WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was caught on a hot mic using an obscenity against a rival politician last week, it looked like the nation’s political discourse could take a nasty turn heading into an election year.
But Ardern and her target, lawmaker David Seymour, agreed on a plan to achieve it. Both signed an official parliamentary record of Ardern’s comment and auctioned it off for charity. The auction closed on Thursday with a top bid of just over NZ$100,000 ($63,000).
“Can’t say I expected this,” Ardern wrote on Facebook. “A fake pass with the old microphone in parliament turned into $100,100 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Thanks to David for being a good sport and to everyone who bid.”
After five years as prime minister, Ardern faces a tough election campaign in 2023. Her liberal Labor Party won re-election two years ago in a landslide of historic proportions, but recent polls have put her party behind its conservative rivals.
Ardern’s comment came after Seymour, who leads the ACT libertarian party, peppered Ardern with questions about her government’s record for about seven minutes during Parliament’s Question Time, which allows for heated debate between the rivals parties.
After sitting down, Ardern, as a bystander, told her deputy: “He’s such an arrogant pr———.” Her words were barely heard on Parliament television, but merely captured in the background.
Ardern later sent an apologetic message to Seymour, who said he was “shocked and surprised” at her language, which was out of character. He said Ardern had said in her text that “like her mum said, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it”.
Seymour then pitched the auction idea to Ardern at a year-end party with journalists, and Ardern agreed.
The auction took place on the New Zealand website Trade Me and attracted more than 280 bids. Billed as “Ardern, Seymour join forces for coverage everywhere”.
Peter Dickens, chief executive of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, said he wanted to thank both politicians for their “classy” response. He said the money comes as a huge boost after a difficult year in which normal fundraising activities were curtailed by COVID-19.
“We are very pleased and surprised all the way through this auction,” Dickens said. “It’s made more than we could ever imagine.”
It said the money, equivalent to 10% of its annual budget, would go towards a range of services it offers, including free advice and support groups.
Dickens said prostate cancer is the most diagnosed form of cancer in the country and older men should consider having a simple blood test to enable early detection.
“Just a small bite could save a life,” he said.