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« Sometimes the truth is not popular | Main | What does this have to say about how we value the mentally disabled? »


mark luck

Ian, will she try and stop this?? Will the book be available in bookstores?


Ian, will she try and stop this?

She might if it's libellous, just like anyone else. Is hysterical paranoia the hallmark of visitors to this site, or what?

Ian, did you just pick the Acton quote by sticking a pin in a book of quotations, or are you seriously claiming Helen Clark has absolute power? If so, I won't be touching your book with a bargepole - if you don't understand a simple enough term like "absolute power," what expectations of genuine insight could we possibly have for the rest of the book?


I don't know Psycho Milt, did you put down Hager's "...Hollow men..." after reading the ridiculous forward? I almost did, but my curiousity of the absurd urged me on. As it turned out the forward was a thematic summary of the contents. The hysterical claims, factual errors and assumption of Hager's book were entertaining, but I would never have known for sure unless I read it.


You see's the appears Labour supporters have no appreciation of the term, or of other major constitutional concepts either...which is why they don't recognise the problem when they see it.

The book builds to an inevitable conclusion, backed up I might add by a number of constitutional experts who have complained that New Zealand's prime ministers can be compared to the "Stuart royal executive" in terms of the real power they hold, and the danger of "despotism" in NZ...

I suggest you read the book before you comment on what you think it should say, and what you think you know

Psycho Milt

I'm aware of the lack of constitutional constraints on govt in this country. There are two problems with your interpretation of it:

1. It's a fantasy to imagine that our shortage of constitutional constraints invests the PM with "absolute power." Louis IV had absolute power; Josef Stalin had absolute power; The Prime Minister of NZ has "too much" power. There's a big difference.

2. Even if you were able to successfully make a case that the PM of New Zealand has absolute power, that case applies to all the Prime Minsters of the last 70 years. It will apply to John Key if he becomes Prime Minister. By "exposing" one of them, haven't you written the wrong book? If the current PM is abusing absolute power, why would we expect Key or anyone else to be different? If you've a case to make against NZ's lack of a useful constitution (and it would be an easy case to make), it should be made in general terms - because it applies to all past and future PMs, not just the one you currently happen to dislike intensely.


The current incumbent is a great personification of the weaknesses in our constitutional system...

You are correct that it applies to a string of recent administrations...but this one is worse than the previous ones (probably for no other reason than the entropy that sets in when systems start to crack.)

Whilst previous administrations, including Lange's, paid lip service to the conventions, this government believes convention is beyond them...

There are degrees of "absolute power" (stalin had a lot of power, but he wasn't strong enough to take over the world for example), and in the NZ context Helen Clark is the leader who has taken on the mantle more than any since Muldoon.


"...By "exposing" one of them, haven't you written the wrong book?..."

Must you have the limits of literature explained to you? No, I didn't think so. Would you prefer he wrote the book of one page and said:

"absolute power corrupts"

Not much of book is it. You're being ingenuine. The whole point of a story is to reveal truth. If it is a story based on real life/events, it makes it all the more real. If you are smart enough to see that there is a truth proven in Ian's book, why so irritated he chose Helen? The answer is clear.


I hope it gives us some background on her domestic life.


I am intrigued with this off the back cover:

"The Helen Clark we see today is a carefully manufactured, airbrushed political brand."

This was the charge of Nicky Hager regarding Don Brash at the last election.

I simply can't see the parallels. Helen Clark's philosophy is in tune with the history of the Labour Party - Don Brash on the other was marketing National away from mainstream National - one reason they say why he had to go in spite of appararent electoral success.

It is good to see some mature reflection in this thread. The nature of the role like Prime Minister has evolved to the point that I can see similarities in how it is performed across a range of prime ministers.

It would be fair to say howver that after 9 years as prime minister, the country would reflect the leader had operated. To suggest that the role of prime minister should be merely spokesperson for other people with conflicting philosophies would be naive in the extreme.

The issue is actually different. Anti-Labour people don't like the values being espoused - they feel powerless, therefore they say the person in power does not have power legitimately. This of course is underming the democratic system - it is not perfect, but better systems are elusive.

Even an extreme right critic like Leighton Smith this morning, even big National Party financier Julian Robertson, are admiring Helen Clark for things like work rate, competence and integrity. Give credit where its due said Leighton this morning. Give respect where its due I say.

But both of these commentators don't like socialism and that I think is why this whole topic exists.

