There’s a lot of talk about Helen Clark leaving Parliament in a year or so to head for an international role. While Clark would obviously be more than capable of performing well at that level, I would prefer to see her do something completely different.
Labour needs to build its membership and its connections with the communities of South and West Auckland in particular. It is a disgrace that they are losing seats and party vote support in the heart of working class New Zealand. Labour needs to rebuild itself as the people’s party and build the popular demand for an improved social democracy. I would like to see Clark, MP for Mount Albert, lead that effort.
Now, some will say that if Labour has lost some connection with the working class it is the fault of Clark and her top-down leadership style. And I think there’s some truth to that. Certainly the Fifth Labour Government failed to take its opportunity to build political consciousness, public demand for improved social democracy. But she is still the person for the job of fixing that. She has the mana, she has the leadership and organisational skills. We also saw in the final days of the campaign that underneath the tough exterior, underneath the ‘strong leader’ image, that Clark needed to win and keep her positions as Labour leader and PM there is still an idealist very much connected to her social democratic principles.
Such a role might not have the profile of a senior UN position but it is just as important. If Labour can build and extend its base, raise the political consciousness of the working class, our social democracy will be protected against whatever populist rubbish the Right can throw at it. Now, that would be a truly great legacy for Clark.