Our most effective Prime Minister

Written By: - Date published: 8:14 am, October 1st, 2016 - 234 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, history, john key, labour, national, Politics - Tags:

I went for “effective” which is more neutral than “best” or “worst”. Key general test was: did they change New Zealand for the good? It needed doing.

RANK: 1 Peter Fraser PM 1940 – 1949
Massive nationwide leadership and mobilization through World War 2. Instrumental in forming the United Nations and Commonwealth. Continued building New Zealand’s infrastructure in electricity, telephone, water systems, education, health, social welfare, foreign policy. But only mildly popular with the public or caucus.

RANK: 2 Sidney Holland PM 1949-1957
Maintained welfare state and full employment policies. Dumped the legislative council. Dumped rationing. Strongarmed unpopular waterfront union. Invested massively in motorways. Encouraged tenants to buy state houses. Successfully encouraged Auckland to reticulate water systems and massively accelerate its growth. Introduced Fiordland, Mt Cook, Nelson Lakes, and Uruwera National Parks. Introduced PAYE tax from lump sum. Built the National Party up. Great common touch and very popular.

RANK: 3 Helen Clark PM 1999-2008
Introduced Kiwibank, New Zealand Superannuation Fund, and Emission Trading. Reformed social welfare with generous Working For Families package and interest free student loans. Signed world first free trade agreement with China. Supported troop deployments to Afghanistan and East Timor. Presided over nearly a decade of economic growth while maintaining a strong government surplus. Sustained three MMP coalitions. Multiple Treaty of Waitangi claim resolutions. Rakiura National Park and Great Walks system formed. Agreed Lord of the Rings deal that accelerated major tourism and film location industries. Actively diversified economy. Formed Fonterra. Re-energised and organized the Labour Party. Popular and effective especially in first two terms.

RANK: 4 John Key PM 2008-
While unfair to rank a sitting Prime Minister, Key’s successes include multiple Treaty of Waitangi claim resolutions, successfully leading country through major financial crisis, reforming public sector with gradualist but cumulative structural reforms, and sustaining a sweet spot of low unemployment and low interest rates. The Prime Minister most at ease with the media and remains popular and effective well into third term. Broadband fibre-optic rollout, rebuild of Christchurch after earthquakes, education reforms, Auckland reforms, and major motorway and public transport investments are further achievements.

RANK 5: Robert Muldoon PM 1975-1984
Led New Zealand through major economic crisis. Stopped Labour’s superannuation scheme. Shifted tax burdens off lower paid New Zealanders, and increased taxes on luxury goods like boats. Divided public opinion over South African rugby tours. Invested in large-scale industrial projects, in part to enable greater independence from imported oil, in part to rejuvenate economy. Initiated closer economic relations with Australia. Very popular for first two terms. Major long term impact in employment policy, infrastructure development, alignment with US, union relations, and economic and fiscal policies.

RANK: 6 Jim Bolger 1990-1997
Very severe first budget instigated by BNZ bailout that constrained first term. Corporatised and partly privatized a number of key government assets. Implemented MMP. Settled 3 major Treaty of Waitangi claims and accelerated others. Implemented first 2 new national parks in decades. A steady reformer with strong impact.

RANK: 7 David Lange 1984-1989
Instigated major reform program of all parts of New Zealand government from fisheries to education, health to local government to electricity. Not really in control of the Finance Ministers’ structural reform program. Responded inadequately to French sabotage of Greenpeace in Auckland. Initially popular but lost control. Strengthened legal recognition for Maori through Treaty of Waitangi. Deregulated financial and share markets causing exposure to huge international boom-bust cycles. Arguably instigated the modern New Zealand state.

RANK: 8 Keith Holyoake PM 1960-1972
Re-wrote criminal legal code and abolished the death penalty. Sustained economic prosperity and social stability for over a decade. Got rid of 6 o’clock closing in bars. Sustained a strong and economically activist state. Re-established compulsory military training. Charming, avuncular and popular, but not a major mover and shaker of New Zealand’s future.

RANK: 9 Norman Kirk PM 1972-1974
Withdrew troops from Vietnam war. Protested testing of French nuclear weapons in the Pacific. Abolished compulsorily military training. Focused principally on foreign policy. Hugely popular, but didn’t have enough time in office to have a lasting impact.

RANK: 10 Jack Marshall PM 1972
PM for just 6 months. Establishing ACC continues to be his major significant impact on New Zealand.

