‘Be a nerd, a hugger, a crier, and you can lead’: Ardern bids farewell in valedictory

Opening her valedictory address in parliament, Ardern has harked back to her maiden statement, almost 15 years ago, saying she couldn’t quite believe she was in parliament at the time, and some of that sentiment remained throughout her career. She was, she said, a “conviction based politician”, but accepted she would be associated with events including the response to the Christchurch terror attacks and the Covid crisis.

The public gallery was packed with family, friends and staff former and present. Among the guests were former prime ministers Helen Clark and Sir Geoffrey Palmer, high commissioner to Australia Annette King and Ashley Bloomfield, who had stood alongside Jacinda Ardern in countless press briefings when he was director general of health. Sitting in the front row of the gallery directly across from Ardern were her fiancé, Clarke Gayford and daughter, Neve.

Standing alongside her longtime friend and political ally Grant Robertson, she recalled the “frenetic” days of 2017 when she was thrust into the leadership. The experience was like trying to steer a freight train, she said, and “being hit by one”. She added: “There was no time to be anything but myself.” Of her description during the campaign of climate change as her generation’s nuclear-free moment, she said, “I believed it then and I believe it even more now.” She urged parliamentarians, “please, take the politics out of climate change … New Zealand needs this place to provide them with the certainty that we will keep going.” […]

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