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Thanks, Helen

Written By: - Date published: 11:20 pm, April 8th, 2009 - 46 comments
Categories: helen clark - Tags:

There goes the best leader we’ve had in a life-time.

Was she perfect? No, far from it. There are many things she might have done differently but she led governments that made New Zealand a better place in so many ways. We’ve heard her government’s achievements so many times I won’t try to list them all. They have reshaped this country, lifted hundreds of thousands out of poverty, and created a fairer society.

She dedicated herself totally to the job. Her personal conduct was beyond reproach. She is incredibly competent and knowledgeable. She has set a new standard that subsequent Prime Ministers will struggle to match.

Helen, you’ve done yourself and the country proud. Best of luck in the future.

46 comments on “Thanks, Helen ”

  1. Well put Eddie and Helen deserves our thanks. I rank her as our best modern prime minister and up there with Savage and Fraser.

    I wonder how long it will take before the wingnuts start with their diatribe about how Helen was a communist lesbian wrecker of families and the good state of the economy was luck while also being a wasted opportunity?

  2. omg 2

    She was good and then got lost in the power and started pushing NZ in the wrong direction (authoritarian and banning).

    Less whittering about Savage and Fraser.

  3. r0b 3

    My vote of thanks too. You (and Michael Cullen) restored my faith in the Labour Party. You accomplished so much good for New Zealand. May you go on to even better things at the UN. Kia kaha. Farewell…

  4. Ralph 4

    Farewell – Me he aroaro tamahine.

  5. whakamoemiti Helen and Peter, kia kaha and don’t be strangers now y’hear?
    We’re heading into old-boy shit-street for a few years here and will need resuscitation and rehabilitation once this lot have shuffled this deck of cards and gambled with our chips on the gaming table they perceive this society to be.
    captcha: munged metaphors

  6. gobsmacked 6

    The scale of Helen Clark’s achievement still isn’t really understood, in our insular little land.

    Look around the democratic world. Look at the “left-leaning” parties in other nations, called Social Democrat or ALP or Democrat or Labour (UK) or Socialist (France) … and so on.

    Look at what usually happens to those parties. If they win power, they either shift to the right, or they are shifted out of power by the voters. Or they dump their leaders. How many left-leaning leaders in the world can you name who won three elections?

    And yet Clark never had a guaranteed majority in parliament. A simple fact, so easily forgotten. How she must have envied Tony Blair, with his inflated FPP landslides. But she was a truer social democrat than he ever was.

    Helen Clark was the most successful centre-left leader of our time. Not just in New Zealand, but around the globe. That’s such a remarkable thing, that we don’t even realize or appreciate it. (And if you disagree, then you’re welcome to offer alternative nominations! It’s a pretty short list.).

    Good luck, Helen. And thank you.

  7. BLiP 7

    Ka kite Helen – Aoteara is the better for your work and so too will be Earth during your time at the UN. You have suffered the worse barrage of filthy right wing viciousness with dignity, never raising to the bait even as the forthing-at-the-mouth spluttering rage of the white trash grew and became increasingly malignant and destrucrtive.

    My only regret is that your appeared to have been captured momentarily by the blinkered science that defends genetic engineering and, thus, I was unable to vote for you last time around. I know that your role at the UN will open your eyes to the evils of the corporate ownership of seed stock and the patenting of life forms. I don’t know what I’m going to do now that I have been left disenferanchised by the Greens . . .

    Having said that, you remain an inspiration to me, a true national symbol of progress, a beacon of hope for how our political leaders should behave, and a living example of how far Kiwis can fly when determination mixes with talent and skill.

    Kia Kaha.

  8. SjS 9

    As a recent graduate and a hard working kiwi, thanks Helen for making NZ a better place to start an adult life and work in!


  9. tommy onions 10

    I have enormous respect for Helen Clark’s intellect, personal integrity and capacity for sheer hard work – and her ability to rise above all that vile, vitriolic and personalised abuse from the crazed ultra-Right. (What was that lovely phrase of Trotter’s about the ‘creatures of the barbeque pit and sports bar?’ )

    What she appeared to lack – but it’s also probably what made her capable of holding a disparate coalition together for 9 years – was fire in her belly. She was maybe too cerebral, at times impatient and too controlling; she believed no-one could do a job as well as she could – except Cullen maybe – and she was probably right.

