WELLINGTON – When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was caught on a hot mic using a vulgarity against a rival politician last week, it seemed the nation's political discourse could be taking an ugly turn heading into an election year.
But Ardern and her target, lawmaker David Seymour, agreed on a plan to make good. They both signed an official parliamentary transcript of Ardern's comment and auctioned it for charity. The auction closed Thursday with a top bid of just over 100,000 New Zealand dollars ($63,000).
“Can't say I expected this,” Ardern wrote on Facebook. “A faux pas with the old mic in parliament has turned into $100,100 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. My thanks to David for being a good sport and to everyone who placed a bid.”
After five years as prime minister, Ardern faces a tough election campaign in 2023. Her liberal Labour Party won reelection two years ago in a landslide of historic proportions, but recent polls have put her party behind its conservative rivals.
Ardern's comment had come after Seymour, who leads the libertarian ACT party, peppered Ardern with questions about her government’s record for around seven minutes during Parliament’s Question Time, which allows for spirited debate between rival parties.
After sitting down, Ardern, as an aside, said to her deputy "He's such an arrogant pr———.” Her words were barely audible on Parliament TV but were just picked up in the background.
Ardern later sent an apologetic text to Seymour, who said he was “shocked and astonished” at her language, which was out of character. He said Ardern had said in her text that "as her mom said, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.”
Seymour then suggested the auction idea to Ardern at an end-of-year party with journalists and Ardern agreed.
The auction was held on the New Zealand website Trade Me and attracted more than 280 bids. It was billed as “Ardern, Seymour join forces for pr———s everywhere.”
Peter Dickens, the chief executive of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, said he wanted to thank both politicians for their “classy” reaction. He said the money comes as a huge boost after a hard year during which normal fundraising activities were curtailed by COVID-19.
“We've been overjoyed and amazed all the way through the journey of this auction,” Dickens said. “It's made more than we ever could have imagined.”
He said the money, equivalent to 10% of its annual budget, would go to a range of services it offers, including free counseling and support groups.
Dickens said prostate cancer is the nation's most diagnosed form of cancer and that older men should consider getting a simple blood test to enable early detection.
“Just a little prick could save a life," he said.