Claims Jacinda Ardern driven from top job by online hate 'ridiculous', 'melodramatic' - AM host Ryan Bridge

Claims outgoing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was driven to resign because of online hate and vitriol are ridiculous and melodramatic, says AM host Ryan Bridge. 

Ardern announced she was stepping down from the top job at the Labour caucus retreat on Thursday.

She said she has given the role her absolute all but doesn't have enough in the tank for another term. 

Her surprise resignation drew speculation about what drove her to resign with former Prime Minister Helen Clark partly blaming social media hatred and vitriol. 

"The pressures on Prime Ministers are always great, but in this era of social media, clickbait, and 24/7 media cycles, Jacinda has faced a level of hatred and vitriol which in my experience is unprecedented in our country," Clark wrote. 

"Our society could now usefully reflect on whether it wants to continue to tolerate the excessive polarisation which is making politics an increasingly unattractive calling."

But Clark's claim hasn't gone down well with AM co-host Ryan Bridge who said suggestions the Prime Minister resigned because of online hate are bizarre. 

"Some of the headlines have been ridiculous. There was one headline I saw the other day about the Prime Minister being driven from office by online trolls. I mean, that is so melodramatic," Bridge said on AM on Monday. 

"It's just bizarre because, one, it assumes that she's reading all of the online troll messages from the misogynists and whoever. And second of all, it kind of undermines the fact the polls weren't going well," he added. 

Bridge said the polls had consistently shown support for Ardern was dropping and her decision to leave makes sense.

"Any smart politician will look at that and they will say, 'Do I have another campaign in me? Do I really want to be scrapping with Chris Luxon over the cost of living when I've just got us through COVID? I might be going on to some international job after this. The longer I am here, the worse my reputation will be tarnished as I go through a very bloody campaign. Wouldn't the smartest thing to do would be to pull out now?' And I think that's what the Prime Minister's done."

AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green agreed but she said there's no doubt the outgoing Prime Minister was subject to intense hatred and trolling online - which could have played a part in her resignation. 

But Bridge disagreed, saying the outgoing Prime Minister's drop in popularity would have played a much bigger role. 

"There are a whole range of reasons people felt really miffed, not to mention the costs of living as well.

"Those people are not misogynistic just because they were fed up with the Government that happened to be led by a woman," he said. 

Bridge wasn't the only one who was less than convinced by Clark's comments. Political commentator and former National Party ministerial advisor Brigitte Morten called Clark's remarks "naive" and "condescending". 

"I think it's a little bit condescending and perhaps a little naive to say that this [online hate] played a role," Morten told Newshub Late. 

"Nobody gets to be Prime Minister without having a thick skin, nor does any Prime Minister have the time or inclination to spend their time scrolling through Facebook or Twitter comments," Morten told host Ingrid Hipkiss on Thursday.

However, Morten didn't doubt some of the threats made against Ardern and her family on social media would've taken a toll.

"Of course, the stress of having the wellbeing of her family put under threat... would have played a role in whether she thought the balance was right," Morten said. 

Despite speculation, Ardern has kept her reasoning for leaving the top job generic, telling media she simply had nothing left in the tank. 

"Being Prime Minister has been the greatest honour of my life and I want to thank New Zealanders for the enormous privilege of leading the country for the last five and a half years," Ardern said.

"With holding such a privileged role comes responsibility, including the responsibility to know when you're the right person to lead, and also when you're not.  

"I have given my absolute all to being Prime Minister but it has also taken a lot out of me. You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges that inevitably come along. 

"Having reflected over summer I know I no longer have that bit extra in the tank to do the job justice. It's that simple."