Further thoughts on Clark valedictory

There has been some interesting commentary on Clark’s valedictory speech – mainly commenting on the total lack of reflection that she ever did anything wrong.

Guyon Espiner blogs:

Her valedictory was like her premiership: cautious and competent; meticulous and managerial.  I’d hoped might show us a flicker of feeling; a sliver of humanity; a scintilla of humility. …

It was similar when she spoke to us on TVNZ’s Q+A show last Sunday. There was no acknowledgement of her mistakes. Could she not have conceded to mishandling the anti-smacking law? To rushing the Electoral Finance Act? To being a little too lenient in her handling of Winston Peters?

I don’t think she considers any of them mistakes. Just as she has never conceded she was wrong to sign paintings that others painted. Her career has been marked by a refusal to say sorry and to blame everyone else.

I think she owed it to Labour to show a little contrition about the election defeat.

Clark sticks to the line that New Zealanders only voted National because they felt they could have the same policies with a new face. With that statement there is the underlying belief that before too long voters will realise the grave mistake they made in throwing her out.

The has a shorter version of the Clark speech:

‘I’ve been a very great Prime Minister and I’m proud of that.’

I think Clark was a very, very good Prime Minister, but her massive ego and unshakable faith in her own historical awesomeness is one of the main reasons she was not a great one.

If this seems harsh then I guess it’s because the endless, pointless debacles of her third term government are still fresh in my mind – and most of them seemed to be driven by Clark’s belief in her own infallibility and her parties blind worship of same.

A valedictory speech for a politician like Clark is obviously a time to celebrate an impressive career, but in the wake of a devastating loss it’s also, one would have thought a time for self-deprecation and also an opportunity, a chance to signal to the party and the public that mistakes were made, lessons were learned, a corner has been turned, the torch passed to a new leadership etc. But not a flicker of self-reproof seems to trouble Clark’s astonishing mind: the public rejected her for reasons that remain mysterious but are probably to do with their own fickleness and stupidity, and also Crosby-Textor.

I’ve listened to valedictory speeches from six Prime Ministers, and Clark’s was the only one which did not touch on regrets. You would have thought it was the speech of someone who had won a fourth term, not someone who had been decisively thrown out of office.

The more I think about it she also glossed over stuff such as the 4th Labour Government, the relationship with David Lange, how she became Leader. It was rather opaque.

Labour supporters, rather like Clark, seem more focused on defending her legacy, than a serious analysis of where they went wrong. Indeed some of them do seriously blame it all on Crosby-Textor and a gullible public.

Clark and Cullen’s departure provide Goff with a real opportunity to stamp his own leadership on the party. His first challenge will be the Mt Albert selection. Goff knows having Tizard back in Parliament will be a nightmare for him. Does he place her in the shadow cabinet? What portfolios does he give her? How do they deal with s92A when its architect is in caucus insisting it is perfect and should remain intact. If she gets back in, then do they stand her again in Auckland Central? If not, what electorates should she shadow?

Goff’s instincts have been very sound in the past. It will be interesting to see him now able to put them to work. Key won, by following his instincts. Goff, to be viable, needs to also make changes and do what he thinks is right – not necessarily what Labour has done in the past.

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