When on the campaign trail last year I met many Labour voters who voted that way specifically because they liked Helen Clark. She is a very popular politician, although I may disagree with her policies. I personally feel that abandoning the voters who have stood by her in this way is poor form.
A former Prime Minister retiring after losing the position, forcing a by-election, is nothing new of course. Jim Bolger did the same thing.
On the other hand, Jenny Shipley retired eventually, but stuck round long enough to not force a by-election. In the National government at the moment there are Bill English and Don Brash, both former leaders of the opposition, and Bill English and Roger Douglas, former finance ministers, all of whom have stayed in parliament after being ousted from their high positions, unlike Helen Clark and Michael Cullen.
By contrast, Helen Clark:
- Retired from the leadership voluntarily, unlike Bolger and Shipley, before choosing to retire from parliament.
- Announced her retirement from the leadership (setting the stage for her leaving parliament) on the election night, completely different to Shipley.
Rather than thanking her voters for electing her, she set the stage to abandon them as soon as she learnt the election result. Furthermore she chose to do this herself rather than being toppled in a coup.
And now she moves to the UN, where she can continue to promote her views to yet more people but without having to be as accountable to voters.
Helen Clark is a well-respected NZ politician. Her views on many issues, although not my own, are supported by many New Zealanders, who elected her because of them.
I feel that by leaving like this she will damage Labour’s reputation with many voters, making Labour look like they are about power rather than policies. Although not a National voter myself, were I Joe Bloggs average swinging voter, usually choosing between Labour and National (the voters that ultimately decide every election result) I would be far more likely to pick a party whose MPs tended to stay to promote their policy regardless of what position they held, rather than retiring as soon as they lose the top job.
Although I disagree with her policies, I feel it is a shame to see her go, and can only harm Labour and upset her many supporters.
She has however done very well managing to become the head of the UNDP, so I must congratulate her on that.