GUEST BLOG: Sam Gribben – Ask not what the Maori Party can do for Helen Clark



Since well before Helen Clark officially announced her candidacy for UN Secretary General, New Zealand opinion-makers have been warmly supportive of her bid. We get excited when Kiwis make the world stage. And it’s assumed a New Zealander in the job would open doors for others and expand our influence.

The Maori Party’s announcement that they won’t endorse Clark should at the very least force us to look a bit more closely at the love fest. Notwithstanding the furious reaction of #Helen4SG fans across the political and media spectrums, with accusations of stupidity, betrayal, and even treason, the Maori Party has given us all permission to have a more real conversation. After all, when was the last time the NZ Government spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a foreign adventure without Andrew Little or Winston Peters calling for someone to resign?    

Let’s start with the assumption underpinning the agitated reaction. That Clark at the helm of the UN will significantly benefit New Zealand. How exactly? Other than as a branding exercise, Clark’s appointment as Secretary General would mean very little to us, and certainly not enough to bully critics who have questioned her credentials to lead an organisation with a very substantial stake in matters of indigenous rights, based on her own actual record when having to make strategic choices on these very matters.

Leaving aside the fact that it would be a gross breach of Clark’s responsibilities to allow New Zealand to benefit in any way from her appointment, the idea is that it gives New Zealand prestige and a bit of a reputation boost.

TDB Recommends

When Mike Hosking came into bat for Clark, he drummed up the significance of this new influence for New Zealand: “It’s the influence of the job, it’s the doors it opens, it’s the access it gives. Remember that every time a Prime Minister from this country heads off to an international pow wow, it’s not the event itself that counts, it’s the pull-asides, the dinners, the moments in the corridors. That is where the action is and where the deals are done. Anything this country can do to get itself front and centre with the genuine global heavy weights, we should be leaping at.”

Even if the real world of diplomatic power was as much like a Hollywood movie as Hosking fantasises, Helen Clark is hardly the kind of politician to pull strings for New Zealand. If anything, she’d bend over backwards to avoid any perception of favour at all. That’s the job.

I haven’t been able to find a decent explanation of how that turns into a tangible benefit for Kiwis. It’s a long bow to draw to suggest it would, say, help us with trade negotiations or give us more influence over global security issues as a soft power.

When the Maori Party executive was deciding whether or not to endorse Clark, I wouldn’t expect them to think that New Zealand had a whole lot to win or lose either way depending on the outcome. A sense of obligation to Clark because of the small and indirect effect on our international reputation on the not-that-likely chance she wins isn’t a very attractive incentive to remain silent, when you have a chance to speak directly to your supporters (and potential supporters) on something that is at the core of your relationship with them.

Instead of basing their decision on a perceived special benefit for the country, the Maori Party has simply measured her up against the criteria that matter to them in the role, and concluded that her record does not justify their support.

This isn’t even to say that they need to know anything about the other candidates. They have not endorsed another candidate, or even said that Clark is not the best of that particular bunch. The message from the Maori Party is simpler than that: ‘Deny our rights to the foreshore and seabed, raid our communities on bogus terrorism charges, call us haters and wreckers, and you don’t earn our endorsement for your new job’. A job from which it’s possible to champion indigenous rights, or to side-line them.

Utu? Maybe. There is certainly a fair sense that Helen Clark has not herself taken steps to restore balance following the big hurts that even the Labour Party has itself apologised for. When her pitch to overcome “it’s the Eastern Bloc’s turn” has been to distinguish New Zealand from the Western and Others Group on the grounds of our South Pacific uniqueness, then surely the very people whose mana she is trading on have every right to protect it.


Sam Gribben is a left wing activist in Wellington


  1. Maybe it is utu. Maybe it’s how the relationship between Clark and Maori has developed. Apologies is one thing but when you have police bullshiting, trying to do to every one what the crown did to Maori, it puts apologies into perspective. That being the apologies are just lies pollies tell Maoris to pigoen hole them.

