Monday, August 08, 2005

Clark responds to Lange's charges

Helen Clark responded today to Lange's accusations that she had sold out to Roger Douglas. Her first point, oddly, is to point out that she didn't vote for Lange as party leader but for Russell Marshall. Clark deserves some kudos for this admission of political foolishness which is only to be expected for a first term MP.

Clark then says that she sided with Lange over "planned asset sales and economic liberalisation". However Lange's specific charge was about the Flat-Tax package, which is not quite something that is covered by the concept of economic liberalisation. Moreover the context of the quote is about her relationship with Lange as part leader rather than her performance in Cabinet. Since Lange was identified with economic liberalisation during his first term as Prime Minister, Clark could have been pointing out that she saw the reforms as necessary as opposed to Jim Anderton who did not.

Clark then defends her attitude during the cabinet fights by pointing out that she had no power as No. 17 (does the current No. 17, Rick Barker, agree?) and that she was only one of the four who supported Lange. But Michael Cullen was similarly placed in the Cabinet pecking order and was more vocal in his support. She might have a case if she means that her presence during the debate signalled moral support for Lange's cause as opposed to someone like Margaret Shields who simply didn't turned up. Given that Bob Tizard was noted as taking potshots at Douglas, Lange's perception of her as being bought looks to me a fair characterization of what happened.

Lastly Clark points out that she saved State Housing from privatisation. This can't have been very difficult as Lange says that her price was continued supply for the Housing department. More importantly didn't she realize that if Douglas was successful in implementing a flat-tax regime, there was nothing to stop him from selling off State Housing as part of the reduction of government services that would have resulted?