With the elevation
of Margaret Wilson to the Speaker’s chair, New Zealand women now have a
grip on all the top jobs: governor general, speaker, and prime minister
(though Ms Clark now also rejoices in the title Father of the House,
which may seem a little confusing unless you’ve seen her in action).

good on ‘em, since Kiwis were the first in the world to give women the
vote. As one commentator pointed out: “Men used to complain that women
could do anything – now they are doing everything.” The funny thing is
in politics women seem to behave more like men. Golda Maeir, Indira
Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, and Helen Clark all act (or acted) like
particularly tough blokes. It must be the effort of fitting into the
most chauvinistic business in the world. You could debate which was the
strongest, but for my money Golda Maier takes the biscuit, her
contribution to peace echoing more sadly down every passing year:
“There is no such thing as a Palestinian.”

Helen Clark rules
over the Beehive with a steel handbag. While intensely loyal, she’s
coming down hard on wrongdoings by her troops during this election
year, and the strain on them is beginning to tell. Cock-ups which a
year ago would have brought a mere force ten glare now get the full
laser treatment and time in the sin bin. One of her favourites, the
film star looker Maori, John Tamahire, took an early bath last year
when he was deemed less than open about some business dealings. And the
rest are being roasted for every media issue popping up on their watch,
such as the police’s new time-saving brainwave of sending taxis to 111
emergency calls, or the national school scholarship results which
failed almost everyone.

The best one, though, is the hapless
education minister who has just been sent out of the room for allegedly
stuffing a tennis ball into a lippy boy’s mouth when he was a teacher
many moons ago. The trouble with strong leaders is that their strength
leads to weakness around them. So when the redoubtable Clark buzzes off
from the hive, the drones go astray. And go away she does, a lot –
treading the global stage as a seasoned pro, for all the world like a
woman checking out the next big role. Surely a real kiwi in that
respect – leaving home in search of the big OE, and the lure of
limelight in the big time.