New Zealand Labour politician, prime minister 1999–2008. A former political scientist who figured prominently in the Labour administration of the mid-1980s that brought free-market economics to New Zealand, as leader of the Labour party from 1993 she returned the party to social democratic values. In 1999 she became New Zealand's second female prime minister, and the first to be elected. She was New Zealand's fifth longest-serving prime minister, and headed a succession of minority coalition governments that oversaw a period of sustained and stable economic growth. Her governments introduced child tax credits, raised the minimum wage, and pursued an independent foreign policy based around retaining New Zealand's nuclear-free zone status. In 2003, New Zealand refused to participate in the US-led invasion of Iraq as it did not have UN sanction. In November 2008, she stepped down as Labour leader after the party was defeated in the general election.
She served as minister of housing and minister of conservation 1987–89. In 1989 she became New Zealand's first woman deputy premier as well as minister of health, but Labour lost the general election in 1990. She helped rebuild the Labour Party in opposition and became its leader in 1993, leading it to victory at the 1999 general election.
Born into a Waikato farming family, she studied politics at the University of Auckland, gaining an MA, and lectured in political studies at the university 1973–81. Her active involvement in politics was sparked by issues such as the Vietnam War, apartheid in South Africa, and nuclear testing in the South Pacific. She became a member of the Labour Party in 1971 and was elected as MP for Mount Albert, in Auckland, in 1981. She chaired the foreign affairs and defence select committee 1984–87, when New Zealand declared itself nuclear-free and pursued an independent foreign policy. She was awarded the annual peace prize of the Danish Peace Foundation in 1986, for her work in promoting peace and disarmament.