…so now she’s attacking him:
Prime Minister Helen Clark says Don Brash had presence and authority. She also speaks warmly of former National leaders Bill English (“never take him lightly, he’s a clever man”), Jenny Shipley and Jim Bolger.
Goodness me, I don’t recall this high regard when they were National leaders. The animosity towards Jenny Shipley in particular, partly because she beat Clark to be first female PM, was legend.
When it comes to John Key, Clark stops short of Winston Churchill’s famous quote on Britain’s first Labour Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald: “He has more than any other man the gift of compressing the largest number of words into the smallest amount of thought.”
She also deliberately avoids the word lightweight, but it is clear she is taking cold, calculated aim at the man who leads her in the polls and the empty spaces she thinks she can see in his leadership profile.
“He is very thin-skinned. In the end he will hang himself because he isn’t good on his feet, he is a very carefully scripted and managed candidate,” she told the Herald on Sunday.
The gloomy headlines and general pessimism were of little concern at this early stage in the campaign, she claimed, and the least of her worries was Key.
“There’s this guy who has been in Parliament for a second term. He has no background in public life. He’s spent years out of New Zealand. Heaven knows what he did. He made an awful lot of money, but he’s a bit of an unknown quantity and that is what the Kiwi electorate will focus on – a bit of an unknown quantity.”
If he’s the least of her worries why does she spend so much energy and time attacking him?
So how did he rate alongside National leaders of the past?
“In terms of all the others I’ve dealt with, there is no doubt in my mind he would be the least prepared for what he would like to do,” Clark said.
Former Prime Minister and National Party leader Jim Bolger was easy-going and someone people could relate to while Jenny Shipley had a “very considerable presence”.
Bill English may be remembered for achieving “a spectacularly bad result” for National at the 2002 general election, but nevertheless could never be taken lightly because he was a “clever man”.
And while Don Brash may have been this “figure of fun” he was still someone who had “presence and authority”.
Key, on the other hand, was someone who didn’t stand up well to pressure.
“It’s one thing to think of you as a nice person – the other question is whether you can do the job and represent our country in a crisis. Would you buckle under pressure? What do you really stand for? What drives you?
“He hasn’t been tested but when he is put under scrutiny he is very thin-skinned.”
Thin skinned? Goodness that is the pot calling the kettle black.
And what does Key say in response?
THE NATIONAL leader decided on a more diplomatic approach yesterday, saying that he and Clark were obviously “very different people”.
“I do not have decades of political experience, but I do bring to the table a wide range of international and domestic experience and an understanding of the real issues facing New Zealand.
“I am also not bound up by the issues that dominated New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s.”
Experience in the real world and a 21st century mindset vs someone still stuck in the 20th century. No contest.