Helen Clark's comments about Jacinda Ardern 'naive' and 'condescending', political commentator says

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark's comments about Jacinda Ardern's resignation are being described as "naive" and "condescending" by a political commentator.

Ardern announced her resignation as Prime Minister on Thursday, saying she had "no more in the tank" to continue leading the country and would step down next month.

After Ardern's resignation, New Zealand's last Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark in part blamed social media for the departure.

In a statement, Clark said Ardern had faced "a level of hatred and vitriol which in my experience is unprecedented in our country" due to "this era of social media, clickbait" and 24/7 news cycles.

Political commentator and former National Party ministerial advisor Brigitte Morten told Newshub Late Prime Ministers don't spend their time scrolling social media.

Helen Clark and Jacinda Ardern.
Helen Clark and Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: File

"I think it's a little bit condescending and perhaps a little naive to say that this played a role," Morten said of Clark's comments.

"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.

Overall, Morten believed Ardern's reasons for resigning were genuine.

Election 2023 would've been tough and Ardern may have felt she couldn't give it her all, Morten said.

Ben Thomas, a PR consultant and political commentator, said Ardern's resignation was "crazy".

"She is the [Labour] party's most valuable political asset, despite whatever the turmoil of the last few years," he told The Spinoff's Gone By Lunchtime podcast. "She's still, by almost every measure, the preferred Prime Minister - she's never been topped in a poll."

Thomas also believed Ardern's reasons for resigning were genuine.

Ardern on Thursday admitted it had been a tough five and a half years as Prime Minister and she was only human.

"I had hoped to find a way to prepare for not just another year but another term - because that is what this year requires," Ardern told reporters. "I have not been able to do that."

She believed the time was right for her to step aside.

"I know there will be much discussion in the aftermath of this decision as to what the so-called 'real' reason was," she said. "The only interesting angle you will find is that after going on six years of some big challenges… I am human."