Just tea with Tony

A get-together between the British and New Zealand Prime Ministers and their spouses last week was not so casual after all, suggested Fran O’Sullivan with the New Zealand Herald this past weekend. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair greets NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark during his visit to New Zealand in March 2006Rather, O’Sullivan writes, Helen Clark had a bit of a chat with her British counterpart Tony Blair about her entering the race for UN Secretary General.

But Clark denied discussing the post with Blair and said today that the report was “piece of fiction.”

“I have had no approach about that position, I have made no approach about that position, it is not on my mind, I have consistently said that the best job for me in the world right now is the one I have as Prime Minister of New Zealand.”

Regardless of whether Clark and Blair discussed her entering the race, O’Sullivan suggested that Clark is being discussed in New York.

If Clark is to get a run at the job, which is being seriously talked about behind the scenes, her best chance is to portray herself as a suitable Asia-Pacific candidate, then play up the potency of her appointment as the first female to be the UN’s Secretary-General.

New Zealand’s United Nations team would have to quietly canvass views in New York backrooms if they are not already doing so, as I am informed.

Clark was originally mentioned as a candidate by the women’s group Equality Now as representative of many female leaders qualified to hold the top post. Despite interest in a female nominee arising from many quarters, not of least of which is current UNSG Kofi Annan, the four current nominees for the post are all male. (There has not been a female UNSG in the UN’s sixty-year history.)

Factors that would support a Clark run include an continuing dissatisfaction among the Security Council with the current slate, and New Zealand’s small-power status on the global stage. A Clark campaign has also received a nod of support from the opposition National Party in New Zealand, not an insignificant statement. (India’s opposition party strongly opposed Shashi Tharoor‘s nomination until recently.)

Nonetheless, Clark’s chances are slim. The focus this year is on Asian candidates, which Clark is not of course. Despite O’Sullivan’s suggestion that Clark is considering a run as an “Asian-Pacific” candidate, the regional groups that dictate UN leadership posts place New Zealand squarely in the Western European and Others group. Most observers doubt China would support a non-Asian this round, regardless of gender. While Pakistan reportedly considered nominating Nafis Sadik and Maleeha Lodhi, but both women turned down the offer.  

2 Responses to “Just tea with Tony”

  1. MZ says:

    Time to put an end to this myth about Shashi Tharoor being opposed by the Indian Opposition. Upon his nomination by the Government, he was received with great fanfare by former Prime Minister Vajpayee in Delhi, Leader of the Opposition Advani and former Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, all of whom, together with their party, the former ruling BJP, endorsed him as a “national candidate”. Some media have made much of a negative statement by an insignificant politician from a minor party (there are 32 parties with seats in the Indian Parliament) with no significant representation or political standing. But both the ruling coalition and the principal opposition have solidly acked Tharoor’s candidacy.

  2. […] Lynch recalls that another potential female candidate has been suggested last year. Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and current head of UNDP, was mentioned as a possible replacement for Ban in 2011 in the infamous memo from Norgwegian diplomat Mona Juul that was leaked last year. Clark’s name was among over two dozen which the group Equality Now felt were qualified for the post in a 2006 campaign. She denied discussing a run at the post with Tony Blair in August 2006, and her chances were always a (very) long shot given China’s role in ensuring only an Asian would be seriously considered, regardless of gender. Even supposing Ban’s dismal performance costs him a second term, China will never vote for a someone from WEOG to replace him, and no political spin to suggest New Zealand is geographically in Asia will place it there politically. […]

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