New Zealand MP Chris Hipkins says succeeding Jacinda Ardern as prime minister after her shock decision to resign amounts to ‘the biggest responsibility and the biggest privilege of my life’.
“The weight of that responsibility is still sinking in,” he told reporters on parliament’s steps in Wellington yesterday, in his first appearance since being nominated.
An experienced MP and career politician, Chris Hipkins is seen as the safest choice for Labour at the moment. He already has the education, Covid response and policing portfolios under his belt.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2021, he said one of his political strengths was “understanding how the machinery of government operates, which is something that I’ve developed over about 20 years”.
But according to Dr Lara Greaves, senior lecturer in New Zealand politics at the University of Auckland, this could work against him.
“He’s mainly just been in politics so he doesn’t have that outside career to point to and that’s something that I imagine the Nationals (opposition party) hammer on, given the strength of Christopher Luxon (leader of the opposition) as a former airline CEO, and working in international business,” she said.
But even with that political pedigree, the incoming leader faces a steep uphill battle to convince New Zealanders that he and his centre-left Labour party are fit to lead the country for another term, when they go to the polls in October.