Articles like this – particularly in international media – must worry Key and National. How do you even begin to challenge a leader like Clark?
We can see from Keenan’s email to Brash (p131) from The Hollow Men that National’s strategy at the last election was the Rovian “attack your opponent’s strengths” – this explains National’s tireless challenges to her integrity – what they perceived as her biggest strength. Nothing’s changed. No doubt it’ll be more of the same this time round.
Pursuing The Country’s Interest
After a dismal night in Cardiff and a 22-hour flight home, Helen Clark might have been expected to take time out to recuperate. Instead she went straight to a Cabinet meeting in Wellington on Tuesday, followed by Caucus, before she fronted in Parliament.
It’s another example of the stamina enabling her to outpace her contemporaries. She is deftly managing a political balancing act, projecting herself as a national leader above day-to-day party scuffles, (in what Trans-Tasman has previously alluded to as almost in a presidential role) but within her own circle she remains almost ferociously tribally Labour.
In the wider community the perception is she is pursuing the national interest, lifting NZ’s international profile, while at home, the iron discipline she exerts keeps in line what would otherwise be a motley and potentially unruly collection. Even though Labour has been trailing National in the opinion polls, sometimes by a large margin, voters perceive Clark as the essential glue which holds the coalition together.
The Greens’ Sue Bradford put it bluntly this week, saying she could never work with National, and this probably goes for the other former communists among the Greens. And since the Greens are the only party among the minors which has been polling above the 5% threshold, it means a left-leaning coalition is more likely to emerge from an MMP election in 2008, unless National can do what no other party has done in the MMP era, and score above, or close to, the 50% mark.