Prime Minister John Key’s appearance on Late Show with David Letterman may have cost taxpayers up to $10,000.
“I’ve been informed that Tourism New Zealand have a PR company. They’re on a retainer. They pay them every month, irrelevant of what I do.”
“Apparently, when the Letterman show was on, that was one of the projects they worked on. They would have made the payment whether I was there or not.”
So in fact no extra money was spent. Not that I would have had a problem if there had been – as a tourism promotion, $10,000 would have been ridiculously cheap.
In fact one 25th the cost of the $250,000 spent in 2002 on a Discovery documentary about NZ, starring Helen Clark. And that was in an election year.
I have no problem with either expenditure if they are genuinely deemed a worthwhile tourism investment.
Belinda McCammon at Stuff reports:
Axed Labour MP Chris Carter looks set to take up a job with his old boss, Helen Clark, at the United Nations before the end of the year.
The independent MP has just returned from a three-week trip to New York where he said he had positive meetings over working at the UN. “I had some very interesting and productive interviews, so we’ll see.”
If Carter does take up a job at the UN, he will join former PM Clark, who is the administrator of the UN’s Development Programme.
Carter said nothing was confirmed. “Until it’s in the hand, it’s not in the bag.”
If the role is confirmed, Carter said it was likely he would leave to take up the job before the November 26 election.
However his departure would not cause a by-election as it is within the six-month threshold.
Who says the taxpayer doesn’t do enough to help people find jobs. Three weeks in New York is what anyone can get. Must have been some very extended job interviews.
Audrey Young at the NZ Herald reports:
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark believes the effort the United States has put into improving its relationship with New Zealand in the past few years has been damaged in the eyes of ordinary New Zealanders because the WikiLeaks cables showed “disrespect” for New Zealand’s independent foreign policy.
That is a typical Clark view of reality. Most would say that the cables have in fact showed Clark’s claim to have an independent foreign policy to be a platitude, as Clark sent troops to Iraq, in order to help Fonterra.
She said the ones authored in particular by former ambassador Charles Swindells and deputy chief of mission David Burnett were “distinctly unpleasant about New Zealand and about the Government, really quite disrespectful, if I can put it that way”.
I’d forgotten how much Clark tended to project herself as being the same as the Government and indeed even the country. So when she says the cables were unpleasant about New Zealand, she means unpleasant about her.
The Herald reports:
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has angrily denied a claim in a United States diplomatic cable that the previous Labour-led Government sent New Zealand non-combat engineers to Iraq so that dairy company Fonterra could secure a United Nations contract.
She described the claim as preposterous.
So why did Helen send tropps to Iraq, if it were not to help Fonterra?
Mr Goff yesterday said the allegation was ridiculous.
“No such trade-off was ever suggested and if it ever had been, it would have been rejected out-of-hand. We do not trade putting the lives of our military personnel at risk for commercial deals. It is a completely false claim.”
What is interesting is that Michael Cullen has not denied that he did talk about the risk to Fonterra.
Critics of the Iraq war claimed it was about oil for blood – that the motives for the US sending troops and spilling blood, was to gain control of Iraq’s oil. This of course was leftish paranoia – the US has gained no control of any oil, and the cost of the war has been massively more, than any oil revenue could match.
But Wikileaks has revealed that one country which did send troops to Iraq, qas motivated by commercial factors. Yes, Helen Clark sent in troops to Iraq (something Labour hopes that people forget), and the reason was to help Fonterra.
So there was no oil for blood by the US, but Helen Clark was willing to trade blood for milk.
I look forward to Labour talking about their principled foreign policy.
Mr Key was today on his way to Vietnam, where he will attend the East Asia Summit in Hanoi, but his bilateral meetings with world leaders outside the summit will draw most attention, one of those with Mr Ban.
The two were likely to discuss a possible bid by former prime minister Helen Clark for the secretary-general role when Mr Ban’s term ended in 2015.
Miss Clark heads the UN Development Programme.
Climate change, New Zealand’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council and the Pacific Islands Forum, to be held in Auckland next year, would also be discussed.
I can only imagine that NZPA’s reporter interviewed themselves. I can’t imagine there is any way John Key will be chatting to Mr Ban about how to make Helen his successor for four reasons.