RANK: 11 Geoffrey Palmer 1989-1990
Deeply unpopular. Achieved key legal reforms. Achieved for New Zealand later as Privy Councillor, Law Commissioner, law professor, and law partner.

RANK: 12 Jenny Shipley 1997-1999
First female Prime Minister. First Prime Minister to attend Hero Parade.

RANK: 13 Walter Nash PM 1957-1960
Drastic Black Budget to respond to financial crisis, with hugely unpopular taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, and petrol. Failed to act over South African Rugby tours. Often absent from country. Massively unpopular with the public.

RANK: 14 Mike Moore 1990
PM for just a few months. Not popular. Achieved for NZ in trade negotiations particularly GATT.

RANK: 15 Bill Rowling 1974-1975
Not much chop as leader after Kirk. Led Labour to massive defeat. No lasting impact.

234 comments on “Our most effective Prime Minister ”

  1. mickysavage 1

    Thanks Ad.

    I will beat everyone else and say that I would rank John Key second last to Muldoon. The damage these two have done to New Zealand is immense …

    • Ad 1.1

      I thought an old commie like you would be more annoyed for putting Holland second!

    • David H 1.2

      I was going to say he needs to do a list of the worst PM’s NZ has had and No1 would be split by a Gnats knacker, between Key and Muldoon..

      I do agree that Key n Muldoon should be last n 2nd last.

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 1.2.1

        While I am no fan of Muldoon, I don’t think he despised the poor and worshiped the rich like Key does.
        Muldoon’s faults were more to do with a bullying personality, boy’s club and believing he was infallible. He protected and expanded the welfare system and avoided tax changes that increased the burden on the less well off. He didn’t think hammering and blaming the poor was the way to go – rather that the government had a particular responsibility for that part of the population. Despite his many other faults. And he certainly did plenty of hammering and blaming of varied targets!

        My $0.02.

        • millsy

          I agree.

          Muldoon never belived that slashing the living standards of the wide population would solve anything.

        • mosa

          Well said Uncooked.

        • Henry Filth

          I think you’ll find that Sir Robert’s tax cuts were targeted squarely at the bottom tax brackets.

          Not much solace for the rich in those. . .

      • TheBlackKitten 1.2.2

        No Bolger was worse than both of them. Him with that creepy Birch and that awful Richardson. I am surprised that the ECA act is not mentioned under his name.

    • Totally agree. Although I reckon J Key one below Muldoon.

      He prances around the world giving dubious advice to any fool that cares to listen to the garbage that leaks between his lips.

      Jesus, he is a real tosser.

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 1.3.1

        Heard Key speak in Nelson last week. If you actually lined the facts up against his smooth rhetoric, it was brazen and vile nonsense. But he was generally liked by the audience, who had either no understanding or else a mainstream media understanding of NZ society and economics.

        One thing that stood out to me – Key approached every topic as being solely a matter of money – he expressed no other values or perspectives whatsoever.

        • Ad

          I’ve seen him a lot in his post-budget speeches.
          There he is in full command across a wide range of portfolios, and it’s always impressive to watch.

          I think he’s let down a lot by his team.

          For me his principle failing as a leader is that he hasn’t set a direction and just hasn’t taken the country anywhere. If he’d had the ability to do that, he’d’ve shown it by now.

        • mosa

          Again well put Uncooked.
          His audiences are totally braindead thanks to their complete ignorance and lack of understanding of the issues and the MSM with their Key the popular PM.
          And Nelson is a National party stronghold ” so we really could not vote for anyone else really” mentality.

    • john 1.4

      I’ll bite…
      I hated Muldoon, like Lange an ascorbic wee man.
      1.Clyde dam something 30 years later we still rely on and wouldn’t be able to switch the lights on without. something delayed by Kirk, after warnings from experts 5 years earlier that without immediate action we would have power cuts by the mid 80’s….and what did we get….power cuts in the mid 80’s.
      2. Just re opened (last couple of years) Motonui.
      3. NZ Steel…..still a large employer.
      4. Partial electrification of main trunk line.
      5. Marsden point expansion.
      etc etc
      All projects that still exist and are a reasonable part of our economy today.
      For a man I couldn’t stand and still dislike after his death.
      Arguing against achievements is futile.
      Bolger, created wind farms (essentially) another project we still rely on and brag about 20 years later, only marginally liked the man.
      Shipply handed over a growing economy after a severe world down turn that many have forgotten, many of my customers at the time cancelled orders due to “The Asia crisis.
      Auntie Helens legacy was created during
      “the best internation economic conditions of a generation” and she still managed to lag behind the rest of the world.
      No mension of her anti democratic and freedom of speach law “The electoral finance act” to try and silence critics.
      The holiday’s act so full holes it is still impacting workers and employers 14 years later.
      Key: NZ Top 3 performer in OECD in most areas during and since the GFC (WORST WORLD ECONOMIC CONDITIONS IN about 80 years.

