9th Floor – Helen Clark

This weeks 9th Floor interview was with Helen Clark.

RNZ: The Commander – Helen Clark

After researching and conducting interviews with five former Prime Ministers it’s a strange feeling to realise that the job doesn’t exist. There is no job description. You can take a chair of the board, consensus approach and delegate power to Ministers as steward of the Cabinet or you can be master and commander.

“We don’t have a written constitution so nowhere is it written down what are the powers of the Prime Minister. It’s partly your personality. It’s the skills that you’ve got and it’s how you use the office,” Clark says.

My feeling was that, such was her dominance, if Clark said something out loud then in would happen. She largely agrees, adding that “what you say in public you need to have thought about because if you say it, it’s going to happen”.

Her actions in calling a snap election in 2002 are a vivid example of how she wielded power. So how does it actually work? Can you just call a snap election? Not according to our last Prime Minister John Key. “The reality is… to have an early election you can’t just say, it’s a lovely day in March let’s have an election,” Key told RNZ last September. He went on say that in order to hold a snap election the government would have to either lose a confidence vote or go to the Governor General and say it could no longer command a majority.

So I asked Clark what happened when she went to the Governor General to make the case for a dissolution of Parliament in 2002. Did the Governor General test you? Clark laughed at this, an ‘are you kidding?’ laugh. “They act on advice.” So despite what Key believed, you can pretty much call an election when you like? “Pretty much,” Clark replied.

And that was pretty much the style of Clark the Prime Minister. She was a huge force and her influence spanned a vast array of policy and almost none of it, she famously said, came from the tens of thousands of public servants.

Clark is the best known of the Prime Ministers we interviewed. She was our first mass media Prime Minister, interviewed morning, noon and night. But her nine years on the ninth floor look different, nine years after leaving office.

Unlike Key, it was the voters who decided Clark’s time of departure. We discuss that too and her thoughts on what it is like to lose power are as interesting as how she sought to hold power and to exercise it.

The whole interview at RNZ will be fascinating to watch when I get a chance over the weekend.

Previous 9th Floor interviews: http://www.radionz.co.nz/programmes/the-9th-floor

Leave a comment


  1. Corky

     /  5th May 2017

    What a women…she had it all. If she could have just curbed that desire to social engineer she would have done four terms. As for the chap behind her….if she found out (?) what he got up to around election time he would have been gone by morning smoko.

  2. “We don’t have a written constitution so nowhere is it written down what are the powers of the Prime Minister.”

    More fools us …

    ” … her influence spanned a vast array of policy and almost none of it, she famously said, came from the tens of thousands of public servants.”

    More puppet her …

  3. Brown

     /  5th May 2017

    She simply bribed people with tax payer’s money to create a support base like the good Marxist she is. She got rid of competency because she could not stand the possible competition and the shambles that Labour is today is what has grown from her pruning. She might be a forceful woman but she was a hopeless leader as she left a vacuum. I find her interesting only in the same way I find, say, psychopaths interesting because I’m curious as to what makes them tick. Beyond that she is, in my view, irrelevant. I hoped she’d never return but suspect she will – like a dog returning to its vomit.

    • Blazer

       /  5th May 2017

      so have you found what makes psychopaths …tick yet….Dr..Feelgood?

    • She bribed people with taxpayers money in the same way all politicians continuously do … including those who make spurious promises of reducing taxation …

      We’re operating on the ‘bones of our arse’ taxation now … Any mythical reductions will only be robbing Peter to pay Paul …

      Clark and Cullen were as forceful, competent and popular leadership/finance duo in their time as Key and English … and they’d be better remembered if English had maintained the Cullen fund …

      • Brown

         /  5th May 2017

        You are correct in the first paragraph but she was so blatant it was amazing to watch – a true master. The rest I’d debate but not here. For the record I’m no fan of any offering in political circles so I can be consistent in a general distrust of them all.

  1. 9th Floor – Helen Clark – NZ Conservative Coalition

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