Helen Clark melts Key's and Farrar’s hearts, but too independent for UN Secretary General

PLUS READER POLL RESULT – is it time to throw in the towel? With special feature audio.

Helen Clark has certainly won over John Key with her bid for UN Secretary-General.

Conservative blogger and pollster for National David Farrar says while any government will back a former politician in such a bid, Mr Key has gone all-out:

“This has gone beyond just support. He’s been working the phones, ringing all the P5 members, personally using all his contacts, to try and get her the job. That goes well beyond the call of duty; that is him really, really trying to get her over the line.”

And Mr Farrar says he’s surprised himself by becoming an enthusiastic backer of Ms Clark’s campaign.

He notes that as head of the United Nations Development Programme (the third-highest ranked role in the UN), the former Labour prime minister has achieved what was hitherto thought impossible: she managed to cut staff numbers, a feat that required buy-in from 60 countries as she wrestled with a quota-based staffing system.

That is impressive.

Too impressive.

The problem is that the selection of the next Secretary-General is controlled by the "P5" or the five permanent members of the Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, all of whom have veto power over candidates.

All will appreciate Ms Clark’s skills as an effective manager in her role, he says.

“But when it comes to the big job, they want a former foreign minister. They want someone who will do what they say. They don’t want a former prime minister like Helen Clark who could be dangerously independent.”

And countries don’t just want a yes-man (or indeed, yes-woman) but their yes-man. Russia wants someone from Eastern Europe. France has traditionally plumped for a candidate who can speak French.

Over the past fortnight, there has been a series of three secret ballots or “straw polls” of the UN Security Council’s 15 members. Ms Clark finished in the middle of the pack of 12 candidates in the first two polls and seventh of the remaining 10 in the third. Former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres has been the clear number one on each ballot.

Ms Clark tweeted "La lucha continua" (“the struggle continues”), indicating she’ll hang in there for the fourth ballot scheduled for September 9.

Mr Farrar says she should throw in the towel.

He says while there is still a theoretical chance she could win – if, say, the US vetoed every other candidate – realistically, the dream is over.

“New Zealand has just begun the presidency of the Security Council [September 1 to December 31] and we’d have an easier time of it if we don’t have a candidate still in the mix,” he says.

In NBR's BUSINESS PULSE poll, 54% of readers disagreed, saying Ms Clark should keep battling.

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