Lord Keith of Kinloch

Written By: - Date published: 5:24 pm, December 3rd, 2007 - 17 comments
Categories: history, national - Tags: ,

Am halfway through “Kiwi Keith”, Barry Gustafson’s portrait of our third-longest serving Prime Minister. He obviously had something, as he was picked out as a young man by Reform’s Coates and others as having leadership potential from his early days crop-farming in Motueka. As a young MP, after surviving the Reform-United Coalition defeat in 1935, he was seen as a possible contender for leadership in 1936 when as Gustafson says, split infinitive and all, that “a conference was held in Wellington to permanently fuse the remnants of the Reform and United-Liberal parties, and any other anti-Labour groups who wished, into a new New Zealand National Party.”

The Reform party was led by Coates and United by Forbes – “Coates was unacceptable to Forbes and his supporters, and Forbes was unacceptable to the Reformers.” Holyoake was ruled out as a Coates man, so the choice came down to Hamilton, a Reformer, and Wilkinson, an Independent favoured by Forbes. Hamilton won by one vote whereupon Wilkinson became an Independent again! The fault-line that still lies in the middle of the National Party goes back to its very foundation.

Holyoake continued to represent the moderate wing, and was supported enough after he had lost Motueka in the Labour landslide of 1938 for the National Party later on to subscribe to buying him a farm in the safe Pahiatua electorate – can’t imagine anyone doing that these days. He became deputy to the right-wing Holland, until Holland was forced to resign as he suffered from increasing dementia and Holyoake took over the leadership shortly before National’s loss in 1957. But so far I share John Roughan’s view – the man behind the plum in the mouth remains “an enigma still.” Holyoake himself said his greatest achievement was the development at Kinloch beside Lake Taupo, a surprisingly small view for a supposed statesman. The cover blurb says that Holyoake was the first Prime Minister to claim abroad that he was not British but a New Zealander – inside however one reads that his slogan that saved him from the 1935 election defeat was “FOLLOW ENGLAND AND VOTE HOLYOAKE.”

17 comments on “Lord Keith of Kinloch”

  1. redbus 1

    He was an interesting man… It’s a bit of a coincidence that you posted this today, I was meant to head to the library today and hire it, but ran out of time…

  2. Gruela 2

    It really makes me wonder how long National can survive under MMP, and whether the right might not have a better chance of expanding it’s natural base if they did split into two parties. There’s so much obvious tension between the rural conservatives and the libertarian city slickers that it seems like only common sense that the party’s days are numbered. Maybe after they lose the 2008 election it will happen.

  3. redbus 3

    Yes, Gruela. Just like it happened after they lost the MMP elections of ’99, ’02, and ’05.

  4. Gruela 4

    Well, you never know. I figure it all comes down to personalities and if they get two factions sufficiently antagonistic to each others values then it’s possible, isn’t it?

  5. redbus 5

    I doubt it. At least, that is, it wouldn’t happen after they lose the next election.

  6. Gruela 6

    Yeah, I suppose they are pretty entrenched. There’d be too much to lose for them, wouldn’t there? But hell, it’d be a lot of fun to watch.

  7. Lampie 7

    There’s so much obvious tension between the rural conservatives and the libertarian city slickers

    Wonder if Key really trusts English hmmmm. English backstabs Shipley, Brash backstabs English, English backstabs…..

  8. Robinsod 8

    Lampie – it’s actually more like Brash and Key backstab English. Oh and you forgot Shipley backstabs Bolger and my particular favorite, Bolger threatens to out McKay unless he stands down. The more things change…

  9. Lampie 9

    Brash and Key backstab English

    Ah ha and like any good book, English gets revenge??

    Yeah forgot that Bolger one

  10. Billy 10

    No backstabbing in the history of the Labour Party. None at all. Never. I won’t hear of it. I’m serious now. Shut up.

  11. redbus 11

    But hell, it’d be a lot of fun to watch.
    – Oh yeah! As fun as hearing:

    Under a Labour Government I lead...”
    I mean, frankly, the war in Iraq is, is over…

    So many funny, funny things. Well, almost as funny as recalling 10,000 DVD’s.

  12. Gruela 12

    10,000 DVDs. Now THAT is funny. Kudos to The Standard and Kiwiblogblog. I bow down before you.

  13. Lampie 13

    SportsBilly your back!!!!

    I must “diarise” that

  14. redbus 14

    SportBilly… haha… Wonderful.

    (Ignore me, just thinking about a nickname of somebody I once new. Nostalgia, it gets to me sometimes.)

  15. Lampie 15

    Nostalgia, it gets to me sometimes

    Christ, I’m get hassled by my wife about been a teen in the 80s (good old days)

  16. Phil 16


    I think your assertion that there is tension between the two factions is somewhat overstated. Both sides of the National Party realise that they need to work together in order to form a government that they want in office.

    Contrast that to the left wing of NZ politics, which is an awful lot like a road transport system (but, not Auckland’s);
    Thousands of people all trying to go in different directions at the same time, not all obeying the same rules, never knowing exactly what the others intentions are, with very little protection from getting innvolved in each others accidents.

  17. M.Stevens 17

    Holyoake was an interesting man (getting back on thread) – he was s product of his era, and it doesn’t make sense to me to try and judge him bu today’s standards. It really was a different world when from today.

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