Jacinda Ardern reveals she didn't think she was 'tough enough' for politics

The PM says she's embraced wearing her heart on her sleeve.
The PM says she's embraced wearing her heart on her sleeve. Photo credit: Getty Images

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed she was unsure if she was tough enough for politics when she was asked to run in 2008.

In an interview with David Axelrod, the former adviser and strategist for ex-US President Barack Obama, Ardern says she initially turned down the opportunity to become an MP.

Ardern was living in London at the time and says there were "a couple of reasons" why she didn't want to enter Parliament.

"One being I was on my OE - my overseas experience… and the other being I didn't know if I was tough enough for politics."

Ardern told Axelrod she had it in her head "for good reason" that being in politics requires a thick skin.

"You can't be the emotional type - and I didn't know, having had such close proximity to the place, and seen it in action, whether I could do it."

But after being told she could campaign from London, Ardern decided to go for it - and was elected, which called her home to New Zealand.

In 2017 Ardern was elected as deputy leader of the Labour Party. Just five months later, she became leader when Andrew Little resigned mere months out from the election - which Labour won.

In October 2017 she was sworn in as Prime Minister and has received global praise for her compassionate politics.

She told Axelrod she has learned to embrace wearing her heart on her sleeve, and is working to overcome the assumption that politicians have to be thick-skinned - in the hope other "emotional types" will pursue a political career. 

"If you can't see yourself or the traits you admire in the places you seek to be, then you won't naturally think there's a place for you to be successful," she said.

"You either hang back, as I was inclined to do, or once you're in there, you struggle or seek to change yourself. And my advice would be don't change yourself.

"Don't think you have to fit the mould because in doing so you're not creating space for others."