Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Leader of the pack

Helen Clark may not have been everybody’s cup of tea but
she was always ahead of the pack.
—Reg Dempster, Albany; letter to editor,
NZ Herald 4.12.08

There we have it, I think; as astute and succinct a summing
up of Clark’s political ascendancy as you could wish for.
Thanks, Reg, whoever you are. A year into researching my
biography of Clark (to be published by Penguin next
August) I retain my original impulse, which was the wish to
honour a remarkable woman whose accomplishments
deserve to be recorded—and analysed. Forgive me the trite
observation, but I am not sure we shall see her like again in
a hurry. Already one observes a mediocritization of politics
under John Key and National; a narrowness, a pinched
quality. Clark has been an extraordinary leader in more
ways than one, and I hope to reflect that in my book. Which
isn't to say it'll be a whitewash or a hagiography; that would
be to dishonour her. It was strange to see her not on the
front bench on TV at the opening of Parliament yesterday;
the sooner she ups and goes to Geneva or New York or
whatever illustrious global posting awaits her, the better,
because she is too big for this Parliament and even this
country now.

Speaking of packs, Clark was once asked in a music quiz,
'If you absolutely had to walk on stage to a classic rock tune,
what would it be?’ She replied: ‘Leader of the Pack.’

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