I had very mixed feelings when told yesterday that Roger Sowry would be announcing that he would retire from Parliament at the next election.
For Roger’s sake, I was delighted because it means new opportunities and more time with the family. For National it will mean a loss of someone with great experience, and political instinct.
“Minister Woger” is the nickname his Ministerial staff gave him in the last Government, and it still gets some use today. Roger always had a very loyal and dedicated staff who gave him as much abuse as he gave back in turn. His office was always a fun place, and all of us who worked in the Beehive can recall some great late night sessions.
In my early years in Parliament Roger was very much a mentor to me (and many other staff) and in later years a damn good mate. His wife, Shirley, is one of the nicest people you can meet, and his kids are quite cool also (when they are not all yelling at the same time!).
Roger had a rapid rise, despite coming in at the worst possible time – just as one entered Government – in 1990. To become Chief Government Whip in five years showed his political abilities, later honed as Leader of the House. As Social Services Minister he oversaw some excellent effective programmes like Family Start which are still going today.
In Opposition Roger, both as Deputy Leader, and before, was the MP whom most staff turned to with problems. His incredible popularity with the staff (helped by a constantly regenerating drinks cabinet) was only matched by the bruised egos of some of his colleagues as Roger had the unfortunate tendency to say an idea was really really stupid, just because it was. I’ll keep more details for my long awaited book, but suffice to say Roger was having to say no on a regular basis to some MPs!
The best summary of Roger is probably on the award he got at the farewell dinner for the English/Sowry Leader’s Office team. Roger got the Napolean Award for “being loved by your troops, feared by your enemies, and hated by your officers”.