Hate or loathe her, honest political opponents have to at least respect Helen Clark. And perhaps enough will do so to make her the top boss at the United Nations.
By this time next year, the prospect of Helen Clark succeeding Ban Ki-moon as head of the United Nations should be clear.
Though the former New Zealand Prime Minister has been careful not to declare her hand, her name appears high on the list of potential candidates whenever the post is publicly discussed.
Clark mused about the idea in an interview last year when she was asked if she wanted the job. She replied: “If there’s enough support for the style of leadership that I have, it will be interesting.”
This week, her office offered the party line. Her spokeswoman, Christina LoNigro, told the Weekend Herald by email: “United Nations Development Program Administrator Helen Clark is very happy in her current position as the head of the UN’s development activities, and has no further comment.”
Clark’s successor at the Beehive, John Key, got on the phone when Clark drew up a CV for the UNDP role after Labour’s defeat in November 2008. On April 17, 2009, nine days after resigning from Parliament, Clark was in New York being sworn in to her US$450,000 UNDP job.
The post, number three in the UN hierarchy, put her in charge of a sprawling agency with offices in 170 countries and territories, a US$5 billion budget and a high-profile platform. Despite his different political stripe, Key has pledged to back Clark if she wants a crack at the Secretary-General’s job.
If we can leave her domestic politics to one side, she’s definitely punching above her weight and is continuing to put New Zealand on the map. Pity it is for the huge black hole of public money that is the UN, but let’s not get catty about it.
So far Helen has pretty much achieved everything she set her mind to. It won’t surprise me at all when she leads the UN one day, and I do believe we should be behind this in a non-partisan way.
There will also be other benefits – the UN is a much bigger trough, so we can hope it will attract ambitious lefties that would otherwise mess up our local politics by providing a credible opposition.
A fourth, and arguably the most important, was not approached, partly because Eyley says she was told it would be pointless. That person was Heather Simpson, who got on board with Clark 30 years ago and has ridden shotgun with her ever since, though she has barely uttered a public peep. Known as “H2”, Simpson was hired from Otago University where she taught economics.
Her style is described in the book by Sir Michael Cullen, who worked with Simpson at Otago and was deputy prime minister to Clark from 2002 until 2008. Cullen says big decisions were often a three-way thing between the leader, himself and Simpson.
“Heather was often the one who went off to see whether various members of the caucus’ kneecaps needed a degree of ventilation …”
Whatever the true source of Helen’s power, you can’t deny the result.
– Andrew Stone, A newspaper