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Reuters/Ross Land
The prime minister and the first bloke.
LOW-KEY ENGAGED

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, quietly got engaged

By Mary Hui

It took a sharp-eyed journalism student to notice that the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, had possibly gotten engaged.

The giveaway: A diamond ring on the middle finger of her left hand, spotted at a ceremony today (May 3).

The student, who was working as an intern reporter, asked the prime minister’s office about it. Her spokesperson then confirmed that Ardern, 38, and her partner of five years, Clarke Gayford, 41, had gotten engaged over Easter weekend. Ardern had apparently been wearing the ring since Monday (April 29).

Neither Ardern nor Gayford has announced or commented on their engagement. It is not yet known who popped the question. But she told the BBC in January that she had no intention of proposing to Gayford.

“No I would not ask, no. I want to put him through the pain and torture of having to agonize about that question himself,” Ardern said.

Gayford is the host of Fish of the Day, an award-winning television series about fishing. He takes on the role of primary caregiver and stay-at-home dad, and refers to himself as the “first bloke” of New Zealand.

Last June, Ardern joined a tiny club of two of world leaders who gave birth while in power, when she gave her daughter Neve Te Aroha was born. The only other woman to have done so, the late Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, gave birth to her daughter Bakhtawar in 1990 when she was in office. Now, Ardern will also be the first woman to have a child and get married while in office. 

Ardern, who is the world’s youngest female head of state, has said that juggling parenthood and the prime ministership has “met her expectations.” Part of that juggling has included being the first female world leader to bring an infant to the UN General Assembly last September. When she delivered a speech to mark a century since the birth of Nelson Mandela, Neve basked in the moment from Gayford’s lap while sucking on a bright orange pacifier.

Ardern and Gayford met at an awards ceremony in 2012, which she attended as a lawmaker and he as the event’s host. They began dating after Gayford bumped into her again when he went to a member of parliament with a political complaint.

News of Ardern’s engagement comes just weeks after what may have been the most trying and stressful period of her time in office so far: the Christchurch terrorist attacks in March, when a gunman opened fire on two mosques, killing 51. Ardern has been widely praised for her calm, compassionate, and swift response to the incident. Her decision to wear a hijab when comforting survivors and the families of victims, her refusal to name the shooter, and the speed with which she passed a law to ban most semi-automatic weapons in the country—26 days after the attack, to be exact—were held up as exemplars of true leadership.