Grant Robertson reveals why he didn't want to be Prime Minister

  • 11/02/2023

He was touted as the next in line for New Zealand's top job, the natural successor to Jacinda Ardern - but Grant Robertson didn't want it.

When Ardern resigned as Prime Minister in January all eyes turned to Robertson, the then-deputy, to throw his hat in the ring. Instead, another shock announcement shortly followed.

"In 2014, when I failed to secure the leadership of the party for the second time I indicated that I would not put myself forward again," Robertson said at the time.

"My position has not changed."

Chris Hipkins stepped up and took over the top job and, while Robertson kept his role as Finance Minister, he is no longer the Deputy Prime Minister and will not be running in the Wellington Central electorate - but rather as a list MP.

Grant Robertson was Jacinda Ardern's Deputy Prime Minister.
Grant Robertson was Jacinda Ardern's Deputy Prime Minister. Photo credit: Getty Images

In a sitdown interview with the NZ Herald, Robertson revealed it was health and loss of hunger for the top job that was behind his decision.

Robertson ruptured a disc in his back before the summer break and over the summer lost about 7kg to a sickness he would not disclose but assured "nobody's dying".

His bout of bad health was just a minor factor in his decision, telling the outlet a shred of his doubt in his mind was the ultimate decider.

"I work very hard, so the commitment bit wasn't what I was concerned about. It was the desire bit. 

"Because if you don't [have it] you're not going to perform to the level I'd be happy [with], or anybody else," Robertson told the Herald.

Instead, Robertson is focusing on his role as Finance Minister and helping steer New Zealand through a challenging economic environment.

"Nowadays there are a lot of cricketers who make a decision about not playing one of the different formats of the game in order to lengthen their career. One of the things I gave thought to over the summer was what do I do to make sure I can stick around for a decent period after the election," Robertson told the Herald.

"Being able to focus on finance means I can see a way to being able to stay on a pathway to being here through the next term. So part of the health thing related to that. I’m 51 and I do want to live a healthier life. I haven't been great at that over the last few years, that's related to the stuff we've had to do."

As for the rumours about Robertson stepping down if Labour loses the 2023 election, he gave a very political response: "It's not something I'm contemplating because we are going to win."