- First of all Ban is still in his first term in the job and has yet to gain re-appointment to a second term. There is no way you talk to someone not yet reappointed about their possible successor.
- Secondly his first term ends at the end of 2011 and his second term would end at the end of 2016 – so no idea where 2015 comes from. Clark’s term ends in 2013 incidentally. Anyway you don’t talk job succession six years before there is a vacancy.
- Helen does not speak French, and that is an unofficial requirement for the job.
- Also NZ belongs to the Western Europe and Others regional grouping. The job is rotated amongst the regions and the next region due is the Eastern European group.
So Helen will not be the next UN Secretary-General, and media who say she might be do not understand the UN system. She is from the wrong region (not fixable) and does not speak French (she could learn if she thought she had a chance).Also there will probably not be a vacancy until 2017.
Further, it is my personal view she does not have the skills and experience necessary to do the job. I think she was qualified to be UNDP Administrator, but Secretary-General is a very different ball game.
The Herald editorial:
Hats off to the Labour Party leader, Phil Goff. In suggesting that New Zealanders should start talking about our country becoming a republic, he has gone where influential sitting politicians have feared to tread.
Most, including the current Prime Minister, talk about the inevitability of a republic but are unwilling to do anything to create it.
Others, such as former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen, wait until they have retired from politics to voice similar sentiments. Such passivity has dampened the prospect of debate.
I agree. It has been frustrating that previous Leaders such as Helen Clark refused to openly engage on the merits of becoming a republic. Instead she did republicanism by stealth – changing individual aspects (such as the Privy Council) one by one, without actually engaging the public in a debate on republicanism.
I don’t want a republic by stealth. I want a republic that New Zealanders vote for, as a better way forward. For that debate to happen, senior political leaders like Phil Goff need to engage on the issue.
Yet this is an issue that, given the absence of stridency on both sides, will have to be galvanised by political leaders.
Mr Goff has acknowledged as much in stating emphatically that a republic would be the “making of New Zealand as a country”. If he has his way, that notion will have seeped into the national consciousness by the end of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.
But we should not wait until then.
Matthew Hooton also writes in the NBR today on a republic:
One day, though, Queen Elizabeth II’s reign will come to an end, the Prince of Wales will immediately become King Charles III of New Zealand, and we’ll panic and rush reform and get it wrong.
(That’s if he calls himself “King Charles III”. Apparently he’s keen on being “King George VII”. Go figure.)
The Queen has carried out her duties with impeccable integrity, never once having been known to interfere in New Zealand’s affairs, even privately, and in effect making us a de facto republic throughout her reign.
In contrast, King Charles (or is it George?), is an eco-extremist, advocate for neo-Roman architecture and devotee of quack medicine and cannot be so relied upon to operate as a responsible constitutional monarch.
Plus he talks to plants.
Heh, Matthew does not hold back.
We’re in the bizarre situation where all important New Zealand leaders, once out of office, apparently become advocates for constitutional reform but no one dares put a hand up when they could actually do something as an incumbent.
Exactly. And Phil Goff has an opportunity to say that if he becomes PM, he will push for having a public debate and vote on constitutional reform.
Phil Goff sent Chris Carter home, hoping he would come back to Parliament contrite for his spending. But as the SST reports, he is anything but:
Goff said Carter, MP for Te Atatu, had failed to express contrition and forced him to apologise unreservedly. …
Carter said: “We could argue the rights and wrongs of whether I’ve done anything wrong. The only personal items were two bunches of flowers that a staff member sent on their card, and all ministerial travel was signed off.”
Once again, he is arguing he did nothing wrong. Also overlooks the flowers were to his own partner.
He said the apology was given “because you have to think about what is good for the Labour Party”.
In other words, he didn’t mean it. He did it to help Labour, not because he accepts any errors of judgement.
Carter was embarrassed again last week when it was revealed he promised exclusive interviews to both TV3 and TV One. “I guess I just wanted to be nice. It’s called PR, that’s what politicians do.”
No, there is another word for that, one you can’t use in the House.
So last week Carter was at least pretending to be contrite. Now he has emerged to talk to the media and once again declare he has done nothing wrong and only apologised to help Labour. So who is advising him?
