Saint Jacinda’s immigration clampdown

Saint Jacinda's immigration clampdown
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For several years now New Zealand Jacinda Ardern has enjoyed the status of being one of the world's leading liberal icons. The popular premier has backed progressive policies like bereavement leave for miscarriage, gun control reforms and tackling period poverty. Her handling of the pandemic – completely shutting the country off from the rest of the world – was rewarded by the voters last October when she romped home in a landslide.

Predictably of course such actions have been greeted with an orgy of fawning praise from politicians here in Britain. Labour MPs gushed over Jacinda’s ‘real leadership’ and suggested that: ‘Jacinda shows what a competent, moderate, progressive, emotionally intelligent, immensely likeable & unifying Labour leader can achieve.’ The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, congratulated Ardern on her win and ‘fine victory speech’ and then spent the next six months trying to get the New Zealand PM to reply to her on Twitter. That liberal icon the Guardian published an article titled ‘New Zealanders have recognised the good luck that Jacinda Ardern is ours’ which suggested that she had inspired ‘love and devotion’ while the BBC asked 'Why is New Zealand so progressive?'

But now the shine appears to be coming off Saint Jacinda. Following last month's criticism over her government distancing itself from its ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing partners for condemning China’s human rights abuses, Ardern's administration has provoked the horror of liberal critics at home by declaring tighter migration restrictions. It revealed plans on Monday to narrow pathways for those hoping to migrate and work in the country, particularly those it classed as 'low-skill' and low-wage workers. It simultaneously announced new measures to attract rich investors prompting no less a champion than the Guardian to sadly note: 'in a post-Covid world, the emigration dream will be less accessible – at least for those who don’t fall into the mega-rich category.'

Ardern's tourism minister Stuart Nash claimed in the speech 'When our borders fully open again, we can’t afford to simply turn on the tap to the previous immigration settings' with Ardern declaring her intention 'to shift the balance away from low-skilled work, towards attracting high-skilled migrants and addressing genuine skills shortages.'  The country's Migrant Workers Association has already criticised the plans while Green Party Immigration spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March attacked Ardern's language of 'low skilled' as a 'disservice to the contribution of many migrant workers.'

Given Saint Jacinda's penchant for drawing up the drawbridge at home, Mr S wonders if ardent Remainers like David Lammy will be happy to continue singing her praises as a model for Labour here in Britain.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to

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