The New Zealand prime minister has apologized to the leader of the opposition party 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 his mistake, properly apologizing and fixing it,” she said The Guardian.
Ardern responded by acknowledging the difficulties of his government’s “managed isolation” plan for COVID-19, but told his deputy Grant Robertson that Seymour was “such an arrogant p—-” as he sat down, but microphones did read the comment.
Seymour asked the speaker to ask the prime minister to withdraw the comment and to apologise. The Speaker of the House declined the request as Ardern had already left parliament by that point, and it is unclear whether Hansard’s team noted the comment in its official record of parliamentary proceedings.
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A spokesman for the prime minister confirmed to reporters that Ardern had apologized for the comment, but Seymour played down the comment by telling media that “some days I’m a useless Māori, other days I’m an arrogant p—-.”
The first comment referred to another attack on Seymour, who leads the Consumers’ and Taxpayers’ Association (ACT) party, when Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson criticized Seymour, saying he was a “useless lawyer”, he reported the New Zealand Herald.
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Seymour, who claims Māori heritage, had suggested abolishing the Māori Development Ministry and Māori Crown Liaison Office. He argued that the ministry had failed to justify its budget and explain what “value” the ministry provided at its $71 million cost.
Ardern and Seymour have fallen out over the budget proposals, as the incumbent Labor government has seen its poll numbers slip over the past year, according to the BBC.
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The Labor Party lost its support late last year, having lost support from the opposition National Party earlier this year. Seymour’s ACT party has the third highest approval rating behind the National and Labor parties respectively.
Labor reached a high of 53% in December 2020 as New Zealanders expressed support for the way Ardern and his government handled the pandemic and acted in the crisis, but his popularity has declined over the past two years with the rising inflation and the cost of living.
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Ardern said he supported his party’s response and the work it had done, saying the party “always made decisions that we felt were in New Zealand’s best interests at the time”.