On Tuesday, Jacinda Ardern became the Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party and, therefore, the Leader of the Opposition.
Six hours later and she was asked about her plans to have children.
“A lot of women in New Zealand feel they have to make a choice between having babies and continuing their career. Is that a decision you feel you have to make?”asked co-host of New Zealand’s version of The Project Jesse Mulligan, only hours after Ardern delivered her Maiden Speech to Parliament.
His question was echoed the following morning when breakfast radio host Mark Richardson asked Ardern if she had any plans to take maternity leave.
“The question is: is it okay for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?” Richardson asked. “The public has a right to know,” was his justification.
No matter that there are oh, so many other possible questions for the 37-year-old from Hamilton, who has been in politics, both in New Zealand and in the UK, since she left university.
The conversations could have gone like this:
First, a congratulations on the way Ardern’s election to leadership was confirmed in a unanimous vote, held on the same day as the resignation of former party leader Andrew Little.
Then some questions on:
- Her plans to lead the Labour Party to victory in September’s federal election. “Mr Speaker, I did not come into politics to be an opposition member of parliament,” Ardern told parliament on Tuesday.
- How she is fighting for equal education opportunities across all of New Zealand, with a vision to make her country “a place where everyone, no matter where they live or what their income, has the best education and the opportunity to flourish.”
- What she learned when she moved to London, straight after university, to work as a senior policy advisor.
- How it felt to be the youngest MP sitting in New Zealand parliament between 2008 and 2010.
- The ways in which she supported the marriage equality movement across New Zealand.
- How she was born into a religious family, but became agnostic when she realised religion didn’t fit with her political views.
- What it felt like in February, 2017, when she won the Mount Albert by-election in a landslide victory, taking 77 per cent of the votes.
These are all remarkable, interesting, relevant, insightful questions one might consider asking the new Leader of the Opposition in New Zealand – perhaps the country’s next Prime Minister – that don’t involve her uterus.