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Ex leaders

Written By: - Date published: 10:58 am, March 3rd, 2010 - 26 comments
Categories: helen clark, john key, leadership - Tags:

I was stuck recently by the contrast between the (most recent) ex leaders of the Labour and National parties.

Helen Clark stood down on the night of the 2008 election. She soon had a new job heading the UN Development Programme. Still popular with the public she was voted the greatest living New Zealander, and listed as one of world’s 100 most powerful women.

On her recent trip back to NZ Clark received two honours, the Order of New Zealand (our highest honour), and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Auckland (in recognition of her contribution to New Zealand). Media coverage also stressed Clark’s high profile role (“Clark takes the world in hand”), and her comments on some aspects of current issues (“Discussing mining on TVNZ’s Q&A programme, Helen Clark said: ‘Some things are more important than money'”).

Don Brash stood down in 2006, one step ahead of a coup, amidst swirling controversy over lies and dodgy dealing during the 2005 election campaign. He dropped out of public sight until 2009, when he resurfaced as the Chair of the Government’s 2025 Taskforce. As soon as the first report was released it was evident that the Taskforce was a farce and a waste of taxpayers’ money. The Government disowned it. Analyst Rod Oram tore it to shreds, not just for the findings, but for the quality of the work (‘At every point it has unbelievably facile analysis and, in fact, substitutes rather generic assertions for detailed analysis’). Even Garth George came out calling for the report to be recycled into toilet paper.

Don’s most recent mention in the media was for calling voters “not only venal, but ignorant” – a statement which tells us much more about Don Brash than it does about NZ voters.

In short, comparing the post-leadership careers of Clark and Brash is a study in contrasts. Clark’s has been stellar, Brash’s an embarrassment. But the world of difference between these two leaders is much clearer with the perfect hindsight of 2010 than it was when they were locked in a tight electoral battle in 2005. My point is, I guess, that there can be huge variations in the skills and personalities of our leaders, strengths and weaknesses that are very real, but not necessarily obvious to everyone at the time. Like G W Bush, a weak leader can be immensely popular, until events and the emerging perspective of hindsight show them up for what they are. Something for John Key to ponder perhaps, as unemployment rises and the much touted wage gap with Australia grows

26 comments on “Ex leaders”

  1. Agreed entirely.

    Hearing Helen on Radio New Zealand reminded me of what a prodigous PM she was. She knew her stuff, spoke lucidly and candidly, had a solid grasp of the issues and had a game plan.

    Brash on the other hand speaks like someone who has had a lobotomy to remove his compassion chip.

    Challenging post however. The Standard server should brace itself for a wingnut frenzy.

  2. Chuck 2

    Would it not be better comparison between Jim Bolger (who has a respected post PM career) that a person who failed to get the top job?

    • vidiot 2.1

      Now that would just be too obvious. Next she will be compared against the former leader of the Christian Heritage Party, who’s only failing is that he got convicted.

  3. Onomatopoeia 3

    Helen’s job isn’t as big as the culturally cringing New Zealand media would have you believe. Her outfit’s budget pales into insignificance when compared to that of WINZ. It allows our media to pretend we are important on the world stage and lefties to pretend that the rest of the world appreciates our former glorious leader in a way that the New Zealand electorate was too stupid to. It’s just not true.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      From Wikipedia:

      “The UNDP Administrator has the rank of an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. While the Administrator is often referred to as the third highest-ranking official in the UN (after the UN Secretary General and the UN Deputy Secretary General), this has never been formally codified.”

      Clearly this is the highest international position ever held by a NZer, and substantially hitting above our country’s ‘weight’ in terms of GDP and population.

      • Onomatopoeia 3.1.1

        Clearly this is the highest international position ever held by a NZer

        Mike Moore’s job at the WTO wipes the floor with Helen’s. As probably did Muldoon’s at the World Bank.

  4. T 4

    Tangentially, John Howard, the former Australian Prime Minister, has been nominated by the New Zealand cricket board, and that of Australia, for the job of President of the International Cricket Council.

  5. To answer the question – Key will likely be remembered as the Pied Piper of Politics, who rid the country of the “notorious” PC [rats], only to force low-medium earners [children] to look to Australia for work in the ever-widening gap, ne’er to be seen or heard from again.

    • The Baron 5.1

      I highly doubt that that name will take on, as it is possibly the most convoluted analogy I have ever heard. And wrong in fact too, given the latest net migration numbers.

  6. BLiP 6

    It seems unlikely King John The Clueless of Charmalot gives a single flying fling about his legacy, not so long as the media portray him as some kind of rock star.

    Perhaps, sitting back in his luxurious dotage as the tide laps at the doorstep to his Hawaiian mansion he can regale the grand children with tales of the days he made little school girls go weak at the knees while pensioners went hungry.


  7. Ex Leader and Ex Non-Leader
    Current Somebody and Ex Never Was

  8. Bored 8

    Colossus versus midget (who in turn was replaced by pygmy prince Charmalot).

  9. Red Rosa 9

    The Hollow Men still selling steadily – a good form guide to the current Cabinet.

    No doubt Brash was consoled by the Nats’ giving him the Task Force job, as we’ve had no more whining about his ‘stolen’ e-mails.

    And no doubt also, his mates in the Brethren are consoling him too. Or are they the proverbial Job’s Comforters?

    • blacksand 9.1

      I don’t think they’ll have much support left for Don ‘Family Values’ Brash these days. Talk about backing a bad horse!

  10. Peter 10

    Brash, a leader ? surely thats an Oxymoron ?

  11. Leopold 11

    Yes, the fairer comparison would be between Bolger and Clark – both held power for a considerable period, and did something in their afterlife
    Brash couldn’t win even when he had every venal and ignorant voter on his side..
    Seeing the immediate past and present leaders of the Nats, I feel quite nostalgic for Jim…

    • Ari 11.1

      The point is that the comparison is not fair. Read the post.

      You could make an arguement for comparing Brash to Bolger, however, which I think works just as well.

  12. The Baron 12

    Wow, the fandom here has reached a new low. Get your hand off it eh.

    Though does anyone wanna pick how their replacements – John Key and old whats-his-name – are gonna do in the same comparisons?

  13. randal 13

    john key was head hunted by the boagey and like all guns for hire when the dough is gone so will he be..gone that is.

  14. vto 14

    what a bizarre post

    • vto 14.1

      Comparing the post-Parliament careers of Simon Upton and Taito Phillip-Field is quite a study in contrasts.

  15. Santi 15

    I have no regard for Clark, the staunch socialist she is. Key is a non-entity, a forgetable person with little leading abilities. Soon to be forgotten.

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