PM determined to look on the bright side

Prime Minister Helen Clark ends her eighth year in office being thumped in the opinion polls and facing a keen, ascendant National Party. But she says she has had bad years before and that the hallmark of her government is its ability to regroup and fight again.

"The question is not `will things go wrong?', because inevitably things will happen that you don't want to happen; the question is how you pick yourself up. My most noted aphorism is `move on, move on, there's no point looking back'."

With an election looming by the end of 2008, the New Zealand voter will have to decide whether it's time for Clark to be hoist on her own aphorism and move on.

We asked her for her highs and lows of 2007 and what she hopes for in 2008.

1. Clark's personal highlight of 2007: Being prime minister at Passchendaele for the 90th anniversary of the World War I battle. "It was honouring what happened there, epic and tragic events."

2. Personal lowlight: Dealing with ministerial follies.

3. The New Zealander who made a difference in 2007: Grant Dalton. He won the Louis Vuitton Cup, and came within seconds of victory in the America's Cup.

4. How much have you spent on your husband's Christmas present? I'm shouting him a holiday so it wasn't cheap. It's overseas, northern.

5. Book of the year: Murder in Samarkand: A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror, by former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray.

6. CD of the year: Verdi's Don Carlos, from Teatro alla Scala, a gift from the departing Italian Ambassador.

7. Film of the year: The History Boys.

8. Television programme of the year: BBC World News. Fall asleep over it sometimes after work, late at night at Premier House.

9. Most worrying international development: The repression of Buddhist monks in Burma. That was horrible.

10. Most worrying New Zealand development: A failure to carry through promises to victory in major sports events.

11. Government policy of 2007 you are proudest of: For long-term potential to do good, the 20 hours' free education for three and four year olds.

12. Government lowlight of 2007: The saddest thing of the year was the Burton shootings, that was devastating. Also the Mrs Muliaga tragedy.

13. An international leader who impressed: Germany's (conservative leader) Angela Merkel. She's very focused. Very direct. You won't die wondering what she's thinking.

14. What are you hoping to get for Christmas? I'm always grateful if my mother tops up the talcum powder.

15. Three aspirations for international events for 2008: Peace in the Middle East, meaningful negotiations following on from the Bali climate change conference, and for the Japanese to please stop whaling.

16. Three aspirations for New Zealand events for 2008: Obviously a Labour-led government taking office again. Keeping unemployment at low levels. Boosting achievement of our school children.


Sunday Star Times