Graham Watson RIP

I've just heard that Graham Watson died in a car crash near Pokeno, and am stunned like many who knew Graham and regarded him as a friend.

Picture from Blair Mullholland's blog.

I first met Graham at an NZUSA council in the late 1980s. Graham (then known as Wally). He was the charismastic roguish President of the Students' Association, AUSA. Graham got elected President an unprecedented four times, serving three terms. Even after his terms of office, he continued to be a major force in Auckland student politics. At various time he was a life member and/or also banned from AUSA premises. His ability to get a crowd to an SRC meeting and vote with him was loved and feared in equal measure.

Graham was also the major reasons AUSA went voluntary in the late 1990s, when referenda were held. He campaigned tirelessly speaking in lecture theatre after lecture theatre. NZUSA flew up staff to counter him, and AUSA  spent masses urging a vote to stay compulsory. But Graham and Richie Watson (no relation), a few activist and around a $500 won. The margin was barely in double figures. I recall speaking to Graham that night as we both got very very drunk, celebrating a histroic achievement. The result at AUSA made it easier to pass the VSM bill years later.

Graham was a bit of a rogue, in a good way. His presidency had the odd scandal. When he was campaigning for VSM he would actually cite scandals that occurred on his watch, as reasons for VSM. Only Graham would have the to do it.

Graham stayed with me in Wellington a couple of times, and later on become the ACT Party Manager, where I dealt with him professionally a fair bit. Many in ACT will know him, and mourn his far too early death.

Graham was an very capable and charismatic individual, who was lots of fun, and made a difference. I mourn his passing, and my thoughts are with his family.