Cox on Muldoon

An interesting column by former National MP Michel Cox:

One can envisage Rob, the former corporal, together with two former brigadiers, Duncan McIntyre and David Thompson, sitting up on the ninth floor of the Beehive, planning their next moves. A former private, Colin McLachlan, filled the glasses and fetched more water.

It is amazing how former corporals mix it with history. From Napoleon to Adolf Hitler to Idi Amin to Robert David Muldoon; all have played interesting roles.

Not the most flattering comparisons. I suspect Michael was not a big fan!

The House was in “urgency”, to enable it to pass the Finance Bill through its third reading. This bill contained the Budget. Sixteen days of debate had passed, perusing every item, since Budget Day when had moved its first reading. In those times “urgency” meant that the house sat until all the required bills were passed; no knocking off at midnight, but a slog to the end.

After helping to dispatch the first bottle, Rob decided to see what his caucus members could offer. He was on the prowl. I kept a bottle with only a couple of nips in it for such visitors; not all my colleagues were as cautious.

As a whip, I was designated to keep an eye on our leader as he would be required to move the third reading in the debating chamber when the time came.

At 2am Rob rolled into the chamber, obviously high as a kite and took his seat. The Opposition could see the state he was in. “Rob, we’re over here!” called out an exuberant and waving David Lange. 

Heh, Lange was such a funny man.

The time came when Rob was required to move the third reading. He stood and was recognised by the Speaker; “The Right Honourable Robert Muldoon,” he called thrice, only to be met with a drunken grin.

It was obvious to us whips that Rob could either stand or he could speak, but he couldn’t do both at once. After several attempts we made another senior minister sit with him to distract him in his attempts to put the final touches to a Budget.

While he was so distracted we made the Associate Minister of Finance, John Falloon, stand and move the third reading.

The days before the House was televised!

When Marilyn Waring resigned from the National caucus, he grabbed his opportunity, and called a snap election. Marilyn’s letter of resignation arrived on my desk and I delivered it to Rob who told me to check with every marginal member to see if they were ready to face the electorate.

This was about three in the afternoon, and the drinking began – brandy was the tipple. He had finished the bottle and at 10.30pm announced to the media and caucus that he would hold an election on Bastille Day. We stood behind him, ready to catch him should he stumble. At that time National was up in the polls by 8 per cent, but when, probably with an awful hangover, he blamed Marilyn for this sudden event, his credibility and our lead collapsed. The rest is history.

I always thought Tom Scott’s cartoon summed up that day. He had Rob sitting up in his bed in Vogel House, with an ice pack on his head.

“Thea [his wife]” he said, “I dreamt that I called a snap election!”

One of the best cartoons ever!

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