Saturday, May 27, 2006

When is Helen Going?

Rumours are floating around the circuit in Wellington as to just how likely it is that Prime Minister Helen Clark will remain in her current position. I’m not talking about a leadership coup, her position at the head of the Labour Party is secure for as long as she wants it. Rather it’s to do with the next job that she is seeking.

It is no secret that Clark has set her sights on the Secretary General’s position at the UN. That story has being doing the rounds for some time and most in political circles are well aware of her ambitions in that direction. However lately there have been a few developments that indicate the Prime Minister’s ambitions may be close to being realised.

So what is the evidence for this?

Firstly, look at the recent surge in State visits she’s been involved in over the past few years. By my count there have been well over 20 and many of them have involved countries that have little or no strategic or economic connections to New Zealand. Lithuania is a prime example. What is the benefit our Prime Minister being involved in such a matter? We do little or no trade with them so why is Clark taking the time to talk to their head of state? Canvassing support, soliciting a vote should she take a tilt at the UN job?

Secondly, a number of European Commissioners have been doing the rounds in Wellington lately. Some of their discussions in meetings with some of the movers and shakers in the National Party have included the possibility of Clark taking over at the UN when Kofi Annan’s term ends. Generally these sorts of conversations only occur when there’s some substance to the subject at hand. It’s common practice for opposition parties to be sounded out to see if they’re amenable before a concrete chain of events is set in motion. Naturally the National Party will be quite happy to see her go, as they’ll have a much better chance of winning the 2008 election if the Labour Party is fighting it with a new leader.

Thirdly, it’s the turn of the Asia-Pacific area to have a Secretary General at the UN. With the precedent now set for politicians to take the Secretary General’s post (e.g. Boutros-Ghali), Clark has a shot.

Fourthly, there has been some discussion about it being a woman’s turn to have the UN job. Historically it’s been a solely male position. If this speculation is correct it’s another factor counting in Clark’s favour.

While there are some strong arguments for Clark’s chances there is also one very compelling reason why she may fail in her ambitions. Namely, the opportunity for a member of the UN Security Council to veto her appointment. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out what, or who, the stumbling block may be here. In a word the USA.

Clark is not, and likely never will be, flavour of the month with George W Bush. Apparently her act of sending a congratulatory message to Al Gore for winning the 2000 presidential election has left him holding somewhat of a grudge against her. If she tries for the UN it’s odds on he’ll block it if he can.

Still the discussions on the political cocktail circle are interesting. The fact that they’re happening suggests something might be about to occur.

Mind you it could also be bullshit.

No comments: