Chris Hipkins, who took office as prime minister of New Zealand on Wednesday, earned a reputation for competence in dealing with COVID-19, while he confesses making a few mistakes in handling the pandemic. He will face a difficult fight to hold onto power in an election in October.
The former COVID minister, sometimes known as “Chippy,” is a close friend and supporter of Jacinda Ardern, who last week surprised the country by announcing her resignation.
A severe test awaits Hipkins, 44, who took over as Labour leader on Sunday after no other contenders surfaced. Labor is lagging behind the opposition in surveys, and the nation is predicted to enter a recession the next quarter before a general election on October 14.
Hipkins has vowed to maintain Ardern’s leadership style while imprinting the country with his own style. He was frequently appointed by Ardern when other cabinet members were having trouble managing their responsibilities.
At a gathering of lawmakers and Maori elders on Tuesday, Chris Hipkins said, “It’s a bittersweet time, obviously: I’m incredibly honored to be taking on the position, but as is well known Jacinda is a very good friend of mine.”
Hipkins, who was first elected to the legislature in 2008, rose to fame by leading the government’s response to the outbreak and was appointed health minister in July 2020 before being named the COVID response minister at the end of the year.
The island nation of 5 million people was one of the first to close borders under Ardern’s “go hard, go early” COVID strategy.
The public grew weary of the zero-tolerance campaign, which included a statewide lockdown over a single infection, but the program was acclaimed around the world for keeping New Zealanders virus-free until the first half of 2021.
As authorities battled to contain a Delta outbreak beginning in August 2021, criticism of the severe lockdowns grew. Chris Hipkins later stated that quarantine restrictions should have been lowered sooner.
The odd error
Chris Hipkins said on Saturday, “I’ve dealt with some hard situations over the last five and a half years, the last two years particularly.” “And as you may know, I am a person. Every now and then, I’ll make an odd mistake. I strive to take responsibility for my errors.”
He declined to be asked about his policy plans.
According to a December 1News-Kantar poll, Labour’s support has decreased from 40% at the beginning of 2022 to 33%. Even with its longtime coalition partner, the Green Party, at 9%, Labour would not be able to secure a majority at that rate. The collapse of Labour has aided the opposition National Party.
Chris Hipkins is well-known in the legislature for his sense of humor, which includes his capacity for self-deprecation.
He accidentally said “spread your legs,” intending to advise COVID-stretched New Zealanders that they should keep their distance when they go outside to stretch their legs. He was spotted drinking from a cup that bore the infamous slogan after the gaffe went viral.
Chris Hipkins claimed his parents “came from quite low beginnings and worked really hard to give a wonderful existence” for him and his brother. Hipkins grew up in the Hutt Valley, north of Wellington, New Zealand.
According to the candidate, “My commitment and politics are to make sure that we offer chances for all Kiwis who want to work hard, to be able to work hard, advance, and provide a better life for themselves and for their families.”
During a crime outbreak in the middle of 2022, Chris Hipkins was appointed police minister. Along with being the House leader, he also serves as the minister of education and public service.
He worked in the office of former Prime Minister Helen Clark before entering parliament and served as senior adviser to two ministers of education.
Chris Hipkins, an avid biker and outdoor enthusiast, is rumored to commute from his house in a neighboring city by bicycle to Wellington, the nation’s capital.