Key: 'Hell of a lot' of Aussies back Clark over Rudd to lead UN

Kevin Rudd and Helen Clark in 2008 (Reuters)
Kevin Rudd and Helen Clark in 2008 (Reuters)

John Key has thrown shade on Kevin Rudd's bid for leadership of the UN, saying "a hell of a lot of Australians" would prefer to have Helen Clark in charge.

The former Australian Prime Minister is making a late run for the Secretary-General. He hasn't taken part in any of the debates yet, and wasn't listed in the straw poll of Security Council members last week, which saw Ms Clark ranked middle of the pack.

Mr Rudd, who has twice led Australia, has a rather large hurdle to jump before he can get in the ring with the likes of Ms Clark, reported frontrunner Antonio Guterres of Portugal and Bulgaria's Irina Bokova.

"If you're going to be in the race you've got to get either your host country preferably or a country to nominate you. At the moment, he doesn't have a country nominating him," Mr Key told Paul Henry this morning.

"If it's a drag race between Kevin Rudd and Helen Clark, New Zealanders and I reckon a hell of a lot of Australians know who the best candidate is."

Mr Key even joked Paul Henry's daughter Bella would make a better Secretary-General than Mr Rudd.

The 15-member Security Council ultimately selects a candidate to recommend to the General Assembly. It's generally considered eastern Europe's turn to have someone in charge, but Ms Clark has pointed out in the past her part of the world, like eastern Europe, also hasn't ever supplied a Secretary-General.

Mr Key says last week's vote showed off "everything that is wrong with the United Nations".

"The top five candidates either come from Europe, the other four are Eastern Europe, clearly they are all bloc-voting down Helen Clark. They're voting tactically," he says.

"What you've got at the moment is these pretty raw and blunt tactical voting strategies playing out. Of course we have to change that if we can."

Mr Key hopes his recent trip to Europe, and US Vice President Joe Biden's whistlestop visit here, has secured Ms Clark some vital support, particularly from veto-holding powers like France, the UK and the US.

"Don't forget those candidates have got to be acceptable to the other [permanent] five members who can exercise their veto… I wouldn't write her off yet."

The position has also never been held by a woman, another tick in Ms Clark's favour according to Mr Key.