substance on display in New York 

The phrase “stardust and substance” continues to epitomise much of the thinking about Jacinda Ardern as she spends a week in New York gathering both media profile and making diplomatic speeches. To her admirers, it’s a nice phrase that draws attention to the fact that she has both style and depth.

You can see an example of both in the Herald article, Baby Neve watches mum Jacinda Ardern speak at the UN. In this you can view the first public pictures of Ardern’s three-month-old baby, as well as the speech given by the Prime Minister to the UN, about Nelson Mandela’s impact on New Zealand.

The pictures will be printed in many newspapers around the world. After all, the images of a baby and her mother in the UN general assembly are historically significant – as reported by Eleanor Ainge Roy in The Guardian today – see: Jacinda Ardern makes history with baby Neve at UN general assembly.

The Guardian reports: “New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has made history as the first female world leader to attend the United Nations general assembly meeting with her newborn baby in tow. Ardern appeared with her infant daughter at the UN on Monday evening, and played with her before giving a speech at the Nelson Mandela peace summit. While she spoke, Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford held the three-month-old baby on his lap.”

The Jacinda Ardern Show

Overnight, the Prime Minister also appeared on the NBC’s Today breakfast show. You can watch the five-minute item here: New Zealand’s prime minister talks about being a new mom and world leader.

The whole interview with “Madam Prime Minister” is worth watching, but of particular interest is her discussion of juggling motherhood and being prime minister, and her leadership philosophy: “I really rebel against this idea that politics has to be a place full of ego, where you’re constantly focussed on scoring hits against one another… Yes we need a robust democracy but you can be strong and you can be kind. We’re building what I’d like to believe is a really compassionate government, one that’s focussed on lifting the wellbeing of our people but also doing well economically too.”

Given the programme is watched by millions, Ardern will have won over many fans in the US. But she’ll also win over more here in New Zealand, based on the report that she sought out some fans who waited for her outside of the studio – see Jo McKenzie-McLean’s Jacinda Ardern searches for Kiwi women in crowd after Today show appearance.

Also, it’s worth watching an earlier item about Ardern, from June, when The Today Show’s Cynthia Mc Fadden visited the Prime Minister – see: Meet New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern – pregnant and in power. In this, Ardern says she was “furious” to be compared to Donald Trump on immigration, and any suggestion that “New Zealand was not an open, outward-facing country” under her leadership made her “extremely angry”.

Increasing fascination with Ardern, Gayford, and Neve

For Jacinda Ardern, the whole week is turning into something of a “celebrity circuit” according to Newshub’s political editor Tova O’Brien, who reports from New York that baby “Neve has gone global”. The AM Show’s Duncan Garner says about Ardern: “She’s very much going to be a new squeezy toy in the toy shop. They’re all going to want to touch her and meet her and shake hands and ‘aw where’s the baby’” – see Scott Palmer’s Jacinda Ardern ‘new squeezy toy’ at United Nations – Duncan Garner.

International fascination with the family is being helpfully assisted by Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford, who has been dutifully tweeting updates on the week. His latest says: “Because everyone on twitter’s been asking to see Neve’s UN id, staff here whipped one up” – see: A UN ID for baby Neve, by public demand.

For a discussion of the ID, along with questions about its legitimacy, and whether the baby should be categorised as “Miss” or “Ms”, see Aziz Al-Sa’afin’s New Zealand First’s baby or New Zealand First baby?

Discussions of Ardern’s intense international media coverage

The media coverage and enthusiasm for Ardern in New York seems like a million miles away from “the catalogue of troubles she has had to deal with at home” according to Tracy Watkins – see her article: What lies behind Jacinda Ardern’s appeal in the US? To her followers, it’s hope.

Watkins also reports on the Prime Minister’s first speech in New York to the Social Good Summit, where she was introduced to the audience as “one of the voices of ‘hope’.” And Ardern didn’t disappoint: “Ardern’s speech would have enhanced her credentials; she focused on children and poverty and promised to get New Zealand’s ‘own house in order’ rather than lecture the world.”

But apparently, the biggest response came when Ardern dealt with the fact that the US hasn’t yet had a female president: “We’ve had three female prime ministers. It’s really no big deal guys.”

This doesn’t mean that Ardern is just getting scrutiny-free publicity at the moment. Some of New Zealand’s journalists are already noting that Ardern has been making herself more available for interviews with international media than with domestic outlets. For example, on the RNZ website, David Cohen writes about the “almost uniformly positive global coverage” that the PM is receiving and asks whether she is in fact “booking in too many international media appearances” – see: How to win an argument about: the Primetime Minister.

This sort of criticism is dealt with by Claire Trevett, who examines Ardern’s schedule in New York, and reports that the PM has deliberately pulled back on appearances: “Ardern copped some flak for the amount of ‘soft’ international media she did after becoming PM, especially because she was turning down New Zealand media at the same time. That criticism is one of the reasons she decided to turn down screeds more international media requests than she has accepted – among them the prestigious New Yorker. That is something of a shame” – see: When the Prime Minister looks good so does New Zealand.

Finally, one of the recent articles that has caused some backlash is the New York Times interview/profile by Maureen Dowd – see: Lady of the Rings: Jacinda Rules. This led Danyl Mclachlan to reply: Here’s what the NY Times didn’t tell you about life in Jacinda Ardern’s New Zealand.