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English-Letter to the Editor NZ Herald

14 January 2002

Letter to the Editor
The New Zealand Herald

Dear Sir

The National Party disputes the Herald's editorial of 10 Jan 2002 that this Government exercised statesmanship over the war on terrorism. In fact, Clark dithered after 11 September with even Gadaffi and the Russians expressing their sorrow quicker than New Zealand did. Most media at the time, including editorials, described Clark's response as grudging and mean-spirited. There was heavy criticism of her early failure to support the United States by name, a point made specifically in the Herald in an earlier editorial.

The Prime Minister's early insistence on being formally asked by the United States for specific assistance was unnecessary. Australia and Britain were willing to offer assistance immediately without waiting to be asked. Her initial comments that New Zealand would take a stance similar to Finland or Sweden did not reflect the New Zealand mood and had to be rapidly abandoned.

A statesman-like Government would have accepted good ideas from National like an official memorial service. Clark herself now admits this should have happened. In reality, it is hard to shake the impression that the real change in the Government's policy came after their early polling showed it was out of step with public opinion. There is a marked change in language after the Parliamentary Debate on 18 September 2001 where National talked about the first polls and expressed the widespread view that the Government had been too slow to react. A statesman-like response would have been quicker and more decisive, unlike Clark, who only responded when told to by the opinion polls.

Yours sincerely

Bill English
National Party Leader

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