Wellington, May 3: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is engaged to her longtime partner Clarke Gayford after a proposal over the Easter holidays, her spokesman said on Friday.
Gayford, the 41-year-old host of a TV fishing show, takes care of their ten-month-old daughter Neve Te Aroha, while Ardern, 38, runs the country.
Her pregnancy announced in early 2018 was seen by many as a symbol of progress for women in leadership roles. She is only the second elected leader to give birth while in office, after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto in 1990.
Ardern was asked by the BBC while visiting London in January if she would consider asking Gayford to marry her or wait for him to propose.
“Absolutely, I’m a feminist, but I want to put him through the pain and torture of having to agonise about that question himself. That’s letting him off the hook, absolutely not,” she said jokingly.
News of their engagement broke after journalists noticed Ardern wearing a ring on her middle finger at a public event on Friday.
Her spokesman Andrew Campbell confirmed she had been wearing the ring since Easter. He did not give details of the proposal.
The couple met about six years ago when Gayford went to complain to a member of parliament about the then National Party government’s proposed changes to security legislation.
He bumped into Ardern, a rising star in the Labour Party, they had coffee and were living together not long after.
Gayford’s television show, Fish of the Day, takes him around the Pacific, fishing and finding recipes for his catch. The series has been sold to 20 countries and won a gold award at the Houston International Film Festival in 2016.
While Ardern was breastfeeding her infant daughter, the family travelled to New York for the United Nations General Assembly last September.
The family divides their time between the capital Wellington and Auckland, where they own a house in a central city suburb.
Ardern’s calm and compassionate response to the killing of 51 Muslims in March burnished the credentials of a leader who has been criticised domestically over her handling of the economy and flip flops in government policy. (Agencies)