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Politics in a Pandemic: Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand's 2020 Election

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Stephen Levine
November 2021
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2020 was a year unlike any other. Still in her first term as prime minister, Jacinda Ardern found herself facing her biggest challenge yet – protecting New Zealanders against a worldwide pandemic. By year’s end New Zealand had kept its nerve, protected its borders, and for the most part kept its residents alive and well. In the midst of all this an election was held. Politics in a Pandemic provides a deeper understanding of what happened during the election, which was held in the most difficult circumstances facing New Zealand since the Second World War.

It includes contributions from the New Zealander of the Year, Jacinda Ardern, and the Wellingtonian of the Year, epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker, as well as the National Party’s Judith Collins, Greens’ co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson, ACT’s leader David Seymour, the Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins, and award-winning journalists Tova O’Brien and Henry Cooke, along with many other reporters, pollsters and academics, together providing 35 perspectives on the election. Personal reflections are complemented by UMR survey results, first-hand campaign accounts, the perspectives of overseas observers, and analysis of everything from political cartoons and billboards to leaders debates, political party funding, policy and populism. It covers the departure of New Zealand First, the return of the Māori Party, nationwide referendums on euthanasia and the legalisation of cannabis, and the Christchurch mosque attacks. But ultimately, the 2020 election was a referendum on Jacinda Ardern’s leadership in a time of pandemic. This book explains why she won and what this might mean for the country’s future.

Politics in a Pandemic is the twelfth in a series of election books going back to 1987 – including The Baubles of Office (2007), Kicking the Tyres (2012), and Stardust and Substance (2018) – essential for anyone interested in New Zealand’s government and politics.