Chris Carter last night broke his silence, saying he was returning to parliament, having taken advice from the party’s former head, Helen Clark.
This really makes Goff look a man not in charge of his own party.
Matt McCarten writes in the HoS:
But Carter’s meltdown this week surely finishes him. It’s not the card misuse that will kill him, it’s his clear inability to admit he’s done anything wrong.
As we see above.
His tiresome claim that he was being targeted because he was gay was absurd when of the four Labour MPs Phil Goff promoted, three were gay.
They were promoted on merit – their sexuality had nothing to do with it.
Carter’s actions this week was politically unforgivable. Goff had his perfect story.
The errant credit card behaviour was under Helen Clark’s watch, not his. It was a golden opportunity for Goff to act tough; discipline the three transgressors and stamp his authority on his caucus. …
But Carter’s actions completely destroyed Goff’s strategy. Understandably Goff hit the roof and banished Carter to home detention to reflect on his indulgence. But the damage was done.
Instead of Goff looking like a leader in charge and his party being able to move on from the scandal we have a party still being rocked by their own indiscipline.
Will Goff now demote Carter to the backbenches? Surely after the SST story, he has no choice? Or is Clark still protecting Carter from afar?
The SST reports Sir Ian McKellen’s interview where he reveals Helen Clark told him that NZ was deeply racist.
For example, I met Helen Clark while I was in Wellington. I was invited to her official residence, and waved in by a lone policeman who didn’t even check who I was, then I had a barbecue with her. I congratulated her on the public’s enlightened attitudes towards racial issues, but she disagreed. She said to me that New Zealand was really a very racist country , and she was determined to do everything she could as prime minister to change that.
First I could comment with bemusement how Helen thought attacking critics of her law removing the right of Iwi to go to court by labelling them”haters and wreckers” changed things for the better.
But I am sure that McKennen is correct and Helen did and does think NZ is a deeply racist country. We saw this when she spoke out on the Police shooting of Steve Wallace as being to do with racist attitudes. The fact the officer who had to fire the gun was also Maori was an inconvenient fact.
So in one sense, Clark’s view of New Zealand as deeply racist is no surprise. It would be interesting to ask her successor as Labour Leader whether or not he agrees with his former boss that New Zealand is a very racist country, and what does he plan to do to change it.
Whale Oil has blogged a summary of a 24 page story in Investigate, with a large number of allegations by a Jevan Goulter against various Labour MPs and others.
These are not anonymous allegations – Goulter is making them himself under his name. However that does not mean they are overly reliable, and are the gospel. In fact Ian Wishart himself concludes the article by saying:
As for the abuse of trust, did Labour abuse its trust in looking after a troubled 14 year old badly, or did Jevan Goulter abuse the trust of a political party who’d taken him under their wing?
At several points through the article, Wishart reveals that Goulter’s story is incorrect or exaggerated, and my personal take is that there is a lot of bragging there. It does not mean everything he has said is false, but I would caution people not to assume everything he has said is true.
Also in one section he says:
As for Phil Goff I probably had more to do with his daughter, who worked for a Government agency when Labour was in. Her name is Samantha. She was just stunning, she was beautiful when I met her, she was really hot. And I was like, ‘Piss off, you’re not his daughter?’ And she was, so we used to go out and have dinner and lunch quite a bit. Phil was a, I think he was a bit of a nobody then.
Now Phil Goff does have a daughter whom, umm could be seen to fit that description. However her name is not Samantha. If Jevan really was going out for meals with someone “quite a bit”, you think he would correctly remember their name. So again, does not help the credibility.
He makes allegations of sexual harassment against Tim Barnett. And some time later his partner (Mika) asked Barnett to pay $25,000 as compensation for Javen’s mental health. To my mind that is close to blackmail
Barnett makes the reasonable point that as a prominent gay MP pushing the boundaries of social legislation he was careful, like Caesar’s wife, to be above reproach, and not to be alone with people in situations that could be misconstrued.
There are no witnesses to the allegations so it is a case of he said vs she said. As someone who worked in Parliament for eight years, I got to hear a lot of gossip about a lot of MPs. You get to know which ones screw around and are sleazy. I don’t recall at the time any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour from Tim Barnett, and to the contrary he seemed very committed to his partner, Ramon. Without witnesses, I do not regard the allegations as credible. There are other MPs I would be more sceptical of.