Danyl Mclauchlan

Even if you were able to successfully make a case that the PM of New Zealand has absolute power, that case applies to all the Prime Minsters of the last 70 years.

Clark's been one of the least powerful Prime Ministers we've ever had, since she's been operating as a minority government for her entire term as PM. She's had less 'absolute power' than almost any other leader in our history.


Not so, Danyl, previous Prime Ministers were more tightly restricted by constitutional conventions and a more independent public service. The reforms of the past 20 years have seriously weakened the latter, whilst this administration has not even paid lip service to constitutional conventions...

MMP has not prevented Clark getting much of her agenda through Parliament, by playing one side off against the other on an issue by issue basis...



I forgot about this crucial angle and thanks for pointing it out.

Yes, MMP has constrained the power of prime ministers, cabinet ministers, and political parties.

I was involved in a delegation to a prominent National cabinet minister in Parliament in the 1990s. They were keen on the ideas we had, but spent rather more time discussing likelihood of persuading OTHER parties than the merits of the case itself. I had no issue with that - just interesting to see the wheels of democracy in action.

It seems to me that this has become Question 1 (a) for all the MPs - what chance has this idea got with other parties in the House.

THIS is what has led to much admiration for Helen Clark. This government has governed comfortably for 9 years - even though from the last election National has held only one fewer seat!

We have a case now where National and Labour support the Free Trade Deal - allowing Winston Peters to go out and differentiate NZ First in pursuit of 5 per cent.

I would prefer to see this style of MMP continue - not go back to the funny stuff of the 1990s.

Psycho Milt

She's had less 'absolute power' than almost any other leader in our history.

As an example of this, consider for a moment the idea of Rob Muldoon's Foreign Minister publicly opposing a major feature of the govt's foreign policy. Wouldn't happen. But if it did, the outcome sure wouldn't have been pretty for that foreign minister...


Don't forget though that in National governments, cabinet is appointed by the prime minister. There was a feeling at the time that Muldoon tended to appoint rather tame and nondescript members to cabinet. Examples might include Merv Wellington, Ben Couch and Colin McLachlan.

But there is a good example of what you say Psycho Milt - Derek Quigley was demoted by Rob Muldoon for what he said, yet he was regarded as one of the best.

Labour elects cabinet, so it is probably more difficult for the career backbencher to break through.

But does not matter what the party, there is a valid concept of collective responsibility. You want the right people at the table making the right decisionis, in order that it makes sense to support those decisions from the heart.

Danyl Mclauchlan

MMP has not prevented Clark getting much of her agenda through Parliament, by playing one side off against the other on an issue by issue basis...

Just like Stalin used to do.


Danyl says:

"MMP has not prevented Clark getting much of her agenda through Parliament, by playing one side off against the other on an issue by issue basis..."

As a brief comment, there will be things Clark WOULD like to do that you have never heard of - because of insufficient cross-party support. Having said that ...

Your statement Danyl could be interpreted variously as a compliment or an insult. To me the above looks like a good definition of MMP in practice - exactly the process I witnessed with the 1990s National cabinet minister discussed earlier.

I can't understand the reference to Stalin though. Stalinist Russia was anything but MMP.

Having said that, it has been said that Tito was a master at playing ethnicities off to preserve Yugoslavia. Extreme right wing Christian fundamentalists posting to The Briefing Room recently have said that preserving national boundaries is a worthy goal. That is as may be - the point I am making is that it is an effective technique and the reality of politics.

i.e. Building support for an idea and outvoting opposition is a basic political and democratic activity.

Shane Ponting

"Extreme right wing Christian fundamentalists"

Peter, I've not been around here much lately due to a vacuum of time in my life but I see you are going from strength to strength with your colourful labeling for your friends here at

Definitely getting the book Ian, and wondering whom I can also buy a copy for....

-An eXtreme-Right Christian



I don't know how you can use the word 'values' in the same sentence with Labour.

And I never heard Leighton use the word integrity
this morning when he gave credit where credit was due to Helen for all the long hours she put in, and had so much energy.

The 2 words that do not go with Labour..values/integrity


And Peter before you accuse me of being right-wing.
You may be surprised to know that since October 2006, I declared to Leighton that I believed
Barack Obama would be the next president and I outlined all the reasons we have seen come to pass thus far.
Although I was not sure he would actually be allowed to live until then.
Whatever what he has exposed thus far, has been
more than I had even expected...and even I have been SHOCKED to the core with the reaction of the right.
I will never watch FOX news again.


The other Peter would rather have Muslin fundamentalists running this country.

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