    My single biggest criticism is that as a leadership, she and Cullen didn’t work hard enough on a succession strategy. In that respect they have not left the Labour Party in a strong position – and perhaps more than at any point in our history, we need a strong, unified, principled and intelligent party voice speaking for ordinary New Zealanders.

    • vto 10.1

      tommy and his onions “What was that lovely phrase of Trotter’s about the ‘creatures of the barbeque pit and sports bar?’ ”

      imo that was far from lovely but instead epitomised the arrogance and ignorance of Trotter and much of the ‘intellectual’ left. Nasty bones shone through with that comment, nasty nasty. Exctly like the nasty right but in reverse. Could have been said by Cullen such was its evilness. And tho probably never expressed by Clark, no doubt thought so. Shows a basic and substantial lack of understanding and compassion for fellow manwoman. Which was one of the major reasons for the Clark Cullen failure at the end.

      Anyway, best you lot get back to your fawning..

      (that comment was also almost the perfect example of one of the last sexist and racist permissions in existence)

  10. expat 11

    He wahine ki uta, he kahawai ki roto ki te wai

  11. Judith 12

    ‘creatures of the bbq pit and sports bar’ FFS thats Labours core demographic except the academics forgot that and wonder why the voters left them.

  12. Relic 13

    leave it out vto, the ratio of unpleasant bastards in this country is still way too high for my liking, inclusive of Trotter’s “feckless women that support them’.

    In real life I challenge the knuckle draggers in a number of ways, not just because it is necessary for societal progress, it is also marvellous fun!

    • vto 13.1

      relic did you not recognise that as a similar challenge to other knuckle draggers such as Trotter and his ilk …

      • roger nome 13.1.1

        VTO – that you characterise Trotter as a knuckle-dragger shows just how wide of the mark you are – generally.

  13. ak 14

    Exctly like the nasty right but in reverse.

    Oh sure veets. Exctly the same. Just identical with the barrage of unimaginable filth and hatred from the sewer (including calls for Helen’s death) and talkback for years now. And Jesus was just as bad as Adolf.

    Anyway, best you get back to your pathetic, bare-faced lies…

  14. dad4justice 15

    So many lies where do I start? How Sandra M got her transfer is the best one.

  15. ripp0 16

    I hadn’t planned on adding anything more than the very best of wishes that folks here have already sent Helen Clark..

    Yet TO’s comment (final par) has me say how the succession issue is a double-sided coin. Leaders, party. Methinks in H.C.’s case* that the latter lapsed. They have been too reliant.

    To me that sliver majority, whilst an achievement in getting out the party vote back in 05, didna really track enough political capital for the lady or her team. Something the Opposition worked on and worked over time and again, even negating in their non-nation partisan cause, effective government. Yep, they gamed MMP! [ select committees etc..] And, yes, vile power-play tactics. Which leaves the sentimental cold.. implacably opposed (to the behavior, understand, more than manifest policy and intents). Negativity does that. Isolating Clark and her followers.

    And yes, the the Opposition knew this, played it, gamed the government. And, importantly, all New Zealanders.

    Which is the thinking behind our call for Responsibility in government. Why Responsibility deserves its own movement to encourage government of the people by the people and for the people.

    When you rely on one (leader) overlong, or indeed the wrongun underlong, you get overdone/underdone and not of, by and for people effectively anymore.

    *the personal plaint: back in 1999 I visited a mall at Riccarton.. walking down to buy coffee beans at the supermarket.. folks smiling for no reason I could think of.. not that saturday morning.. so.. curious me asked around in that store’s aisles. Dontcha know..! they’d say out loud. Me—smiling—you wanna know—really—okay I’ll tellyer. This is end of cuts day.. end of women knifing better blokes in the back jus’ so they can be the first woman PM—self-appointed FFS! Thissis end of the big bozo flapping around any wall big enuff for her mug in this town—bitch! Auckland can havver! That’s what. That clear, mister. Yeah, this our big smile day.

    Hard lingo. Lovely, toothy smiles. Warmed me then, warms me now, and has warmed me many times in between.

    And, oyez, if nothing else, the italian beans I bought that day have never been better tasting since.. secret is to get enough bean buyers to guarantee turnover and freshness.

    Last word for Peter who will never ever recall the conversation I once had with him—I’m happy you’re going with Helen. And hope the new “chains” she mentioned are not anywhere near as onerous as those you both surrendered.

