New Zealand’s prime minister apologized to the opposition party leader after a microphone caught her insulting him during a parliamentary session.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called opposition leader David Seymour an “arrogant p—-” during an exchange in which Seymour asked if Ardern could “give an example of her making a mistake, apologizing for it properly and fixing it,” The Guardian reported.
Ardern replied by acknowledging the difficulties of her government’s “managed isolation” plan for COVID-19, but she told her deputy, Grant Robertson, that Seymour was “such an arrogant p—-” as she sat down — the microphones caught the comment.
Seymour petitioned for the speaker to have the prime minister withdraw the comment and apologize. The house speaker declined the request since Ardern had already left parliament by that time, and it remained unclear if the Hansard team noted the comment in its official recording of parliamentary proceedings.
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A spokesperson for the prime minister confirmed to reporters that Ardern had apologized for the comment, but Seymour made light of the comment by telling the media that “some days I am a useless Māori, other days I am an arrogant p—-.”
The former comment referred to another attack on Seymour, who leads the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers (ACT) Party, when Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson criticized Seymour by saying he was a “useless advocate,” the New Zealand Herald reported.
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Seymour, who claims Māori heritage, had suggested abolishing the Ministry of Māori Development and the Office of Māori Crown Relations. He argued that the ministry had failed to justify its budget and explain what “value” the ministry provided at its cost of $71 million.
Ardern and Seymour have sparred over budget proposals as the reigning Labour government has watched its polling numbers slip over the past year, according to the BBC.
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The Labour Party saw its support slip at the end of last year, having lost support to the opposition National party earlier this year. Seymour’s ACT party has the third-highest approval rating behind the National and Labour parties, respectively.
Labour hit a high of 53% in December 2020 as New Zealanders expressed support for how Ardern and how her government handled the pandemic and acted in the crisis, but its popularity has declined over the past two years as inflation and the cost of living have increased.
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Ardern asserted that she stands by her party’s response and the work it did, saying that the party “always made decisions that we believe to be in the best interests of New Zealand at the time.”