Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Labour leader's wife frank about what comes first in her life

Price says she has never wanted to be a politician's wife and still isn't comfortable with it. Photo / Richard Robinson
Price says she has never wanted to be a politician's wife and still isn't comfortable with it. Photo / Richard Robinson

Karen Price could be New Zealand's next "First Lady" but says she will always be a mother and lawyer before she is a politician's wife, and people will "take me as they find me".

Speaking to the Weekend Herald about Labour leader David Cunliffe, as part of its The Man Who Would be Prime Minister series, Price said she had never wanted to be a politician's wife and still wasn't comfortable with it.

She said she had been a diplomat's spouse before so knew the drill but also had her own career as an environmental lawyer and was mother to two sons.

"I'm pretty frank. You take me as you find me and people can take it or leave it. I'm pretty busy with my career and the juggle is pretty extreme. So I do what I can, but I'm primarily a mum and a lawyer before I'm a political spouse."

She told how Cunliffe pretended to be a security guard to meet US President Bill Clinton while a diplomat in the US.

It was at the annual White House Press Dinner and Cunliffe was in the bathroom when then-Deputy Prime Minister Don McKinnon was summoned to meet Clinton. Price saw a movement out of the corner of her eye.

"I was thinking 'what on earth is that' because there was serious security there. Then I realised this flash was my husband racing along."

Read also: The unauthorised biography of David Cunliffe — Part II

Karen Price and David Cunliffe in their youth.

When security tried to stop him, Cunliffe put his hand to a non-existent earpiece and called "make way for security for the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand". He made it up, met Clinton and later told Price he had said "oh, Mr President, this moment is for me what it was for you when you met JFK".

Price also told of her own brush with former First Lady, Barbara Bush, at a Christmas party at the White House.

The two collided and Price went sprawling. "I was so embarrassed, I picked myself up and said 'I'm so sorry.' She was very kind. She looked at me and said 'oh, Merry Christmas'."

Price was on Cunliffe's team of helpers in his bids to be Labour leader in 2011 against David Shearer and again in 2013 for the contest against Grant Robertson and Shane Jones.

She was not involved in setting up or running his donations trust, but had known about it so she could refer potential donors to the trustees. It had not raised any alarm bells with her, something she said possibly showed her political naivety.

Surprisingly frank, she spoke to the Weekend Herald without Cunliffe or his advisers present.

Price has been a hit since she began appearing in the media as part of her husband's attempt to show more of his personality and background.

Her first appearance on Campbell Live prompted "Karen for PM" calls on social media.

- NZ Herald

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