New Zealand’s outgoing Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has revealed his “secret” girlfriend after his crushing election defeat.
With 98 percent of preliminary votes counted, Labor has just 26.8 percent – the party’s worst result in 100 years.
But Mr Hipkins, who replaced Jacinda Ardern in January, has announced his intention to remain as party leader.
During an emotional concession speech, Mr Hipkins thanked his partner, Toni, whom he had not previously mentioned.
“Someone most of you don’t know, and that’s my partner, Toni,” said Mr. Hipkins, nicknamed “Chippy.”
“Being Prime Minister is not the only special thing that happened to me this year. And I want to thank you for being with me every step of the way over the last few months throughout this campaign.
New Zealand’s outgoing Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has revealed his “secret” girlfriend was the best thing to happen to him this year. Pictured: Mr Hipkins with his girlfriend Toni
Toni (pictured left) accompanied Mr Hipkins as he spoke to the media on election day, but many didn’t realize who she was.
He then clarified that his new partner’s name was “Toni with an i” and said she was the best thing that happened to him all year.
Toni accompanied Mr. Hipkins as he spoke to the media on election morning, but many did not know who she was.
After taking over from Ms Ardern, Mr Hipkins told the media that he and his wife had separated and were no longer living together.
The couple have two children.
On Tuesday, Mr Hipkins confirmed he was seeking to become opposition leader after the shock election result, attributed by many to Ms Ardern’s government’s tough policies during the pandemic.
“I still have a little fight left in me. I am absolutely committed to supporting Labor in opposition,” said Mr Hipkins, who was New Zealand’s minister for COVID-19 response.
The new Prime Minister will be Chris Luxon, leader of the National Party.
Six years after Jacindamania, and three years after a historic majority won, the star of the New Zealand Labor Party has collapsed.
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When Mr Hipkins replaced Jacinda Ardern when she resigned in January, he admitted he and his wife had separated.
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The center-left party will return to the dark days of opposition with a mediocre showing in the 2023 elections.
Mr Hipkins showed courage in the face of the result in his concession speech.
“I want you to be proud of what we have achieved over the last six years,” he told the Labor faithful in Wellington.
“Even though we have governed through some of the greatest challenges our country has ever faced, we have kept New Zealand moving forward and we have protected those who need help most.
Mr Hipkins cited improved child poverty statistics, reduced emissions, a historically large public housebuilding program and a low unemployment rate as key achievements.
He also referenced a long list of “curves” thrown at the government under Ardern’s then leadership.
“Terrorist attacks, volcanoes, cyclones and floods, and of course, the global COVID-19 pandemic and the global cost of living crisis that followed.
“Despite these enormous forces against us, we made the difference. We have saved lives and recorded the lowest number of COVID deaths in the developed world.
From a historical perspective, Mr. Hipkins’ defeat was inevitable.
Each of the last seven leaders who rose to the prime ministership midterm was not elected in subsequent elections; Mr. Hipkins was the eighth.
The stagnation of New Zealand’s economy also bodes ill for Labor’s chances, with the soaring cost of living the biggest problem for Kiwis and one that the government has failed to solve.
Labor paid the price in heartland seats.
The new Prime Minister of New Zealand is Christopher Luxon. Pictured: Luxon and his wife Amanda Luxon (second and third from left)
Mr Hipkins led Labor to one of its worst ever electoral performances.
Michael Wood, who ran for leadership in January, lost Mt Roskill, a safe Labor seat since its creation in 1999.
Helen White is just 106 votes ahead in Mt Albert, the former seat of Ms Ardern and Helen Clark, and held by Labor for a century.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta lost her seat to a different wave, with Māori Party candidate Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke, 21, overtaking the Labor legend to become the youngest MP since the 19th century.
Labor lost seats from Northland to the South Island, with a sharp swing and are is expected to win only 17 of the electorate’s 72 seats, for a total caucus of 34.