Bevan Burgess

I saw a small item in the Dominion Post about Mary Potter Hospice and was surprised and saddened to see that the patient pictured is a fomer colleague of mine – .

Bevan worked for Bill Birch in the 1990s, but was more well known as Press Secretary to Roger Douglas in the 1980s. Bevan was credited with being a crucial force for reform in the Government. And when things started to go sour between Douglas and Lange, Douglas kept triumphing in Cabinet partly because Bevan was so much better at his job than the 9th floor were at theirs.

The legend goes that when Bevan’s ministerial contract came up for renewal, Lange rescinded the delegation to Ministerial Services for staffing, personally vetoed Beven’s contract renewal, and then handed the delegation back. Lange’s actions in doing this are acknowledged as being the major catalyst that led to Douglas leaving Cabinet.

I don’t know Bevan particularly well but did chat to him a few times and always found him fascinating to talk to, and difficult to reconcile this softly spoken man with the legendary caricature of his role in the fourth Labour Government, where I had imagined him as some sort of cross between Machiavelli and John Pagani on steroids – a spin doctor par excellence. I realised Bevan had been so sucessful not because of any “spin” skills but because of his enormous capability for work and rational analysis.

It goes without saying that as Bevan is at Mary Potter, I assume the outlook is sadly not positive. Without it sounding like an inapproriate eulogy in advance, I do hope that his enoromous contribution to New Zealand is recognised, and how it was much more than just being the press secretary sacked by David Lange.

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