  16. QoT 17


  17. Evidence-Based Practice 18

    NZ might take awhile to realise how lucky we were to have Helen’s leadership – some people are just ahead of their time. They challenge those who think they deserve to have all the power, and make the place a better place for the powerless. The DomPost today reflects the attitude of the former with comments about cold socialists. QoT above has a more accurate reflection of the feelings of ordinary people.

    And it’s not about one person and their ego – it’s about building a team and relationships and networks, and encouraging others, The succession planning and bringing young new talented MPs into the party has been clever and strategic.

    Thanks Helen.

  18. Rex Widerstrom 19

    My Aunty used to make a great fuss of me, and undoubtedly had my best interests at heart. She’d spoil me with treats but in the end I knew I had to eat what she served up, go where she wanted to go and, when allowed some freedom, to never venture further than the parameters she set me.

    I accepted this because I was a child and she did know best at the time. But having reached the age she was, I’d prefer the freedom to make my own choices.

    Clark had absolute dedication, an unrivalled mastery of politics and a formidable intellect. Those traits require the person to be surrounded by equals (or at least near-equals) who’ll challenge and hold their ground. Instead – like Muldoon – Clark was surrounded mostly by hand-picked inferiors, some bordering on sycophants, who knew only too well that their ineptitude meant they were effectively serving at the whim of the Leader because they could never gain preselection / list ranking on their own merits.

    As a result, against an undoubted list of policy achievements there also must stand an albeit shorter list of political mis-steps and arrogance (borne from a genuine belief that she was following the best course, but arrogance nonetheless), particularly in the last term.

    And while a lack of backbone amongst those who ought to be advising caution, or perhaps a change of direction on some issues, explains an air of hubris it doesn’t excuse it.

    If we are to make good use of the few truly intelligent and able people who choose to make their career in politics we need to see ourselves as part of the process, not merely as consumers of it. We need to demand our leaders explain, justify, and seek our approval on policies during their term – especially as it’s now so technologically easy to do – not merely assure us they know what’s best. And we need to reject the dull-witted sycophants offered to us at the ballot box, regardless of the colour of ribbon pinned to their chests.

    The problem with Helen Clark was that few in Parliament were her equal, and fewer still were in her caucus. Looking out across that landscape for so long it’s easy to believe that your way forward is the only one with any validity.

    That New Zealanders seem to embrace this suffocating “I know what’s best for you” approach says something about our collective psyche. It’s the same reason Muldoon was so popular for so long… we seem to want “strong leadership” which all too often translates into a something approaching benign dictatorship.

    But I didn’t want an Aunty, making me eat my sprouts and sending me to bed, no matter how well intentioned she may have been. I wanted a partner, who’d consult me on how the household was run and accept that my opinions, while sometimes different, were equally valid.

    • ripp0 19.1

      If we are to make good use of the few truly intelligent and able people who choose to make their career in politics we need to see ourselves as part of the process, not merely as consumers of it. We need to demand our leaders explain, justify, and seek our approval on policies during their term – especially as it’s now so technologically easy to do – not merely assure us they know what’s best. And we need to reject the dull-witted sycophants offered to us at the ballot box, regardless of the colour of ribbon pinned to their chests.

      Congratulations, Rex!

      • Pascal's bookie 19.1.1


        I like the sentiment, but whenever I think about what this:

        We need to demand our leaders explain, justify, and seek our approval on policies during their term – especially as it?s now so technologically easy to do

        …would actually look like in practice I keep running into:

        “Pollie Idol”

        “NZ’s Top Prime Minister”

        “the your views section of the Herald”

        just saying, and would like to be proven wrong.

        • Rex Widerstrom

          “NZ’s Top Prime Minister”

          Funny you should say that, Pb 8-/

          Yes it’s a process fraught with potential problems – one I’ve been studying and debating since 1999.

          So while I admit the potential for it to become governance not just by Herald “Your Views” writers but even by *shudder* callers to Michael Laws I believe it is still a process we need and deserve to explore and debate.

          But to do so here would be to thread-jack a post which is designed to discuss something entirely different. I’ll just say that part of the way forward is being demonstrated right here, every day, by the way in which The Standard is moderated.

          And thanks to others for the compliments. Alas workload is either a drought or a tsunami, meaning I’d either witter on several times a day or you’d hear nothing for weeks, so my own blog is probably not feasible. But I do try and wade in here (and at the dreaded Kiwiblog) when the topic is something I’m passionate about.

