Today, the Queen, a rugby coach, and the previous prime minister got honors, but only one was criticized beyond their position.
Dame Grand Companion Jacinda Ardern, former prime minister, received New Zealand’s highest honor on King’s Birthday.
Her damehood has been applauded, but social media around the nation today was negative.
Stuff hasn’t repeated the internet abuse, but former prime minister Sir John Key said “it comes with the territory”.
Key said he doesn’t recall any bad criticism after his 2017 knighthood, but he wouldn’t read it.
I don’t remember, but I don’t read all online comments. I wouldn’t have noticed.”
“I’m sure politics made some people critical, but I don’t recall it.”
Key said he wasn’t shocked that certain political parties criticized the damehood since it was politics.
I think if you’re a former prime minister, people will be for or against you no matter what. The norm.
Prime ministership is difficult. During Covid, Ardern took that position.
Ardern was honored with several prior prime ministers.
Sir Bill English and Key were knighted. Jim Bolger, another National prime minister, earned an Order of New Zealand in 1998 without a title but opposed knighthoods.
Sir Robert Muldoon became the second prime minister (after Sir Keith Holyoake) to be knighted while in office in 1984.
Helen Clark, Labour’s three-term prime minister, received the Order of New Zealand in 2010.
After becoming prime minister in 1999, she abolished the honours system in 2000. Her deputy Sir Michael Cullen was knighted.
In 2009, nine years after Clark’s Labour government abolished knights and dames, Key reinstated them.
He said internet criticism and debate about prior prime leaders obtaining the distinction were unwarranted since it is a rite of passage for the post.
“It’s very standard that a former prime minister receives a significant honour and I think most people wouldn’t begrudge that,” adds Key.
“I think every single one has received one, in my memory they have had a level of recognition with the honours system.”
Clark, who couldn’t be contacted, had expressed regret over Ardern’s resignation in January and recognized a new degree of “hatred” for the PM.
“The pressures on prime ministers are always great, but in this era of social media, clickbait, and 24/7 media cycles, Jacinda has faced a level of hatred and vitriol which in my experience is unprecedented in our country,” she remarked at the time.
“Our society could now usefully reflect on whether it wants to continue to tolerate the excessive polarisation which is making politics an increasingly unattractive calling.”
Ardern said she was undecided about accepting the damehood.
“But I have heard it from so many Kiwis I have encouraged to accept an accolade over the years. This is my way of thanking my family and coworkers.”
Key said he was “extremely proud” to get a knighthood since it represented his government’s nine-year efforts.
“I think they (honours) reflect what was a huge team contribution, on many levels, from a very talented group of people that formed our government over the nine-year period.”
“I am a proud New Zealander, and I was and always will feel very humbled to have received that honour.”
Ardern declined to comment on her damehood’s reception.
However, former colleague and current Prime Minister Chris Hipkins stated the honor was for her work amid “some of the greatest challenges our country has faced in modern times”.
“Leading New Zealand’s response to the 2019 terrorist attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic represented periods of intense challenge for our 40th prime minister, during which time I saw firsthand that her commitment to New Zealand remained absolute.”
After the 2019 terrorist incident, Dame Jacinda banned most semiautomatic firearms and assault rifles one month later.