Another allegation I find lacking in credibility is this:
INVESTIGATE: Michael Cullen?
JEVAN: I know he smoked it at the annual – I think it was the Christchurch Labour conference with Annette, but I don’t think Annette had it. I couldn’t be honest and say I saw her smoke it.
INVESTIGATE: But you did see him?
JEVAN: He had it in his hand, yes. I just remember him having it, it was passed to him by one of the young Labours.
This is in reference to cannabis use. It is quite possible Dr Cullen, like many NZers, has used cannabis at some stage. However to think the Deputy Prime Minister would openly smoke cannabis at a labour party conference – and in front of dozens of Young Labour activists is frankly incredible. I just don’t think it happened, and if that did not happen, I doubt some of the other allegations about cannabis use.
Not everything can be dismissed though. It seems very clear that some Labour Party MPs did lie about whether or not they knew Javen. The most blatant fib came from Lianne Dalziel, who confessed it online:
And yet…within five minutes of making the call to Dalziel’s office, Investigate received a phone call from Jevan, “You’ve just rung Lianne? She’s just sending me a Facebook chat apologising for denying that she knew me”.
This is what Dalziel said to Goulter:
“I owe you an apology. Ian Wishart has just contacted me and I’m afraid I said I didn’t remember you. I feel so guilty. All I’ve said, I told him you were a Facebook friend, so I knew ‘about’ you.
I hope this doesn’t affect what he is writing about you.”
Considering Lianne lost her ministerial job for not telling the truth, this doesn’t help her credibility.
The person who comes out of this looking very wise and sensible is Jacinda Ardern:
Young Labour were always very angry towards me, they didn’t like how I got to do what I wanted. Jacinda Ardern, who’s now an MP, she was my biggest hater….
But then I’m getting drunk and Jacinda comes over and rips the glass of wine out of my hand, ‘You can’t drink in here, you’re only 15!’
‘Yeah I can drink in here, it’s a private function, you’re not my mum, piss off’, and I got really verbal with her, I really didn’t like her.
So I walked over to Helen and I said,‘Jacinda’s just said I’m not allowed to drink. Am I allowed to drink or not?’ And Helen’s exact words were, ‘Of course you are, this is my house.’ I said, ‘I’m only 15’. And she said, ‘It’s my house’.
So I got my glass of wine and I started boozing up again. Jacinda just went off her nut. Now, Helen was drunk that night, in my view. Helen was drunk and she gets to the point when she’s drunk where people just take her away.
I think a number of Jacinda’s colleagues may rue that they were not as cautious around Jevan as she was. Jacinda’s actions look very prudent to me.
Incidentally I am also unconvinced of Helen Clark being drunk, and having to have people take her away. It’s not exactly an image that fits the former Prime Minister.
So overall I find the allegations lacking in credibility in significant areas. Having said that though, I think there are some lessons for Labour in the perils of letting a 14 year old run riot through Parliament and the party. He should have been in school in Christchurch.
As I have said before, I am a big fan of encouraging young people to get involved in politics. But I never encourage school age people to get significantly involved. Your school years should be a time of fun and learning, plus one often lacks the maturity to cope with “adult politics”.
That is not a universal rule. One friend of mine got involved at age 15 or 16 and went on to become a highly valued parliamentary and ministerial staffer. [UPDATE: Said staffer has e-mailed to say they are not highly valued but in fact under paid and over worked :-)]
But I also recall the 1993 election night when I allowed a 14 year old Young National to attend the election night HQ function, as a “results chalkie”. There was of course an open and free bar and I failed to supervise properly with the end result being the poor girl vomiting up in the boardroom, and then collapsing unconscious on the floor as she had never drunk alcohol before. I had to decide whether or not to take her to A&E or home, and had to deliver her still unconscious to her parents, who quite rightly were less than impressed. I visited the next day to check she was fine, and the parents were blaming her more than they were holding me responsible, but in the end I was the one responsible as the adult and still feel some remorse about it to this day. Similarly, I suspect some Labour MPs are regretting allowing Jevan to spend so much time at Parliament, at functions at Premier House and the like.
