The Weekend Press had an article on how Bill English has “stopped sulking” to play a lead role in National again. While it is correct that Bill is very much part of the shared senior management of the caucus, he never sulked for two years. In fact he has set a standard for ex-leaders which is hard to beat – turning his energy into his shadow portfolio and proving one of the best opposition operators.

This got me thinking about all the ex-leaders of both National, and Labour and how well one would score them for their post-leader roles. Here’s my marks:

Bill English – 9/10 – accepted loss, has been totally loyal to new leader and rather than fade away has a new lease on life as an aggressive opposition front bencher.

Jenny Shipley – 8.5/10 – also very gracious and loyal. Despite losing leadership remained part of the team until 2002 election. Also played a very significant role in helping the party fund-raise for her successor.

Jim Bolger – 5.5/10 – started well with going to the US to be out of the way, but many in National will never ever forgive him for his taking the chairmanship of Kiwibank. Still not over being rolled, a decade later.

Jim McLay – 8/10 – fought to stay on, but accepted the loss and went gracefully at the next election. Has remained a low key supporter since.

Sir Robert Muldoon – 2/10 – undermined his successor at every opportunity until he was rolled. Continued to undermine the party for years until he retired from Parliament.

Jack Marshall – 8/10 – gentleman Jack to the last.

Keith Holyoake 7.5/10 – was not happy at being pushed to retire early but never rocked things too much.

And for Labour:

Mike Moore – 1.5/10 – went even more ballistic than Muldoon in undermining his party and caucus. Get some credit for a makeup in 1996, but continued to harbour grudge beyond his retirement from Parliament.

Geoffrey Palmer – 9/10 – seemed almost relieved when Clark and Moore toppled him. Gracious exit from Parliament soon after.

David Lange – 6/10 – at first very supportive to Palmer but under Moore and to a degree Clark was a loose cannon and a liability. Should have retired in 1990 when he was great.

Bill Rowling – 7.5/10 – never made a fuss, but never particularly helpful to Lange.

Normal Kirk – 10/10 – many say a dead ex-leader is the best sort 🙂

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