Espiner on Clark


The change of Government last year left feeling rejected. She couldn’t and still can’t understand why Labour lost.

Nor her colleagues.

Like her Australian counterpart John Howard, or former British prime minister Tony Blair, or any other number of world leaders (in democracies at least), Clark fell victim to the curse of not knowing when it was time to go. We all thought we had given her a fair suck of the sav, to use the Kiwi vernacular.

If a party wants a good chance at a fourth term, it should have completed a massive rejuvenation by mid way through the third term – including the leadership. And for such rejuvenation to be credible, you have to start it towards the end of your first term. I hope National retires around six Ministers in 2011.

Clark felt rejected by us. She couldn’t and still can’t understand why Labour lost. Why voters wanted a fresh face on the ninth floor of the Beehive. She had given blood, sweat, and even a few tears to the job. Why wasn’t it enough?

Clark always wanted to remodel New Zealand in the social democratic traditions of Western European democracies, where the same party remains in power for decades and the support parties revolve around it.

This is what they looked to have after the 2002 election. And then Don Brash and John Key came along and spoiled the dream. Hence why they introduced the Electoral Finance Act.

Clark was the most popular New Zealand prime minister of modern times. No-one else, since the advent of reliable and regular political polling in the 1970s, has averaged such a consistently high approval rating.

This is true – her Preferred PM ratings stayed strong throughout.

The newspaper is only the first draft of history, but it is doubtful Clark’s long-term legacy will be judged as that of a great prime minister.

Great leaders have a vision, and the ability to get people to follow them to it. Clark was always more the manager than the visionary.

However, her intellect, determination, energy, accomplishments, and devotion to her country means she is likely to be remembered as a very, very, very good one.

An interesting perspective from Colin. I’m actually planning to do my own review of her career achievements, and her strengths and weaknesses – will blog it later this week. I hope it will be seen as pretty fair – I won’t be focusing on policy disagreements, but on political management, vision etc.

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