    I am the last Maori party supporter but to call them traitors in there own country? Fuck off ball heads

    • Yes. He has no credibility or mana. He has little knowledge of anything important. He certainly doesn’t speak for the majority. And he’s rather stupid

      • comprehension-failure award for those attacking the above article for ‘quoting’ hosking..

        maybe they should all go and sit in a corner and ponder on the difference between ‘quoting’ and ‘illustration’…

        ( is a very well constructed/reasoned look at/unpacking of what is a storm in a reacup..)

    • The author was quoting Hoskins as an example of the typical, nudge-nudge-win-wink arguments for supporting Clark that he wrote the piece to criticize. I didn’t get the impression Hoskin’s quoted blather was meant to convince anyone of anything, quite the opposite.

  2. “But Maori party co-leader Marama Fox says that’s what happens when politicians have to choose between what’s right and what’s popular.

    She says as the head of the United Nations Development Programme for the past seven years, Ms Clark has been advocating for the rights of indigenous people, women, equity and fairness.

    “Having been removed from the burden of prime ministership and party political policy, she is able to advocate for the rights of people, for the human rights of human existence, so I have seen a change in the way she has conducted herself in the UN and I support her as someone who would be credible in the top job,”

    “…I support her as someone who would be credible in the top job.”


    • Thanks again for posting that, and it is amazing how so many commentators writing up articles denigrating those who are questioning the motives behind the Maori Party’s apparent flip flop, fail to see that it’s not question of whether people support Helen Clark or not, that it’s the blatant show of hypocrisy by the Maori party, that these authors are avoiding like the plague.

      • So there are two issues here;
        1) Should kiwis support Clark as the head banana of the UN?
        2) Is the Māori Party guilty of having its cake and eating it too?

        1) I think there’s a good argument to answer in the negative, for the reasons given by Sam G. Arguably the scandalous record of her government should count as arguments against giving her the current job. The comments by Marama Fox offer a counter-argument. Does anyone involved in deciding gives a rat’s arse what any kiwi or even all kiwis think on the matter. No. It’s a circus, and not really worth our time when we still have working families living in vans, and waterways that are not only undrinkable (this is bad enough) but unswimmable!

        2) Marama Fox is entitled to her opinion, and this is allowed to be different from the opinions of others in her party. The official line of the Māori Party, like any political party, has to be based on how to best use the resulting media attention to highlight issues important to its members and supporters. Can anyone supply an example of the party itself officially endorsing Clark for anything, ever?

    • Good point, and that is why I didn’t mention Fox in this article. Because even though she was fronting this, it seems that the party position and her personal position don’t line up on this occasion.

      I will say though that I was less interested in writing about that particular factor. The Maori Party is a democratic party that would have developed the position properly, there are many reasons that this is the official party position, it seems less relevant what a single member has said in the past (even if she is the co-leader). If anything it says good things about Fox’s character that she can so convincingly represent her party position when it is different to her own.

      • Fox is the co leader of the Maori party, it’s quite obvious why you didn’t mention her flip flop, and I don’t think she’s been convincing at all. What it looks like is a bid by the Maori party to be newsworthy and it’s an attempt to try and stay relevant.

    • So, following Fox’s argument of expedience politics, the mayhem that the Maori Party has been party to while in coalition with National, is just “collateral damage”.

      More Maori in prison, fewer Maori owning houses, more Maori disenfranchised and angry under National (you only have to look at Maori Facebook posts about John Key and National). More Maori suicides in Northland and elsewhere.

      What’s your take on that Marama? Who’s CURRENTLY to blame?

      “Marama Fox says that’s what happens when politicians have to choose between what’s right and what’s popular.”

      Maybe what she really means is: “that’s what happens when the Maori Party aligns itself with a laisser-faire, neoliberal coalition that is tearing apart the fabric of New Zealand society and creating the most unequal country in the Pacific. I’ll dog-whistle on behalf of National and wheel out the Nanny State pakeha to make Maori think it was Helen Clark who caused the mayhem in New Zealand”

      I lay the mayhem inflicted on Maori squarely at the feet of the Maori Party for aligning itself with a right wing slash and burn coalition. Look to your own part in the mayhem perpetrated on Maori by National and your coalition with them Marama.

