Three-month-old spearheads NZ's global charm offensive

Insight

At just three months old, there she was at the United Nations General Assembly, capturing hearts and creating headlines.

Baby Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford’s appearance in New York with her mother and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made history – and was a glorious publicity coup for the country.

Ardern said the decision to bring Neve into the General Assembly was purely practical; she is still breastfeeding and Neve needs to be close to her mother. Indeed, any parent will appreciate such demands of a young baby.

Ardern actively downplayed the appearance of Neve at the United Nations meeting, but other VIPs did not. Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama, tweeted “I cannot stress how much the UN – and the governments that comprise it – need this.”

And so the appearance of the first baby became the centrepiece of the Prime Minister’s visit to New York.

Troubles at home - the sacking of ministers, the awkwardness around those GDP figures, the shambolic Chief Technology Officer recruitment process – faded, fast.

There were high profile television appearances with Stephen Colbert of The Late Show and Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie of NBC’s Today show, and they gushed about baby. There were oohs and aahs from the audiences. There was an attempt to create an “unimpressed Neve” meme.

First dad Clarke Gayford played the perfect role, delivering comic interjections through his Twitter account as Ardern spoke on serious topics.

The politician who kisses the baby is one of the greatest electioneering clichés in the book.

But when the politician is the baby’s mother, and they’re at the United Nations General Assembly, it’s a truly spectacular public relations coup.