Spot on cartoon by Guy Body in the Herald.
The full honours list is here.
The top honour of membership of the Order of New Zealand goes to Helen Clark. In some ways, it is no surprise, as former PMs David Lange, Mike Moore and Jim Bolger were also made ONZ, and Don McKinnon also is a member for holding high international office.
So it was inevitable Clark would be made a member, but so soon after she left office will leave a sour taste for many. One right wing friend commented:
What the fuck Farrar? First a UN appointment now this!!!
Next Key will name a star in her fucking honour and have her face on the new flag.
Personally I’m still more upset by Cullen being appointed to an SOE Board while an MP.
We have one new Dame, and five Knights.
Aucklanders will know Dame Lesley Max well.
Professor Sir Mason Durie is one of the most prominent Maori health professionals.
Sir Peter Jackson may not have got the tax breaks he wants for the film industry, but he is now KNZM. He has said this award surpassed winning the Oscars. I suspect he would not have said this, had titles for the top honours not been restored. I am so pleased the Government did restore titles.
Sir Douglas Myers recognition is long overdue.
Justice Sir Bruce Robertson is a former President of the Law Commission and current Court of Appeal judge.
Finally it is honorary but nice to see recognition of the amazingly generous philanthropy of Sir Julian Robertson. Robertson first visited New Zealand in the 1950s to spend a year here writing a novel. He obviously fell in love with it. In May 2009 he announced the donation of $115 million of art to the Auckland Art Gallery – the single largest gift ever in Australasia.
Won’t comment on the entire list, but also worth mentioning former Auditor-General Kevin Brady who is made a CNZM. He was the public service at its finest as he stood up to Parliament and insisted that their funding of various pledge cards and the like was illegal.
There was a fascinating radio interview at 7.40 am on National Radio today. It was from a specialist newspaper that reports on the UN, and complaining about the refusal of Helen Clark to do press conferences, how Clark and Heather Simpson try to handpick journalists for interviews and a general lack of accountability.
You can listen to the interview here.
It sounds like the UN media is less compliant than some of the NZ media has been. Some extracts from the interview with Matthew Lee the founder and editor of the Inner City Press that focuses on the UN:
In the six months she has been in office there have been a number of UNDP issues that have arisen and repeatedly, I would say half a dozen times, myself and other journalist have asked that she comes and do a press conference, an actual Q&A and take questions and it is yet to happen.
He points out she is the third most senior official at the UN, and not a single press conference in six months.
It has become somewhat striking, a total failure to answer questions about the agency as they arise. … Once requests were made for Helen Clark to do a press conference there were a flurry of calls from her two spokespeople at the UNDP to specific media outlets saying do you want a one on one. One of them responded and said Okay here’s the journalist who will do it. But UNDP responded No No we prefer this other journalist who works for you. That’s a degree of micro-management of press coverage that is almost unheard of in the UN.
But very familiar to people back in New Zealand. And many in the media went along with it, or they risked losing access.
If she is the third highest official in the UN, she needs to come and take questions because everyone else does. The Secretary-General does it on a monthly basis, the head of peacekeeping every two weeks.
Almost funny that Helen’s managed to actually lower the standards at the UN!
He also goes on to say how the only briefing anyone in the UNDP has given for some months has been about relief efforts in Samoa and Tonga.
Geoff Robinson: Are you the only journalist, is yours the only organisation raising this as an issue?
Lee: No, No … In July an issue arose about a hiring, a kind of nepotism hiring took place in UNDP. Inner City Press had the exclusive but after that it was covered by the Times of London, Reuters and even newspapers in Italy. All four of these publications wanted answers from UNDP and none of them got them. I sent e-mails to her long time staffer, Heather Simpson, to make sure we got her answer as to why this nepotism scandal was not a problem. There was never any response at all.
Heather’s job is to block media, not facilitate them!
But here is what is really interesting. All the media listen to Morning Report. Yet this quite stunning and significant interview has not been reported anywhere else at all!
In reference to the frequent texts from Helen Clark to her former colleagues, Geoffrey Miller e-mails me the following:
National uses Crosby Textor.
