While I have been as harsh a critic as anyone, over Chris’ sense of entitlement to overseas travel, I think it is fair to note that his parliamentary career should be remembered for more than just the overseas travel controversy.
Chris was the first MP to be openly gay. That may not mean a lot to most of us, but if you are a member of a minority group, it is a big thing to see someone like you able to serve in the House of Representatives. Since Chris came out in the 1990s, he has been joined by Tim Barnett, Georgina Beyer, Charles Chauvel, Chris Finlayson, Kevin Hague, Grant Robertson, Maryan Street and Louisa Wall. That list shows how today being gay and an MP is no big thing, but even 15 years ago it was quite significant.
During my time in Parliament, I got to know Chris reasonably well as we had some mutual friends in common. I always found him very funny and likeable, and he performed well as a whip for labour. Good whips needs to be able to work with their counterparts from other parties.
While I don’t think he shone as Minister of Education, he only held the portfolio for a year. He spent five years as Minister of Conservation and I think most people would acknowledge he was a very committed and effective Minister in that role.
As I said, I think Chris lost the plot in recent years. His political radar failed him, and he didn’t realise that his level of overseas travel was excessive, even if approved. Also his attempts to undermine Goff were clumsy and amateurish.
Being expelled from the Labour Party would have been a terrible blow for Chris. He is tribal Labour to his soul. But I suspect he has been told that he will be allowed back in, once there is a new Leader. So he may not have much longer to wait.