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Current Affairs

EXCLUSIVE: Labour's Jacinda Ardern reveals why she doesn't want to be Prime Minister

Nine years in opposition has taught Jacinda Ardern a lot about herself. In a very candid conversation, she reveals why she’s tired of waiting on the sidelines.

By Emma Clifton
Deputy Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has shot down claims that she’s after the party’s top job, telling NEXT magazine that, despite the positive reaction to her promotion, she’s not holding out to become leader.
“I just feel like there’s more people to let down now. I do feel an enormous amount of pressure. Because I know there are lots of people who don’t want me to screw up, and there are just as many who would really love it if I did," she tells the magazine.
“It’s me knowing myself and knowing that actually, when you’re a bit of an anxious person, and you constantly worry about things, there comes a point where certain jobs are just really bad for you. I hate letting people down. I hate feeling like I’m not doing the job as well as I should. I’ve got a pretty big weight of responsibility right now; I can’t imagine doing much more than that.”
The 36-year-old politician describes herself as too much of a ‘risk-averse person’ to be prime minister at this stage in her career.
“I always have been. Which is why politics is such a terrible place for me to be! I’m constantly anxious about making mistakes. Everything in politics feels so fragile; just like that [clicks fingers] you could stumble and that’s forever what you’ll be known for. So yes, I do live in this constant fear of what might be.
"Clarke [Gayford, Ardern's long-term partner] really tries to pull me back from the precipice of anxiety a lot, but it’s just who I am. And in some ways it’s been good for me, in the sense that it makes me very careful and intuitive. But it also means I haven’t been as spontaneous as I’d like to be.”
Jacinda Ardern in NEXT magazine.
Ardern also expressed her frustration with the endless waiting game that comes with being in Opposition politics.
“It’s like being in a supermarket and trying to pick which queue to go into, and not knowing if you should jump out of that queue, because suddenly you’re going to be next at the counter, or you’re not. That’s what opposition feels like. Except it’s a line that’s been going for nine years.
“I’m just so desperate for us to be in a position where we can make a difference. And I know when I say that it’s very easy for it to seem like ‘Oh, they just want to win because they’ve been waiting for a really long time’, but it’s so much more than that,” she says, her tired tone shifting to one of urgency.
“I’ve got several constituency cases at the moment of people who are living in circumstances so horrific you feel compelled as an individual just to help. So as much as we go on about wanting to win in September, that doesn’t actually convey our motivation properly. It makes it sound like it’s just sport, like trying to win a trophy at the end of the race.”
It’s the same for the whole team, she says.
“Every single person I work with in parliament is driven by this real sense of responsibility that we need to do more. So that’s what I see. The idea of anything other than having Andrew in the job just isn’t something I want to think about. That’s the honest answer.”
Read more in the exclusive NEXT cover story, out on stands Monday 19 June.

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