Labour uses Clarky Texter.
Heh, very good.
The Dom Post reports:
Prime Minister John Key was driven at more than twice the legal speed limit across battered Samoan roads so he could have a shower before seeing tsunami damage.
Journalists travelling with the speeding motorcade report fearing for their lives as they careered at more than 100kmh to deliver the prime minister from the airport to the high commission.
The legal speed limit is 40kmh.
John Key’s office has said New Zealand police who were part of the motorcade claim the maximum speed it reached was 64kmh during his visit. The motorcade later slowed after Mr Key’s staff expressed concern at the speed.
“Staff were uncomfortable with the speed, which NZ police inform us reached a maximum of no more than 40 miles per hour,” spokesman Kevin Taylor said. “Samoan authorities were notified of the concern at the end of the first movement, and the speed of the motorcade was reduced in subsequent movements.”
But journalists driving with the motorcade agree it reached speeds of more than 100kmh, with one reporting 120kmh – three times the limit.
What got Clark into trouble wasn’t the speeding per se, but her insistence that she had not even noticed they were driving at 170+ km/hr as she was so engrossed talking to Jim Sutton, and then leaving the police officers out to dry.
I’m pleased to see the staff noticed the speed, and asked for it to slow down. That will or should mean that it does not become as big an issue.
I might be wrong, but I suspect Helen Clark hated that her first meeting with Barack Obama was having John Key introduce her as his predecessor, after Obama goes out of his way to say hi to Key.
We sometimes forget what a great reputation our country has overseas as a place to live:
Mr Obama had a friend living in New Zealand who had raved about the country praising its golf courses, skiing and lifestyle for families.
If Obama does visit at some stage, he’ll be a lot more popular than he is back home. UMR released a poll yesterday on NZers views of world leaders. The net positive ratings were:
- Barack Obama +82% (88% favourable, 6% unfavourable)
- Kevin Rudd +45%
- Angela Merkel +15%
- Nicolas Sarkozy +2%
- Gordon Brown -1%
- Silvio Berlusconi -16%
- Vladimir Putin -19%
Tracy Watkins writes in the Dom Post:
If they could bottle what John Key’s got and sell it, National would make a killing.
It might be a seemingly innocuous brew of good humour and affability, rather than the traditionally more coveted mix of charisma and skilled oratory, but it clearly works.
I’m going to return back to what Tracy wrote, but want to cut over to another story that I think is a superb example of what Tracy is on about. It is this one about firefighters protesting outside the opening of a new fire station by the Prime Minister, over their pay claim.
Now this is the sort of issue that would normally prompt a discussion in the PMs Office and the PM. You will be worried about the negative message getting in the way of the positive message about funding a new fire station.
Now I can say with some certainty that the way previous National PMs would have handled the situation is to have the Minister of Internal Affairs do a press release and briefing the day before the briefing setting out how the Firefighters Union is misleading over their pay claims, and that with their various allowance they rake in $70,000 and spend so much of their time sleeping on standby, most can easily do a second job, and that their total pay per hour actually spent working is well over $50 an hour. This would then put the pressure on the union and protesters to respond, and take the heat off the PM.
Again with some confidence I can say former Labour PMs would handle it very similarly. The key difference would be that they wouldn’t have the Internal Affairs Minister release the information publicly, as they don’t like to be seen crapping on the unions that fund them. Instead a press secretary would give the relevant information to a journalist, and they would rely on the rest of the media picking up the story.
So what did John Key do:
The firefighters, in their yellow protective clothing, waved placards, chanted and pressed themselves against the station’s glass roller doors as Mr Key spoke.
After the opening, he went outside and addressed them through a megaphone.
He insisted he had not yet received a recommendation on wage rises from the Fire Service.
“All we’re saying to you guys is we’re living in a backdrop where a hell of a lot of people are losing their job, where the Government is running big deficits and where we’ve all got to be reasonable.”
Mr Key said that if insurance levies, which pay the Fire Service’s wages, went up then more pressure would be placed on taxpayers, already struggling with the recession.
“At the end of the day what we’re trying to do is make sure there isn’t huge pressure on a lot of people that are losing their jobs,” he said.
