The Government is campaigning as hard to win New Zealand a seat on the Security Council as it is for the September general election.

But Murray McCully is not likely to be mobbed by well-wishers at Auckland airport should he (or his Labour counterpart David Shearer) come home from New York with a seat in the bag.

The public takes pride in people rather than "seats". People are proud of Helen Clark being No 3 at the UN and would burst with pride were she to become the next secretary general in 2017.

But the real power at the UN resides in the Security Council which makes binding international law.

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Getting a seat on the Security Council is not seen by many as a big deal. But it is. And with the deteriorating state of relations among the five permanent members at present, it is an even bigger deal.

The crisis over chemical weapons in Syria escalated tense relations to a rift between Russia and China on the one hand and the West on the other, so much so they wouldn't even meet at its height.

The situation in Ukraine, too, presents huge difficulties for the council's five permanent members. The other 10 members (two from the grouping New Zealand is in) can play a crucial role in the international response to a crisis.

Australia is widely regarded as having handled its two-year term from last year very well, with Luxembourg - the current members of the Western Europe and Other Group - and Jordan.

Finland competed with Australia and Luxembourg for a seat in 2012 and was such a hot favourite, it eased off on the campaign, the story goes.

New Zealand, Turkey and Spain are competing for two spots to be voted on shortly after the election.

If money spent on the campaign were a factor, New Zealand probably wouldn't stand a chance, not even with a thrilling jet boat ride in Queenstown thrown in.

If effort were a factor, a seat would be a cinch for New Zealand.