      • Best response yet Wha Left… SPOT ON, you nailed it !!!! Thank you for saying it for what it really is.

      • Who is currently to blame? Well, that would be Labour and National. The fourth Labour government devastated Maori and the fifth Labour government didn’t do anything to make up for that. The fourth National government devastated Maori and the fifth National government didn’t do anything to make up for that.

        Moreover, last election Labour wanted to increase the retirement age. That would mean many Maori (and some pakeha) workers would never get to draw the pension.

        Winston Peters’ mum was right: Maori shouldn’t trust Labour.

  3. Good work, Sam.

    The idea that New Zealand might materially profit from the selection of Helen Clark as SG is a straw man argument. (On the other hand, it was actually the instinctive response of John Key to the news that we had been voted onto the Security Council so some might adhere to the notion).

    The main attraction for most here is that we know Helen. We know her to be honest and effective. She is a strong leader with good instincts. She is also a link to a time when the mood of the nation was collectivist and altruistic. This was the time before the Neoliberal revolution promoted solopsistic self-interest and cast scorn on bodies like the UN.

    That seems a pretty good reason without looking for some venal bottom line.

    That some members of the Maori Party want to use this particular issue to play out their fantasy of being revolutionary – despite evidence to the contrary – as opposed to the many, many provocations from their parasitic coalition host is unfortunate. Their contrarian position may or may not be appropriately termed “treacherous” but what is certain is that it will not be easily forgiven by their voters who are likely to be far less doctrinaire.

    So the Maori Party will have to hope that Helen wins, because if she doesn’t, as seems likely, then they alone will have to shoulder the full blame (although their attack is not likely much to affect the outcome, in truth), not least by Maori. One wonders what sort of utu will kick in at that point.

  4. No mention of how the Maori party sold out with National’s Marine and Coastal Act 2011, and have sold out NZ since 2008.

    • No mention of a lot.of stuff, Words! You should have seen the original draft. I could say dozens of nice and not nice things about both Clark and the Maori Party – in this blog I stuck to two more simple ideas – the benefit for NZ should Clark get the gig, and whether of not the Maori Party are obliged to support her as a result. My own views about the fair number of shortcomings of both Clark and the Maori Party was tempting to list, but in the end I felt that context wasn’t necessary for what I wanted to say.

      • I hope you take the opportunity to make more articles from your original draft, would like to read them.

        For me, Wha Left’s post says it as it really is.

  5. As Dover Samuels said before Claudette Huaiti very rudely cut him off on the Waatea 5th estate episode “Helen Clark” 04 8 16 shown on Youtube but not on TDB,

    “The hypocrisy that stands out for me, if the Maori party were so adamant about this then why don’t they walk away from the government when you got John key leading this waka….. he supports Helen Clark….”

    In regards to the Indigenous Declaration, Dover made the statement that NZ has its own sovereignty. People should refer to the following.

    Peters advised against signing declaration

    Winston Peters says when he was foreign minister he advised the previous Labour government against signing a UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people.

    The fact it didn’t sign the declaration is a key reason the Maori Party won’t back former prime minister Helen Clark’s bid to be the next UN secretary-general.

    “Between 2005 and 2008, as foreign minister, I advised the then government against signing up to the declaration on indigenous rights,” The NZ First leader said on Tuesday.

    “It concerned the sovereignty of this country and we opposed New Zealand’s laws being written by an international body thousands of miles away.”

    In 2010 the then Maori affairs minister in the current government, Pita Sharples, flew secretly to New York to sign the declaration.

    Mr Peters says most Maori support Miss Clark’s bid.

    “From my discussions around the country Maori seriously support Helen Clark’s campaign, especially in the north, as do the great majority of New Zealanders who have put aside petty politics in the nation’s interest,” he said.

