Helen Clark, an election, and a very fast drive to the football
By Crikey reporter Jane Nethercote Could racing home to see the Bledisloe Cup prove Helen Clark’s undoing? Already, things have been looking a little shaky for the New Zealand PM, despite recent poll results showing her Labour Party ahead of Don Brash’s Nationals. But the ride is only just beginning. Last year, Clark was conducting […]
Could racing home to see the Bledisloe Cup prove Helen Clark's undoing? Already, things have been looking a little shaky for the New Zealand PM, despite recent poll results showing her Labour Party ahead of Don Brash's Nationals. But the ride is only just beginning.
Last year, Clark was conducting prime ministerial duties in the town of Waimate in New Zealand's south when news reached her that her scheduled flight to Christchurch had been cancelled. In order to get to Christchurch in time to make the return flight to Wellington – where the match was to take place – Clark decided to make the 205km journey by car instead. The trip took just 96 minutes – and it doesn't take a mathematician to work out that Clark's motorcade was travelling at light speed (or at least 140-150km/hour). After members of the public complained – "We were doing 100kmh and they passed us as if we were standing still," said one Christchurch man – an inquiry was launched and four police officers and two other drivers were accused of dangerous driving.
Until recently, Clark had distanced herself from the incident. "I was pretty focused on what I was doing in the back seat, actually," she said. But embarrassingly, her version of events started to unravel when one officer claimed Clark "was smiling and appeared to be enjoying the ride" and would have been "most definitely aware of what was going on both in front of her and around her." Yesterday, police officer Clint Vallender told the court how Clark had praised him for a "very heroic drive."
It makes it hard to understand why Clark is "not facing any court action" herself, editorialises theBay of Plenty Times. Perhaps we should just "be grateful the trial is going ahead at the most inopportune of times for Miss Clark." Indeed, not only is a September election looming, but New Zealand is also trying to work out how to stop the carnage on its roads. New Zealand won the first game of the 2004 Bledisloe Cup 16-7. But it's unlikely it still feels like a victory for Clark.