    • Smilin 1.5

      couldnt agree more

    • Takere 1.6

      I’d counter that … PinoKeyo -Key would be No.1. Why? Because he’s most likely told the most lies whilst in Government and so far, has got away with them!

  2. Fustercluck 2

    If by effective you mean producing the greatest effect, it’s gotta be Lange who brought neoliberalism to NZ.

    • Ad 2.1

      Number 1?

      • Fustercluck 2.1.1

        Easily #1. All of those that came after, Auntie Helen included, have been incrementalists just fiddling with the fine tuning knobs. Lange sat in that chair for a revolution. The ones that preceded him were fiddling with the post WW2 fine tuning options, Muldoon included.

        FJK would never be PM but for Lange.

        • Ad

          1. Lange
          2. Key
          3. Clark?

          • Fustercluck

            1. Lange. For his gift of neoliberalism
            2. Muldoon. For doing the exact opposite with such vehemence.
            3. Clark. For cementing Lange’s legacy into a multi-generational project (get the hint you Labor neolib dinosaurs?)

            Key is just keeping a seat warm following the neolib trade winds of the day.

        • Richard McGrath

          I agree Lange should be higher up the list. But where is Michael Joseph Savage?

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 2.2

      FC has a point – the neoliberal worship of greed introduced by the Lange government, and cemented by National later, have shaped NZ for 30 years.

      • Ad 2.2.1

        Hence my line about “arguably instigated the modern New Zealand state”.

        I didn’t want to be as harsh on Lange as I was, maybe there’s a case for swapping him above Bolger.

        • Fustercluck

          My limited understanding of NZ political history suggests that either Lange was the greatest dumbass in our PM pantheon or he was the most duplicitous. Can’t really explain the history by other means.

          At least we knew that FJK was selling our our sovereignty to They Who Control Five Eyes.

          • RedLogix

            I had the chance to spend some time with Lange just months before he resigned. My abiding memory of those few hours was that he was already totally fed up with being PM, not being free to say what he wanted and realised his legacy had already been poisoned beyond all repair.

            I would absolutely rule out duplicitous. Nor was he a dumbass, he was incredibly smart, witty and sharp. I would guess the story is a lot more complicated than these two back and white choices.

            • Ad

              That’s excellent RL.

              I’ve dealt with a lot of leaders political and otherwise in New Zealand.
              They give pretty much their lives into the job, and most of them work at a rate that leaves them afterwards either chronically sick or dying shortly afterwards.

              I haven’t found a dumb one yet either.

            • Fustercluck

              RL, that puts Lange into the duplicitous category. If he was truly committed to the betterment of NZ, he could have called an early election the moment he realized what the Gnomes were up to and announced to the country the depth of their betrayal of Labor’s (not the party, the people who do work) best interests. Just being nice in person does not excuse him. I accept your personal evidence he was not a dumbass. Instead, he remained in office, bumbling around while ceding NZ to the Thatcherite/Reaganite cabal. My reading of history suggests to me that he deluded himself with his unfulfilled good intentions while condemning NZ to the full savage force of neoliberalism. Most effective PM ever, not by personal acts but by personal inaction.

            • Adrian Thornton

              Maybe he should have said what he wanted…however, historically, we can only go on his actions, and his legacy led’s in a very straight line to Key, so one would have to say a disaster for the country and most of it’s citizens.

    • Quasimodo 2.3

      Really ? I thought that was Roger ..

  3. DoublePlusGood 3

    “Key general test was: did they change New Zealand for the good?”

    Well then, Muldoon, Lange and Key get auto zero out of ten. Bolger and Shipley clearly continued Lange’s sell-out of the country. Also 0/10.
    Kirk and Fraser are obviously top with that criterion. I might give a pass mark to Clark. Holland gets marked down for actions in the Waterfront Strike otherwise would be ok. The rest sucked.

    • David H 3.1

      What about Savage???

      • Ad 3.1.1

        Died 1940.

        • Pasupial

          Which begs the question; why the arbitrary 1940 start for your list, AD? Savage, Massey & Seddon (although he was technically Premier, 1907 was the date that NZ PM became the name of the position so that might be a better starting date) would all be worth listing.

