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The Promise of Women With Political Power in 2023

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13 January 2023

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No one can predict the future but that doesn’t stop anyone from the fun of guessing. Lacking any horoscope credentials we’re predicting that the following names will be ones for whom the heavens and the Greek Gods will be meddling with..

Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Arden in jeans and white shirt with hand on her hip

Don’t believe the stories that the PM is about to quit. Jacinda Ardern will lead Labour into the 2023 election and, quite possibly, into an historic third term of Government. Ardern’s last five years as Prime Minister read like an Old Testament story – global pestilence, natural disasters, an evil terrorist attack. With those things more or less dealt with (let’s hope!), Ardern and her Government will need to show they can deal with more “normal” problems. You know, minor things like the cost of living, the housing crisis and poverty.  

Sure, some of the shine has come off the PM in the last year or so, that is inevitable for any second-term government, but Ardern is not just an expert politician, she’s an experienced one, and experience is one thing her opposite number, Chris Luxon, lacks. Watch out for election time debates.

The other key time to watch the PM in 2023 will be the Budget in May. The words will be her Deputy, Grant Robertson’s but it’s a safe bet the announcements and spending decisions will all be ones Ardern is comfortable with. To what extent will the PM stick to Labour’s core goals of reducing poverty and helping beneficiaries and the least well-off working families? Or will the temptation to court middle- and higher-income voters with policies such as income insurance prove too great?

Internationally, Ardern has achieved a level of recognition and respect beyond that of any New Zealand Prime Minister in recent decades. Some of that is based on her global initiatives like the Christchurch Call she and French President Emmanuel Macron set in place to eliminate violent extremist online content. But underpinning it is the unquestionable integrity and intelligence she brings to international affairs. When Jacinda Ardern does eventually leave Parliament, it is certainly well within the bounds of possibility that she will become New Zealand’s first United Nations Secretary-General. 

Nicola Willis

Nicola Willis National Party Politician

2023 is going to be a critical year for Nicola Willis. She is one of those time-honoured and venerable National Party politicians, the social liberal. It’s a valuable balance for the party to Luxon’s open social conservatism and is sure to appeal to many female (and male) voters. Still, it is going to be a tricky year for her. Where Willis talks of social investment and a focus on evaluating what does and doesn’t work, her boss is talking of getting tough on wayward kids and military boot-camps (which, in case you were wondering, have been well evaluated and shown not to work). Nonetheless if anyone can steer her way through such inconsistencies, it is Willis. She’s smart, very smart, learned her political skills (but not her social liberalism) working for Bill English, works hard, and gets on well with people. 

In lots of ways, she is like Jacinda Ardern – worked in politics after uni (although in Willis’ case, it was followed by stints for the likes of Fonterra) and, like Ardern, rose rapidly through her party’s ranks during a period when leaders were coming and going faster than Italian Prime Ministers. 

Willis is open about her privileged background – Marsden College, Kings College, etc – but there is no sense of entitlement and only the occasional slip into the patronising. Politically, her big test in 2023 will be Grant Robertson. Neither politician came into Parliament with a finance or economics background. Robertson soon showed himself capable of the role. It’s highly likely that in 2023 we will see Willis demonstrate that she too is more than up to it. If so, and should National win next year, Nicola Willis could well prove to be the stable rock that the government is built on. More so, even, than the bloke who would be her boss.

Chlöe Swarbrick

Chlöe Swarbrick in blue dress and white shirt.

Chlöe Swarbrick is not only the darling of the Greens Party she’s also the darling of the youth voter. An MP at the age 26 she’s shown a real understanding of complex issues – climate change, wealth tax, drug reform legislation, and a desire to see significant change happen. Her willingness to write for the media – regular opinion pieces in the Herald – and her open and transparent modus operandi has benefited her popularity but she has also worked hard to build relationships. In the minor skirmish that was the Greens leadership challenge last year Chlöe put paid to the idea that she was interested in any co leadership role posting on Facebook that she would continue on as Auckland Central MP and with her work on Parliamentary portfolios. However, that doesn’t rule out keeping her powder dry. This weekend she marries her fiance Natalie Walker. As the saying goes ‘behind every great woman is another great woman. 2023 just got greenlit.

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