“I find your society genuinely admirable in many ways. For example, I met Helen Clark while I was in Wellington. I was invited to her official residence, and waved in by a lone policeman who didn’t even check who I was, then I had a barbecue with her. I congratulated her on the public’s enlightened attitudes towards racial issues, but she disagreed. She said to me that New Zealand was really a very racist country, and she was determined to do everything she could as prime minister to change that. I thought that was a very bold, honest statement to make to a foreigner, and I really respected her for that.”
Would it be a cheap shot to suggest that Clark had just been reading the comments section on DPF’s blog before she met McKellen? I think it’s also the case that Clark had never lived or worked outside of New Zealand before she became Prime Minister. (I believe she was already an MP the first time she left the country.) You don’t get a very good sense of racial tensions as a tourist; I’m guessing visiting MPs get even less exposure to racism. But if you’ve spent time in Australia as an ‘ordinary person’ then chances are you’ve had your Aussie friends and workmates explain to you that it would be better for everyone if the aborigines were exterminated; if you’ve worked in Japan you’ve probably found yourself in arguments in the pub over whether Korean people are really human or not – and so it goes all around the world. It’s not that New Zealand has found racial harmony but I don’t think we’re what you’d call a ‘very racist country’. (There’s also a huge demographic element to our racism: older white men are often deeply racist; every other segment of society much less so.)
2. TVNZ has a new poll out: minor drop of support for National leading to an increase in support for the MP and the Greens. Nothing for Labour. Preferred PM has Key at 46%, Goff at 6%.
I think that when Labour MPs and staffers look at Goff’s numbers they reassure themselves that Helen Clark had low numbers when she took over as party leader and look at how well that turned out.
But this ignores the history around Clark’s assumption of the leadership. The 4th Labour government lied to its supporters to win the ’87 election and betrayed them immediately afterwards. They plunged the economy into a recession and they lied about the state of the crown accounts during the ’91 election. After their defeat the party was in tatters: Clark took control amidst bitter infighting. She was the first female party leader in our history. Jim Anderton had left the Labour Party in 89 and established New Labour: many left-wing voters supported Anderton over Clark.
Absolutely none of these conditions that handicapped Clark apply to Goff. The values and policies of the last Labour government were so popular the opposition had to adopt them. Goff took power in a bloodless and uncontested coup. There is no other viable opposition leader in national politics. Goff’ at 6% is a very different beast to the 6% Clark of the early 90s.