Sunday, August 07, 2005

Lange on Clark, Cullen and Goff

David Lange has some rather unflattering things to say about the three most powerful people in the government. When the fourth Labour Cabinet was split after the repudiation of the Flat-Tax package, Phil Goff "liked to be in the majority". It's well known that he was a Rogernome then so this characterization of his position is simply cheap.

Michael Cullen is curiously described as being "close to tears" in the Cabinet fights although Lange softens the blow by saying that it was not a sign of weakness and suggests that it was out of frustration instead. I suspect that Lange's positive spin is a reward for Cullen for having stood up for him earlier in the Flat-tax debates but the whole passage still comes across as extremely odd.

Most damaging is the treatment meted out to Helen Clark. Lange describes how he placed her in Housing to protect it from the onslaught of Douglas's reforms. So how did Helen perform? Lange states that:
Douglas bought Clark off by promising supply in her housing portfolio. She responded by putting her head down. I do not recall her buying into any fight we ever had in Cabinet.
Ouch. Despite being placed in the context of the Cabinet Split, Lange conveys the impression that Clark was bought off by Douglas as soon as she entered Cabinet because she did not argue against the introduction of the Flat-tax package, unlike Michael Cullen.

However I don't believe her behaviour at this point can be attributed solely to being bought by Douglas. John Tamihere said in his infamous Investigate interview that:
But [Clark]’s no good with emotions. She goes to pieces. She’ll fold on the emotional side and walk away or not turn up. She knows it’s going to get emotional and it upsets her.
So, in my opinion, Clark's engrossment with her paperwork sounds like an avoidance of extreme emotion rather than a sign that her loyalty was bought although it was to some unknown extent. That said, I'm amazed that John Tamihere could be so much more perceptive than David Lange.