Election 2023: Tony or Toni? Searches spike as Chris Hipkins reveals partner

When Chris Hipkins gave a special dedication to his partner Toni on Saturday night, many New Zealanders immediately fired up Google to find out more about them.

However, more searched 'Tony' rather than 'Toni' amid apparent confusion over the gender of the Labour leader's spouse.

"There is someone else special that I want to thank tonight, someone that most of you won't know, and that is my partner Toni," Hipkins said as part of his concession speech.

"Being Prime Minister is not the only special thing that has happened for me this year and I want to thank you for being with me every step of the way over the last few months as we have gone through this campaign."

His use of the non-gendered word "partner" and the name itself led to people raising questions with Newshub about the mystery person, which election coverage hosts Samantha Hayes and Ryan Bridge addressed on air shortly after Hipkins' speech.

"Hey, one thing we should clarify as we've had a lot of questions coming in, when [Hipkins] in his speech said thank you to his partner Toni - because it's a name that could either be a man or a woman - people were confused, but we've had confirmation that he was talking about a woman," said Hayes.

"It's a woman," added Bridge. "For a moment there I was wondering, is he...?"

Google Trends shows a clear spike for searches of "Tony" and "Toni" after Hipkins' speech.

Google Trends: Searches spike for "Toni" after Chris Hipkins reveals partner.
Google Trends shows searches spiking for "Tony" following Chris Hipkins concession speech.
Google Trends data shows "Tony" compared to "Toni" searches after Chris Hipkins speech revealing partner.

In early 2023 as Hipkins took over the role of Prime Minister from Jacinda Ardern he revealed he had separated from his wife, asking media and the public to afford his family privacy.

"A year ago, my wife and I made the decision that we would live separately, that we would do everything we can to raise our children together," Hipkins said at the time.

"We remain incredibly close, she's still my best friend, but we have made that decision in the best interest of our family.

"I know that putting my name forward to be a minister, to be an MP, to be the Prime Minister, I make myself public property. I absolutely accept that, but my family aren't and I ask that people do respect that."

Labour suffered a brutal defeat in the election and looks likely to lose dozens of seats in parliament. After the 2020 election, the Ardern-led party won a historic 65 seats; the preliminary results of the 2023 election show they look set to retain only 34.