    • BLiP 19.2

      Excellent contribution which has left me thinking – thanks for that, Rex.

      I can’t accept that the hubris was genuine arrogance or presumption. She certainly came over that way in that most narrowing of media, the televison. Yet, having spent a little time in her company I feel that part of her personality was a healed over scar, the result of the suffering she enduring at the hands of the malicious – suffering not so much from their actons but more that New Zealand could manifest so hideous an underbelly. She did from time to time expose the scar of a hardened soul, but it was, really, more carapace than visceral.

      Also, what was that link to the Canada site? I don’t get the point – unless it was a private joke with PB or something.

      • Rex Widerstrom 19.2.1

        …what was that link to the Canada site…

        That they are, in fact, running a gameshow called “Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister”… a small touch or irony given that PB has nightmares of such a thing happening here 😉

  19. jimbo 20

    Excellent post, Rex. Agree entirely that HC was (and is) an extremely capable politician who achieved a great deal of what she set out to do.

    HC was also extremely good at playing the “long game”. For example, she was clearly keen to remove all ties to our Colonial past, but she realised that it would not be achieved under her leadership because there was not enough time. Instead, she was happy to chip away at it through various policies and law changes so as to lay the groundwork for later. You have to admire the restraint and patience, but I think some of that deserted her in the final term when she reliased time was running out.

  20. Daveski 21

    As above, an excellent post Rex. If you’re not going to run your own blog, it would be great to see some guest posts of yours here or elsewhere as you have obviously valuable insights.

    In broad terms, rather than strengths and weaknesses, strengths can be a weakness (and vice versa) depending on the context.

    I think HC was a strong leader who had a clear view of what she thought was right.

    Your point about those who were selected etc is also valid – while she was clearly a successful PM, the party does not appear to have been prepared for her departure.

    Anyway, here’s hoping for more from you more often.

  21. jarbury 22

    Having grown up in Mt Albert I always felt a close connection with Helen Clark. She helped my mother set up the Sandringham Community Centre in the early 1980s when I was just a baby, I remember cheering at Mt Albert Primary School in 1989 when it was announced she’d become deputy prime-minister. Whilst of course nobody is perfect I always thought of Helen as an extremely competent leader who had the best interests of the country very much close to her heart.

    In more recent times I have seen Helen’s caravan parked in Sandringham shops every Saturday morning – proving that even though she was PM she still had time for her local area. Prior to the election I took my four year old daughter down to the shops and met with her. We had a nice chat about Maurice Williamson’s roads-fetish, and my daughter was immediately enamoured with her, to the extent that she pointed out every billboard of “Helen Clark!” she saw. At the voting booth last November she ticked Helen’s box for me (though my party vote did go Green).

    Our loss is the UN’s (and hopefully the wider world’s) gain. I have utmost confidence Helen will do us proud as she has particularly done so in the past on the international stage.

    Personally, I think Helen’s best decision ever was to not get us involved in the Iraq war. There was a lot of pressure on for us to do so, and we potentially put trade agreements in jeopardy by taking the stance she did. But she knew the war was wrong and stuck by that principle. For perhaps more than anything else, that is why I think she was a great leader and a great person.

    I will miss her.

  22. Dan 23

    I saw McCully on the news tonight looking quite out of his depth in Washington. When I reflect on the foreign policy of Clark’s cabinet, and further back to Lange and Kirk, I cringe at the thought of McCully leading us back to the 70’s foreign policy of the Nats which was do whatever the Americans wanted.
    Thank you Helen Clark for maintaining our independent foreign policy. I am not isolationist; I am not unaware of the realities of terrorism and a militant Muslim world but America has lost the moral mandate it once had. The world needs more leaders like Clark.

  23. jarbury 24

    Moral integrity is a hugely under-rated aspect of foreign policy. Australia and the UK sold out their moral integrity hugely over the 2001-2007 period, as obviously the US did too. For New Zealand to maintain its moral integrity over that time is huge kudos to Helen and her government.

    Keeping out of Iraq meant that we could get on a bus each morning and not have to worry about someone blowing it up. And that we still maintained civil liberties to a far greater extent than was seen in the US, UK or Australia. You CANNOT under-estimate the value of that.

  24. r0b 25

    Too much pandering to Rex there, I’ll bite!

