Good luck to Helen Clark who leaves New Zealand today to head the United Nations Development Programme, though it is the UNDP that might need the luck.

By all accounts it needs some strong management and leadership. First task might be to run a rule over the 190 jobs at present being advertised on the UNDP website to see if they are all required.

I gather that Clark's former trusty chief of staff, Heather Simpson, has been arm-twisted into going to New York as well to work for Clark. And that is one job that makes an awful lot of sense.

Notwithstanding a few exceptions (eg the pledge card) Clark's grip on policy detail and strong management skills have been underpinned by Simpson's own backroom skills and advice.

Simpson is going initially for three months -  a 90-day job trial you could say -  but it will be Simpson who will testing the job, not the other way round.

Clark executed her own exit from politics and from the Labour leadership with typically firm control.

If you think back to how recent Prime Ministers have departed, there is virtually no comparison: an embittered Rob Muldoon stayed and wrecked Jim McLay's leadership of National; David Lange stayed in Parliament for another seven years, not undermining his successors, but not happy; Mike Moore's presence on the backbench for three years was a monkey on Clark's back; and Jenny Shipley made the awful transition from Prime Minister to Leader of the Opposition, which just didn't work.

Jim Bolger managed his exit once the numbers were against him but negotiating your own appointment as US ambassador - competent as he was - was a tad undignified. Better though than staying on.

The first interview I had with Clark is indelibly etched in my memory. It was election night 1993 at the hotel workers' union building in Auckland. Mike Moore was Labour leader and had come close to ousting Bolger after one term, the surprising result that prompted Bolger's "bugger the pollsters" remark.

At the end of the night I asked Clark if the close result meant that Mike Moore's leadership was safe.

Yes, she said.

It wasn't until I started in press gallery the following year that I learned there was only thing MPs are permitted to lie about with impunity - leadership spills. And I have been on the receiving end of a few lies in that regard.

David Farrar's Kiwiblog this week had a mainly fair summary of Clark's strengths and weaknesses as Prime Minister.

Achieving and maintaining unity was the most important, in my view, because all other achievements flowed from that, but how long the unity lasts after her departure remains to be seen. It won't revert to anything like the bad old days.

But Clark's departure today and Cullen's in a couple of weeks will mean Labour can start the rows they are destined to have over the past, the future policy direction, and how to rebuild, though they will probably be delayed until after the Mt Albert by-election.

How Goff manages the debate will be a crucial test of his leadership.

One of the jobs Michael Cullen will take up when he leaves Parliament in a couple of weeks is strategic adviser to Tainui chairman Tuku Morgan. And given the business ambitions of the tribe it could turn out to be a more interesting job than deputy chairman of NZ Post - especially if the tribe is looking for a Dubai partner for infrastructure investment in New Zealand. Maybe that is just one of those things you oppose in Government!

The emerging role of the Maori King is worth keeping an eye on. It seems he is becoming a more 'activist' royal than his mother in terms of Tainui business and diplomacy.

I would have thought that inviting the US President to Turangawaewae is a little premature and is properly the domain of the New Zealand Government.

- Audrey Young