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After historic night, the hard work begins for Jacinda Ardern

Opinion Piece

After the most meteoric leadership rise in New Zealand’s political history, Jacinda Ardern woke up this morning to start the hard work of making her three-party Government work.

It is also history now that last night, after what looked more like a TV reality show — in which he milked out the drama to the last minute — Winston Peters annointed Labour as the next Government and its new leader as Prime Minister.

In contrast to Peters’ showmanship, both Ardern and Bill English are to be congratulated for the dignified way they accepted the decision and complimentary remarks made to each other.

There are a number of firsts about the 2017 election, not the least of which is the way that in just over two months, Ardern transformed Labour from a party in the doldrums to one back in office after nine years.

There is more history in the fact that for the first time in the MMP era, the party with the highest percentage of the vote has not been able to form the government.

But now the real hard work begins for Ardern, starting with the formation of her Cabinet today in which New Zealand First will have four Ministers and the Greens three outside Cabinet.

It will be also extremely interesting next week when details of the policy agreements reached are due for release.

Ardern got a welcome boost from a past master of coalition governments, Helen Clark, who said she believed this one can work.

Also on the plus side for her, Labour’s policies on immigration and the economy are closer to NZ First’s than National’s would have been. But she faces the strongest opposition ever under MMP, and one that will be eager to go straight on to the attack and make life as difficult as possible for her.

There are still some aspects of the election to be decided, such as the future of Bill English who may well be tempted to leave Parliament. Don’t go away folks, there is more drama ahead.