Labour look back fondly to when they were united in purpose under Helen

Labour MP Grant Robertson, a former staffer to Helen Clark when she was Prime Minister, vividly recalls the rigours of prepping Clark for Question Time in Parliament.

“We had a saying, and I don’t know if she knows this, to ‘just download the whole internet’.

Clark is renowned for her attention to detail. It is one of the ingredients she has listed as critical for leadership success, saying to get success it was important to be well briefed.

In announcing her bid to be Secretary-General, Clark spoke of the leadership skills she had shown as Prime Minister, including in building consensus – or as she later later put it on Radio New Zealand, her “bringing people together skills”.

One of the examples she gave was of her time leading minority governments with support from variously, the Alliance, NZ First and United Future – and, to a lesser extent, the Green Party. But those skills got a workout much earlier than in 2008.

Though Clark may have pointed to her dealings with coalition partners as evidence of her ability to bring together “disparate groups”, perhaps the starker example of that was her feat in bringing together the Labour Party itself.

Clark took over the reins of Labour in 1993 by rolling Mike Moore. After staring down a challenge from Moore’s supporters in May 1996, Clark managed the Herculean task of wrangling a very divided caucus to win in 1999. She began by promoting the same people who had called on her to step down into high positions in caucus – Michael Cullen was made deputy leader, Annette King was given more responsibility. “It would be fair to say those of us who did challenge her became her closest allies in Government,” King says.

Discipline set in with stability.

King recalls that after the 1996 election, “The stability in the caucus became real. She stepped out of the shadow of Mike Moore in 1996 and showed what she had as a leader. The respect for her leadership was accepted by the whole caucus. From that time on to 2008 she had the most united caucus of any I have been in.”

In the same breath as praising Clark, Robertson and King make it abundantly clear that today’s Labour party is nothing like it.

Another poll with Labour in the 20s and a preferred prime minister in single digits who is being reined in by Ardern, and they will be back to having to run the time and distance strategies of picking a new leader before 2017 or leaving Little in place to let him take the fall like Cunliffe did.

A smart aspiring future Labour leader has about 6-12 months left to put in the groundwork behind the scenes.


– Claire Trevett, NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.