Union spokesman Boyd Raines said Mr Key’s response was “fairly predictable in terms of the Nats’ party line”.
However, Mr Raines added: “It was good to see that he actually had the balls to come out and actually front up to the crowd.”
And quite a few of the protesters would have said the same thing. Don’t get me wrong – they are not going to suddenly convert to National because of what Key did. But they will say, “Hey at least he did us the decency of listening to us, and talking to us- rather than just attack us”.
And this is what is a strength of Key’s. He comes across as so reasonable. Apart from some of the authors of The Standard (and some of the commenters on this blog!), most people can see that and respond to that. They think he’s a nice talented guy, who tries to reasonably engage with everyone – even those who are there to protest against him.
So back to what Tracy said:
This is what has Labour strategists scratching their heads. As the party heads into its annual conference in Rotorua this weekend, it faces the same dilemma National once faced: when your opponent’s most potent weapon is its leader, is an old-fashioned contest of ideas going to be enough?
Maybe it’s that “what you see is what you get” quality to Mr Key’s leadership that strikes a chord with voters. It is hard to find artifice in a man who makes verbal gaffes, has a nice line in self-deprecating humour, talks about his kids a lot and has never worried too much about looking statesmanlike.
Again, one could imagine it easy to have someone advising the PM that whatever you do don’t pick up a megaphone and talk to the protesters. The arguments would be that it is undignified, it puts you on their level, it might look bad on the news etc etc. But he doesn’t worry about that very much.
Politicians have never underestimated the power of a friendly smile and an open and engaging face. Helen Clark crawled out from under the ignominy of dismal poll ratings as Opposition leader by smiling more and softening her voice under the tutelage of Brian Edwards and Judy Callingham. The remarkable thing is that she even had to be taught; in a more relaxed setting, Miss Clark loves nothing more than a good laugh, and does so boisterously and often. But she almost had to unlearn years of political training to unlock the person within and even then never managed to drop the shield completely.
Of course, spin doctoring can only go so far and, in the wrong hands, a politician’s smile can be an unmitigated disaster. Take British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He cemented his unpopularity only after an attempt to connect with voters by smiling scarily and at random through an infamous YouTube clip.
Simon Hoggart, in The Guardian, likened it to “the smile a 50-year-old man might use on the parents of the 23-year-old woman he is dating, in a doomed attempt to reassure them”. Even Mr Brown’s own colleagues could not hold back from poking fun at him.
Ha that is a great analogy.
Most former leaders are happy to leave their party to their successors. Muldoon was the famous exception to this, and Clark is looking it seems to join her ranks.
We already found out via The Listener that Clark is in regular, almost daily, contact with many MPs. She still has the party administration ferociously loyal to her, and now thanks to the NZ Herald we find out she is operating as a sort of party whip for former MPs:
Former prime minister Helen Clark pressured her former ministerial colleague Margaret Shields not to accept the title “Dame”.
But the former MP for Kapiti did not buckle, and this afternoon she will be invested as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. …
Helen Clark sent Mrs Shields a letter setting out why Labour had abolished the titles and saying she hoped she would not accept one. …
Helen Clark, now Administrator of the United Nations Development Fund, is in New Zealand on holiday but could not be reached for comment.
But she is understood to have been deeply disappointed that Dame Margaret and some others to whom her Government awarded high non-titular honours had accepted titles.
I’m staggered by this. To have the former PM writing letters to previous recipients trying to pressure them into turning down the titles is just so petty. You think she would have better things to do with her time.
A few Kiwis will become regular readers of this blog – UNDP Watch.
I only discovered it after it linked to a profile I did of Helen Clark a few months back.
The blog is not run by the vast right wing conspiracy, but by a group of UN staffers who are critical of the UNDP for its lack of transparency.
What if everything you knew about politics came from the internet? What if people based their vote on which politician was the most popular on Facebook or Bebo? It’s unlikely and a bit of a nightmare scenario really but on-line sources of information are becoming increasingly important for voters.
To test my vague theory in New Zealand politics, I searched on Facebook for each party leader and examined the groups supporting and, in some cases opposing, them. Here are the results:
John Key (National) – 14,388 supporters. Interestingly the “I HEART John Key” and “Scientologists for John Key” groups have exactly the same number of members. I’m presuming they are the same people.
