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`Perfumed bulldozer' becomes NZ prime minister

Jenny Shipley's installment comes a little more than a month after she ousted Jim Bolger (62) as National Party leader. The delay was the result of a deal the two made to avoid a potentially embarrassing leadership vote.

Mrs Shipley (45) has a reputation for tackling tough issues. She did not flinch from taking controversial decisions when holding the social security and health portfolios under Mr Bolger.

Coming from the party's right, she won the support of MPs who wanted a tougher stance than that Mr Bolger took with their coalition partner, New Zealand First.


Analysts say, however, that the delay in taking office, which included two weeks of waiting for New Zealand First to decide whether to stay in the coalition, has damaged her decisive image.

The media, bestowing on her such soubriquets as ``the Iron Lady'' and ``the per fumed bulldozer'', has created an expectation of a shift to the right in government policy, a move bound to upset New Zealand First.

Mrs Shipley, who had a Presbyterian upbringing and retains a strong belief in the ethics of self-help, faces the immediate task of improving her coalition government's popularity.

After a month in the wings, Mrs Shipley is expec ted to mark out her government's direction in a major policy speech tomorrow facing a woman opposition leader, Labour's Helen Clark, across the floor of parliament.

( Daily Telegraph, London)

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