    As a result, against an undoubted list of policy achievements there also must stand an albeit shorter list of political mis-steps and arrogance (borne from a genuine belief that she was following the best course, but arrogance nonetheless), particularly in the last term.

    Agreed there were mis-steps, no one is perfect. But the whole “arrogance” meme is 90% beat up from the Right that you’re buying in to. Especially in the last term the attacks became truly hysterical. Say it often enough, say it loud enough, and many will come to believe it.

    Subject National to the same level of scrutiny and by any measure they are far more arrogant in their first 6 months than Labour was at the end of 9 years. A 100 day blitz of legislation under urgency that even The Herald was forced to call an assault on democracy. Rushing through huge changes to the governance of Auckland without any public consultation (where is the brave Herald on that one?). These are huge, significant developments in which the people have had no say at all.

    I wanted a partner, who’d consult me on how the household was run and accept that my opinions, while sometimes different, were equally valid.

    Ask yourself honestly whether you got a better deal there from Labour or National, and who is truly arrogant. From The Herald link above:

    The Clark administration was often described as taking a “nanny state” approach – but it did consult widely; the Nats, by contrast, are looking remarkably like bullies.

    • Rex Widerstrom 25.1

      You won’t find me defending National’s “blitzkreig” (as I think Tane memorably described it) r0b. The passage of contentious and poorly-drafted legislation without adequate consultation is an affront to my belief in democracy no matter who practices it.

      Labour started off right and ended appallingly. Being a reformed pessimist, I’m hoping that National is just getting over the excitement of finally having its hands on power and, having started off appallingly, will end right.

      But then again, they’re politicians. So I’m really struggling to see a half-full glass here…

    • r0b 25.2

      Labour started off right and ended appallingly.

      As with RedLogix, how so? If you’re referring to the EFB/EFA, I agree that Labour made mistakes. But the bill went through the regular parliamentary process, was modified as a result of public feedback, and had the support of every party in parliament except National and ACT (right up until the last moment of the final reading when Peter “spine of jello” Dunne jumped ship (Edit: the MP were ambivalent)).

      So I fail to see where you get the label “appallingly”, and I think you are buying into the National spin / media hype machine. Again, by any democratic measure, the Nats have started much much worse than Labour finished.

  25. RedLogix 26

    That New Zealanders seem to embrace this suffocating “I know what’s best for you’ approach says something about our collective psyche.

    I have to agree with r0b here Rex. Just a few days ago I had to listen to a pro-Nat CEO spouting on about how this new National govt didn’t waste time ‘consulting everyone’ and just ‘got on with it’… and what a wonderful refreshing thing this was.

    It is your thesis that Helen Clark was an overbearing strong leader, yet looking back I see precious little actual evidence of this. Clark ran a tight disciplined government yes, and was undoubtedly hyper-competent… so what exactly are you carping at here? Are you telling us that Clark’s govt should have consulted more? That HC should have been a ‘weaker leader’?

    Exactly what did Helen actually DO that made her a ‘benign dictator’?

    • Pascal's bookie 26.1

      The thing about arrogance, is that it’s what you think about pollies that you don’t like for some other reason.

      All pol’s are by definition, arrogant. It’s kind of inherent in the idea of running for parliament. So, no one likes arrogance, but when someone is arrogant and you agree with them, they are confident, and showing leadership.
      When you no longer like them or are sick of them, all of a sudden they is arrogant. But it’s not them what’s different in the two cases. It’s what else you think about them.

      It’s the most simple but bullshitiest pollie trait ever.*

      *”Phony” as possible tie.

  26. Rodel 27

    Clark’s Legacy
    I’ve just read Espiner’s column about Helen Clark’s legacy. How can a supposed journalist get it so wrong? His fabrications and his John Key arse licking must be embarrassing to whoever tried to teach him how to be a journalist. Has he been unwittingly or willingly sucked into right wing PR propaganda with no views himself of any substance?He should be on National’s hollow men propaganda team.
    Helen Clark has vision and in person is kind and non assuming but doesn’t take the bullshit that John Key sucks up to, changing his views depending on who he’s talking to.Sometimes I wonder if Espiner has ever met her.
    He’s about the same as Paul Henry and that other simpleton Hooten on the Dick head’s incompetence scale.
    Helen Clark is world recognized as one of the great leaders- end of story.

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