          I’d agree with you about Key that it is; “unfair to rank a sitting Prime Minister”. I would have ranked Palmer higher myself, but I guess the importance of the BORA is diminished by subsequent governments ignoring it.

          • Ad

            First I was thinking about living memory – end of WWII is about the limit of it now. Would be great to hear from those who have met the older names on the list to test the line summaries for the lived reality.

            Second, WWII really is a before and after point for New Zealand that is so big it’s really hard to judge leaders of our country before and after. Argue that if you like.

            Finally I thought a much longer list would drag and be too hard to debate.

            Of course every cutoff is arbitrary. But as Captain Picard once said “The line must be drawn.”

          • mosa

            Palmer got a hospital pass which he passed to a grateful Mike Moore so he could be PM for 60 days and nights , that ensured the fourth Labour governments spectacular fall and the Mother of all neo lib policies was waiting too kick the hell out of New Zealanders.
            Rogernomics part two and the Decent society had begun.

            • alwyn

              You are being very, very generous to that old blow-hard Geoffrey.
              The hospital pass was from Geoff to Mike.
              If Palmer had been allowed to continue into the election there might not have been a Labour Party left. It was only Moore’s campaigning that kept some of the Labour MPs in their seats.

    • ankerawshark 3.2

      doublePlusGood 100+

    • Draco T Bastard 3.3


      Although I disagree with you to some extent on Muldoon. Think Big was actually a quite good idea and set us up in many ways for where we are today. Its poor implementation is what screwed us over.

      • mosa 3.3.1

        Think Big and it poor implementation is what” screwed us over.”
        And the massive debt Draco.

        • Draco T Bastard

          The massive debt was the poor implementation. Debt that we didn’t need to have.

      • Mike the Lefty 3.3.2

        Electrification of the main trunk line was probably the best thing that National ever did. Pity that KiwiRail are now proposing to make the electric line meaningless by buying diesel locomotives. When the price of diesel next spikes KiwiRail’s execs will cop a smack round the ears for being dumbasses.

        • Draco T Bastard

          When the price of diesel next spikes KiwiRail’s execs will cop a smack round the ears for being dumbasses.

          They should be getting a smack around the head for being dumb-arses and then fired for even suggesting such a stupid idea. They should be working to expand the rail lines out everywhere and electrifying the whole lot.

          At least Muldoon understood that electric trains were cheaper to run than fossil fuelled ones because we have abundant renewable electricity in the form of wind, hydro and solar.

          • Quasimodo

            Have you been to Napier recently ? I thought I’d catch the train back to Wgtn
            only to discover they had pulled up the tracks and redeveloped the station …

      • millsy 3.3.3

        The big myth about Think Big is that it was all done by civil servants.

        In reality, the projects had heavy input and involvment from the private sector, and there were even plans to sell, for instance, the Waitara Valley methanol plant by way of a public float once it was up and running, while Mobil had a 30% stake in the Motonui GTG plant, and operating rights.

        Part of the Clyde Dam was designed and built using the method that we are familar with in 2016 — ie a private contractor was responsible for design and construction of the whole project (well, half of it anyway).

    • Fustercluck 3.4

      I did choose to be literal about “effective” rather than pick the good. If one balances the god against the bad undertaken by a PM, I’d go with Kirk as his decisions pretty much gave NZ an independent post-colonial identity. The rest of them are pretty standard post-ww2 Keynesians or post-Lange neoliberals. I give no points for simply reading from the cue cards of the day.

  4. Naki man 4

    That is an honest and unbiased post AD
    I am sure there will be many delusional one eyed bitter haters who will not agree with you.

  5. Muttonbird 5

    I’m going to stick to the present because that’s all that relevant to me.

    Daft to consider fibre rollout a success. May not even be used widely in the future.

    Education reforms are opposed by 97% of the industry. Zero buy in and zero results.

    Have you seen the centre of Christchurch recently? It’s still a car park six years on.

    The major motorway work I know of is the Waterview connection which was in the pipeline well before the current government turned up, and they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table on the CRL.

    Idiot list, AD. Up yer game.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1


      That isn’t how you spell vandalism.

    • Ad 5.2

      Where would you rank Key then?

      • Muttonbird 5.2.1

        With Jenny Shipley.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 5.2.2

        It remains to be seen exactly how much damage he will do – certainly the effects of his dishonest and cynical approach to politics will be felt for a long time. A crippling debt burden, homelessness, attacks on educators and academics, take your pick.

        Perhaps you could say that he’s effective in terms of the National Party being a slow civil war upon everything that is civilised, trustworthy, or of intrinsic value.