Helen Clark (United Nations) – 5, 408 supporters.
Phil Goff (Labour) – 1,112 members of a group wanting him to be Prime Minister in 2011 and 3 in a quite different group who think he is a DILF. Look up what it means at your peril.
Rodney Hide (Act) – 719 supporters.
Russel Norman (Green) – 567 supporters. His on-line presence grew significantly when I spelled his first name correctly in the search field.
Metiria Turei (Green) – 339 supporters.
Winston Peters (Retired) – 236 supporters for Prime Minister, 11 supporters for next year’s Dancing with the Stars. Both quite terrifying prospects really.
Jim Anderton (Progressive) – 17 supporters, much higher than expected.
Pita Sharples (Maori Party) – No Facebook groups supporting him but a couple which are worryingly opposed (and in apparent breach of Facebook policies).
Tariana Turia (Maori Party) – No Facebook groups supporting or opposing her. There is one offering to be a support group for Mrs Turia going back to school but the tag is “just for fun – outlandish statements.”
Peter Dunne (United Future) – Mr Dunne does not have an official supporters group. The group “I lost my phone drinking in London – numbers please!!! (Peter Dunne)” is almost certainly not him. Peter Dunne does not strike me as the kind of man who, under any circumstances, would use three exclamation points.
Luckily we have an interview with Tracy Watkins to remind us:
Eight months on from Labour’s election loss, former prime minister Helen Clark has no regrets and she rejects suggestions that Labour alienated voters by pushing through measures such as the child discipline bill.
Clark is still unable to accept she ever did anything wrong. Her valedictory speech to Parliament sounded like a triumph speech, where her getting thrown out of office was just some sort of mistake by the voters.
Now in New York as head of the United Nations Development Programme, Miss Clark has also revealed unease at the National Government’s direction on climate change and says its scrapping of her flagship sustainability agenda was motivated by sheer vindictiveness.
As I said, I’d forgotten how nasty Clark could be. My God – she thinks it is all about her. And yes this nasty vindictive Government that fully supported her campaign for the UN job, and appointed Michael Cullen to an SOE.
Over at The Standard, Paul Buchanan made this comment:
I hate to say it, but I think bullying crosses the aisle and is endemic not only in NZ politics but the society at large, be it in academia, government, unions or corporations. Helen Clark openly called for my dismissal from Auckland University when I raised questions about the Zaoui case. She also vilified Deborah Manning, who is one of the more courageous Kiwis I have met. After it was all over and Zaoui won his appeal, Deborah moved on to an international job and Helen got her wish with regards to me.
I’d forgotten about that. So much to remember – Kit Richards, Erin Leigh, Peter Doone also.
The SST report:
THE YOUNG Helen Clark was once described as “a sex bomb” in black boots, according to a new unauthorised biography of the former Labour prime minister.
Helen Clark, by Wellington journalist Denis Welch, says trade union leader Matt McCarten’s first memory of her was from the early 80s. “She was dressed all in black and had big black boots,” McCarten said.
Fellow unionist Laila Harre, later an Alliance Party cabinet minister in Clark’s first cabinet, recalled a 1985 party where young men were “salivating over Helen Clark and her boots”.
“McCarten: `She was a sex bomb!”‘
“Harre: `She was, actually from a left-wing point of view. We don’t have very high standards!”‘
Funnily enough more people would say Laila used to be the left’s “sex bomb”. Many a Nat staffer used to gaze longingly at her.
However Laila had these steely eyes that looked like they could freeze you at 100 metres, so I don’t think any of the young admirers ever shared their adoration with her
The SST also has a largish extract from the upcoming Welch book on Clark.
One of the Standard authors whined:
Business New Zealand and other assorted tossers. Stop calling our country ‘New Zealand Inc’. This is our home. This is where we live our lives and raise our families. It’s not some profit-maximising engine for your shareholders.
Personally I think anyone who gets worked up over such trivialities need to relax more, but he or she is entitled to their view that anyone who refers to New Zealand Inc is a tosser.
The commenters then have a field day finding Phil Goff having used the term three times and Helen Clark four times, making them officially tossers according to that Standard author.
Hat Tip: Whale Oil