You see, it goes like this… in 2017 the New Zealand Labour Party were declining in popularity and with an election looming after nine years of a very popular middle-right National government led by PM John Key they had to come up with something that was going to turn their fortunes around. Their current leader, a rather hapless ex-union guy, Andrew Little was pleasant enough, but the NZ public just weren’t interested. Looking amongst their ranks they focused on 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern, a former president of the International Union of Socialist Youth who had entered parliament in 2008.

With less than two months to the election it looked like Ardern might just cut it. Her only tertiary qualification was a degree in Public Relations – but no matter. She was popular with the young and women in particular – although she had been criticised within the Labour ranks for being inexperienced and untested she clearly had the charisma to win over the public. Her campaign was mind-blowing, she swept through the country with her big smile and many platitudes – her favourite: "Let’s do this!" She would often state she was "full of relentless positivity." Her love of simple platitudes was mind-numbing and the public sucked it up with glee. During this time a photo of her visiting a university campus taking selfies with mostly female student admirers appeared in the media.

The looks of unadulterated admiration on the girls’ faces was palpable. These young women who were clearly intelligent enough to be accepted into university had no clue what Ardern was about. They just admired her for being a young woman who was doing well and was heading towards being Prime Minister showing the world how progressive New Zealand was.

Pre-internet days when someone famous darkened our shores the first thing most likely asked as soon as their feet hit the tarmac was what do you think of New Zealand? Being one of the smallest most isolated countries in the world it seems we have for ever suffered from a severe case of failing self-esteem. Jacinda was now putting us on the world map, and we loved her for it!

A few months later Labour was voted into power, Jacinda was in raptures and so was the country. She made many promises, more housing, bring the crime rate down, less people in prison, clear up child poverty, address climate change etc. the usual things a well-meaning leader promises. Her popularity was massive, she gave birth to her daughter Neve and returned to work soon after and the world media lapped it up. Her personal approval rating at home was around 76%. Jacinda was on a roll, she was an advertiser’s dream.

Then came the March 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. As the attack unfolded Ardern bumbled her way through a press conference in a small town on the north Island where she had attended an event.

It was only about a couple of hours later when she reappeared at parliament having come up with a suitable PR response stating "they are us," referring to the victims and their families. The "they are us" brand quickly became a mantra throughout the country as the funerals took place. Ardern donned a hijab and joined the mourners no doubt hoping no one would focus on the fact that for some time now gun laws in NZ had been criticised for being far weaker than in Australia making it easy to buy guns online and at local gun shops. The perpetrator Brenton Tarrant, an Australian, was able to obtain a gun licence and arm himself easily with several rifles from a Christchurch gun shop.

Ardern’s winning smile and associated PR shuffled on for another year.

But wait… something didn’t add up, not many extra houses were built, child poverty levels still climbed, the gangs continued to grow, crime rates grew, domestic violence grew, health system was in a mess, a dangerously porous immigration system… But hey, who cares, the world loves us, and it’s all because of Jacinda. Everywhere she went overseas she was feted and adored, however, at home…there was a feeling of dissatisfaction creeping in.

It’s around this time that a leader’s waning popularity longs for a distraction, and right on time the Covid pandemic appeared on the horizon. Phew! She was able to close the country off to the outside world and put us in lockdown addressing the population with stilted daily speeches, just to keep us informed.

She repeatedly told us to "be kind." But not much else. It would have been appreciated if she talked more about the ongoing research being done by the vaccine companies and when we would receive them. When asked about availability she was vague, saying we were "in the front of the queue." But that would mean we’d be able to look forward to some freedom and who wants that when you’ve got the people living as a collective, and you are the leader. Yeah, I know I’m sounding cynical, but you needed to be here to understand what it was like being in lockdown in a small country with a rather over-excitable socialist as a Prime Minister. One other advantage with Covid was Ardern’s government was re-elected during this time by a landslide – I cynically put it down to Stockholm syndrome, however a weak opposition didn’t help.

When the pandemic was finally over it was if the country came out into the sunshine blinking against the bright light wondering where we were. Unfortunately Ardern was still here, and although it seemed like the country was falling apart around us, she continued her PR push overseas with the NZ media who had been paid a cool NZ$50 million support package at the onset of the pandemic following blindly in her wake. Sure there were still people who thought she was wonderful, and it wasn’t her fault the crime rate was rising and if you ended up in hospital all you could do is cross your fingers and hope you’d survive. However, there was a growing dissatisfaction and remarkably there appeared to quite a few people who were really against her.

Fuelled by social media they began to spread their messages of discontent. You know, the usual science-fearing rhetoric only untidy fanatics are able to understand. They came from all over the country and camped out in the grounds of Parliament House in Wellington. Their main argument appeared to be against vaccine mandates. Around 1,000 people camped out for 23 days in the grounds and surrounding areas harassing bystanders and disrupting children from going to school and local businesses from operating before the police forcibly moved them on leaving a putrid mess in their wake. Ardern refused to speak to them missing a major PR appearance as she subdued the masses. The country watched the mayhem unfold in horror, it appeared we had a PM who couldn’t handle dissent.

Her popularity began to wane and before long it became apparent she needed to step down. Which she did in January this year saying she had "a belief that you can be kind but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused — that you can be your own kind of leader, one that knows when it's time to go." Er, yeah. Ok. Months later the Labour government was voted out as New Zealanders turned to a middle-right coalition to (hopefully) clear up the mess. With some relief the overseas media finally after all this time began to analyse her career and see though the Cindy Spin. At home there are still many who feel the mess the country is in is not her fault and any criticisms of her were just sexist.

Adoring bots and socialist dreamers still follow Jacinda on Facebook and a self-penned book on leadership is in progress. However, not being into chic lit I shan’t bother.

I hope the feminists of New Zealand have learned a valuable lesson: it’s not the perceived image you look at, it’s the reality. We are a wonderful country and we don’t need validation to make ourselves feel worthy. If we don’t understand this there will be more Jacindas waiting in the wings.