I know why John Key is helping Helen Clark

The Media party are all a flutter trying to work out why Key is helping Hels.

High up in a building that jostles for space on New York’s Third Ave is where Team Clark is based – the dedicated group of Foreign Affairs staffers tasked with backing Helen Clark’s bid to lead the United Nations.

This is where Clark comes to discuss her “talking points” for upcoming meetings, and for a “debrief” afterward. Notes are kept of her various meetings and conversations, tabs are kept on which countries might be supporting Clark’s bid and – though no one will admit it – there will likely be assessments of her rivals as well.

Another dedicated team based back in Wellington is also working on Clark’s bid. Coupled with the former prime minister’s legendary drive and energy, one thing is clear about this campaign – team Clark is not going to to die wondering if it could have done more.

Prime Minister John Key keeps making the point that Clark’s place in the middle of the pack so far has nothing to do with her credentials or ability but everything to do with geopolitical realities. You can make the same case about the team of experts working in the background of her campaign.


Clark would not have been the prime motivator for those meetings, but McCully – and Key – are now so invested in her campaign neither of them has wasted any opportunity at the UN this week to press her case.

Key has been so “boots ‘n all” in fact, he used up one of his biggest diplomatic cards, calling in a personal favour from US President Barack Obama by asking him to take a phone call and hear him out on why Clark should get the job.

There are only a limited number of times a New Zealand prime minister can ask the president of the United States to take his call. That Key did so to support Clark says everything you need to know about how genuinely he is backing her.

Key even gave up face-time with Obama in New York this week by using a moment when their paths crossed to introduce Clark.

And it didn’t end there. Key used his speech to the UN General Assembly to plug Clark’s case again; she was, he told those gathered there, “a natural leader”, a woman with the “courage, experience and skills” needed to do the job.

Anyone who travelled forward in time for 2008 would have scratched their head and thought they had arrived in a parallel universe.

So why do it?

Because he doesn’t want this song playing anytime soon:


John Key would prefer her to remain offshore in a UN funded sinecure…even if it costs the taxpayers some coin.

And frankly, I think that is a wise choice.


– Fairfax

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