John Armstrong has written his final regular parliamentary column for the NZ Herald.
This is sad for two reasons. It is sad because coverage of Parliament will be the worse for John’s absence, and sad because it is ill health that has forced his retirement.
I do not recall a time when John Armstrong wasn’t in the press gallery. He’s been there basically my entire adult life. For around a decade he headed up a very strong NZ Herald press gallery team as the political editor, and then since his Parkinson’s he has been the Herald’s chief political commentator.
While the move from political editor to chief political commentator was done for health reasons, the silver lining was it freed John up to be our most regular and astute analyser of Parliament and politics. I’ve always regarded his columns as a must read, and I’d be surprised if there has been one in the last 15 years I have not read. The same goes for many around Parliament – the anxious wait to see how Armstrong views the events of the day or the week.
John has seen seven Prime Ministers 12 opposition leaders. His institutional knowledge will be missed.
But it won’t just be his analysis that will be missed. He has been a friend and mentor to scores of journalists who have come through the gallery. His retirement is a sad event for them.
While John never holds back in saying what he thinks, his pen is without bias or malice. There are some journalists who do get cursed by the MPs they write about, but John is not one of them.
I first got to know John as a Young National, and then as a parliamentary staffer and since then as a blogger and commentator. He’s always been one of my favourite people to talk to on politics, as I often go away with some new thoughts that had not occurred to me previously.
There is a silver lining to his retirement from regular commentary:
As for me, there may be a lot more tweeting and even, God forbid, a blog, and maybe even the occasional contribution to the Herald.
I look forward to blogs and tweets from John.