  6. Concerning the issue that started this antagonism – the ownership of the foreshore – my own view is that all the land of NZ belongs to all its people and the State is the custodian of it. So I dont support Maori in this.
    However I dont support Helen Clark as UN Secretary General, not only because she supports the Free Trade agreements that are doing such damage to the Earths poorer people, but because of another issue about which I am ignorant of the answer.
    When Helen Clark was defeated in 2008 she left Parliament with a mouth-watering array of perks and pension, enough to keep her in clover all her life. Soon after, she was our nominated NZ representative and is now UN Development Administrator. I assume that this position also carries a cumfy salary. Does she retain her pension as well as the salary for the UN position? If so I object most strongly. How much clover does she need?
    The job she is seeking will have an even higher salary and it will have been paid for by the contributions of some very poor nations, who no doubt have been well ‘developed’ by the Western powers. If she is prepared to keep only her NX Pension and do the SG’s job for free, I will support her, as will some grateful nations. Otherwise not.

  7. Personally I don’t give a rats arse whether Clark gets the job or not. She would probably be no better or worse than any of the other candidates. The UN are increasingly pathetic I think. The system whereby the big nations can vote against things they don’t want and their vote carries more weight mans it is pretty much worthless. And of course there is the small matter of big nations bullying (buying) the little ones to vote the way the big ones want the votes to go.

    I agree with Marama Fox’s sentiments, Clark could have if she had wanted to supported the right for Maori to contest the foreshore an seabed. Politics is way too much about pragmatism and looking ahead to the next election and those white fellas we don’t want to upset.

  8. Having read Leslie Bravery’s article on “anti-seminism”, it strikes me that Ms Clark, as UN Secretary General, would be a better advocate for Palestinian rights than our country has been as a Security Council member.
    I see Key’s support for her candidacy as being driven by his search for reflected glory for himself, should she be elected, rather than for any perceived benefit that might arise for New Zealand as a whole.

  9. Every one in the military agree that the UN was invented to make war really hard to start in the first place in a legal sense.

    It would be nice to think we could gain an advantage but I just don’t think New Zealand has anything other countries want. Our military is over stretched, construction and science is all busy in NZ. Russia would buy our milk BUT geopolitics.

    Tbh all I think is going on is Key wants to replace Cameron with Clark for photo Opps. I think this is a really expensive national party election stint

        • How does tha conversation even come up.

          UN official #1: Did you hear Clark dosnt brush here teeth?

          UN official #2: No. Better choose Natalia then.

          Actually the more I look at all 9 candidates the more Clark looks the better candidate. How awkward is it gana be if Clark wins and Iv spent the last week slagging her off.

  10. Ask not what the Maori party or Helen or the UN can do for NZ – ask what their real agendas and hidden goals are that are impacting us all NOW and why.
    Please drop the unnecessary ” conspiracy theory ” nonsense. What is written here is the truth.

    The U.N. is the creator of Agenda 2030 and this is the bible for the NWO. Most are unaware of this.
    Agenda 2030 is Agenda 21 ” on steroids “. It sounds good on the surface but with deeper research, it is clear why social services and education funding etc. are being gutted worldwide and privatization is being encouraged. This is the elephant in the room that we need to be familiar with if we want to know why things are going on as they are. Their plans are being implemented right now and their goals for the year 2030 are real and solid and very much the U.N. ‘s priority. Helen and the UN are not our friends.
    We need to look at the source and not run around in circles ; spinning yarns and telling stories.
    It is now time to look at the whys and who is doing what and consider positive changes moving forward.

    Look at the U.N.’s – Agenda 2030 and its list of 14 propositions / goals and the real translations of what they REALLY ! ! mean, written by Aaron and Melissa Dykes.

  11. Helen Clark is an utterly principle-free zone, driven entirely by personal ambition. The minister of health who closed more public hospitals than all the previous ministers of health combined, I hope her ambition to be the first sec-gen of the UN is thwarted.

    I don’t support the Maori party and would never vote for them, but good on Flavell and Fox for breaking the smug and cosy consensus of support for Clark. It’s nice to know that not everyone in this country is part of a lickspittle set who support people like Clark no matter what they do (or have done).

    On the maori Party and Clark:

    UN leadership contest: Helen Clark is the ultimate establishment candidate:

    Helen Clark and He Tangata:

    Recalling the reign of Helen Clark:

Comments are closed.