Chris Hipkins Named To Succeed Jacinda Ardern As New Zealand Prime Minister
New Zealand’s ruling Labour Party said Chris Hipkins is the sole nominee to succeed outgoing leader Jacinda Ardern.
(Bloomberg) -- Incoming New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he’s ready to lead the country through the economic downturn and believes he can win the October election.
“I acknowledge that at the moment we are going through some economic turbulence and we’re going to have to navigate our way through that,” Hipkins told reporters Saturday in Wellington. “I believe passionately that we can come out the other side of that in better shape than we went into it. I’m really optimistic about our future.”
The ruling Labour Party earlier named Hipkins as the only nominee to succeed Jacinda Ardern following her shock resignation two days ago. Hipkins said he wants Finance Minister Grant Robertson to continue in that role but he wouldn’t be drawn on any other positions or policies, saying the Labour caucus still needs to endorse his leadership at a meeting on Sunday.
Labour has moved swiftly to unite behind Hipkins, knowing that a drawn-out leadership battle would further hamper its chances of winning a third term at the Oct. 14 election. It has tasked the “Mr Fixit” in its senior ministerial ranks with rebuilding its flagging support base just as the economy is forecast to enter a recession.
“I’m feeling energized and enthusiastic, and I’m looking forward to getting into the work,” Hipkins said. “I’m really honored and humbled by the support that my colleagues have shown towards me.”
He has already spoken to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and hopes to meet with him in person “fairly soon,” he said.
Hipkins, 44, is a mild-mannered but talented politician who has a reputation as a safe pair of hands. Ardern often turned to him to sort out difficult situations, most recently making him Police Minister at a time when concerns about law and order were denting the government’s popularity.
He was the minister responsible for the government’s response to Covid-19 through the most intense period of the pandemic, becoming a household name as he fronted press conferences.
Nicknamed “Chippy” — an amalgam of his first and last names — Hipkins became known as a likable and self-deprecating character who has a sense of humor.
He lightened the nation’s mood during one of the Covid lockdowns when he jumbled his words and urged New Zealanders to “spread their legs” when getting outdoor exercise.
Hipkins may struggle to follow in the footsteps of the charismatic Ardern, a political superstar who swept Labour to power in 2017 on a wave of adulation dubbed “Jacinda-Mania.”
At the same time, he has the opportunity to refresh Labour and jettison some of Ardern’s unpopular policies, such as the planned merger of state broadcasters Radio New Zealand and TVNZ.
Hipkins will go up against National Party leader Christopher Luxon, a former chief executive at national carrier Air New Zealand and a relative political novice. National, the main opposition party, was five points ahead of Labour in an opinion poll published last month.
Hipkins entered parliament in 2008 as the representative for Remutaka, a largely working class constituency in the Hutt Valley just north of capital city Wellington.
In addition to police, he also currently holds the education and public service portfolios as well as being Leader of the House.
Hipkins acknowledged Ardern as an “incredible prime minister” who led the nation through a series of major crises.
“Jacinda provided calm, stable, reassuring leadership, which I hope to continue to do,” he said. “We are different people though, and I’m sure that people will see that.”
Once Hipkins is endorsed as Labour leader by caucus tomorrow, Ardern will formally resign. Hipkins will then be sworn in as prime minister by the Governor-General.
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