16 Dec 2019

Ardern not concerned 'gaffe man' tweet would offend Boris Johnson

6:59 pm on 16 December 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has downplayed an old tweet in which she described Boris Johnson as a "gaffe man" and questioned the likelihood of him ever leading the United Kingdom.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and incoming British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and incoming British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP / Julian Smith / Niklas Halle'n

The tweet - which was sent seven years ago when Ardern was an opposition backbench MP - came to light following the UK Conservative Party's commanding victory and Johnson's re-election last week.

Ardern has since sent a congratulatory text to the UK Prime Minister and expects to speak to him over the phone "in the near future".

Speaking at her weekly media conference, she batted away questions about whether she regretted her 2012 tweet.

"Clearly I was wrong, wasn't I?" Ardern said. "To be fair, I would not have speculated that I myself at that time would become Prime Minister."

Ardern also seemed unconcerned about the possibility of causing offence: "From what I know of PM Johnson, I imagine we'd both have a bit of a laugh about it."

The historical tweet is not on Ardern's list of conversation topics for the leaders' upcoming phone-call.

Ardern told reporters she would again congratulate Johnson on his victory and would enquire about Brexit and the two countries' trade deal aspirations.

She'd also acknowledge the UK citizens caught up in the recent Whaakari / White Island disaster, she said.

Asked whether Labour could learn anything from the election result given the UK Labour Party's poor performance, Ardern swept aside the suggestion.

"I'm not sure that necessarily you can uniformly compare the position of every Labour Party around the world," she said.

"We've got our own challenges here in New Zealand that as a Labour Party we're working hard to address. We successfully formed a government and we've built our support from the public since then."

Ardern had not and would not pass on her commiseration's to UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying she did not do that "as a general rule of thumb".

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