        • Ad

          Plenty to measure already.

          It’s tempting to think of him as a Holyoake figure, but he’s done more.

        • Red

          OAB Hyperbole nonsense as usual, underpinned by silly theories, ideology and a lot of envy, in contrast devoid of realities and facts, but calmingly predictable
          In a world of change and uncertainty, like going to church

        • Olwyn

          Perhaps you could say that he’s effective in terms of the National Party being a slow civil war upon everything that is civilised, trustworthy, or of intrinsic value. Succinct, true and beautifully expressed.

        • Olwyn

          Perhaps you could say that he’s effective in terms of the National Party being a slow civil war upon everything that is civilised, trustworthy, or of intrinsic value. Succinct, true and beautifully expressed OAB.

          A note to moderators – I just said the same thing having accidentally chosen an email address that is not registered with TS – one I don’t regularly use at all.

      • gnomic 5.2.3


        He’s a real nowhere man
        Sitting in his nowhere land
        Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
        Doesn’t have a point of view
        Knows not where he’s going to
        Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

    • Lanthanide 5.3

      Daft to consider fibre rollout a success. May not even be used widely in the future.

      I agree. Fibre rollout to cities and towns was not necessary with new last-mile technologies coming on line, particularly wireless. Broadband rollout to the provinces and rural areas would be much more productive for the country.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.3.1

        Fibre rollout to cities and towns was not necessary with new last-mile technologies coming on line, particularly wireless.


        With a physical connection on the last mile the bandwidth available is always that of the medium itself. Effectively, no bandwidth limits apply on the last mile.

        With a wireless connection the total bandwidth, which is far lower than a single fibre, is shared across all users on at the time which means that as more users get online the less bandwidth is available per user.

        The connection from the last mile to the next hub is always the same – a high speed fibre connection. That connection will be shared across everyone using it of course but it’s possible speed is so high that you’d probably never notice any throttling even with a fibre connection to every home.

        You will always get higher, more consistent speeds over a physical connection than over wireless.

        And this is OT so I’ll leave it there.

        • Lanthanide

          Very high bandwidth wireless technologies (eg, 5G) have smaller coverage areas, so you need more transmitters to get full coverage. That in turn means the bandwidth available is shared between fewer users. Also things like WiMAX have point-to-point connections so a single household wouldn’t share the bandwidth of the transmission (require LoS and antennas etc, but the point is this is cheaper than rolling out fibre everywhere).

          Anyway, my point is that the $$$$$ investment into fibre in cities would have been better spent on rural broadband, and a mix of other technologies used in cities and towns – fibre in new developments, and VDSL and other newer DSL standards, with some wireless mixed in, for where rolling out fibre wasn’t cost effective.

          • Draco T Bastard

            but the point is this is cheaper than rolling out fibre everywhere).

            Doing things cheaply has a tendency to cost more later. This is what we’re finding now with roading when we should have been investing in rail for the last few decades. Only do wireless and later on, when higher bandwidth is required that wireless simply cannot provide, it’s going to cost even more to run out the fibre.

            And, yes, you will run into physical limits with wireless that simply do not apply to a physical connection. The top answer here gives a good over view of those limitations although it’s somewhat out of date.

            Anyway, my point is that the $$$$$ investment into fibre in cities would have been better spent on rural broadband,

            It’s not a question of dollars but of resources and we actually had the resources available to do both but the government seems determined to keep unemployment above 6%.

      • Infused 5.3.2

        God you lot are morons. Those technologies are shit

        • Lanthanide

          They’re inferior to fibre, sure.

          They’re also billions of dollars cheaper.

    • dukofurl 5.4

      they have done the new motorways around Hamilton, Tauranga and the thingy north of Wellington. The wacked up fuel tax by 9c litre to pay for some of it, and PPP the rest.

      • Muttonbird 5.4.1

        There seems to be the assumption that these roading projects wouldn’t have been done if not for John Key. Any blind monkey can do a roading plan and the blind monkey would at least do it with safe steel.

        Same goes for AD’s collection of Key’s other ‘achievements’. They’re just ordinary government obligations. The reforms are privatisation and government hand-washing dressed up as forward thinking.

        • UncookedSelachimorpha

          All Key has done with PPP is to introduce private gain while depriving the tax payer of an asset and making end users pay for someone else’s profit, in addition to the cost of actually building the infrastructure. The alternative was to borrow money at incredibly low interest rates, but they won’t for ideological (and perhaps cronyism) reasons.

        • Lanthanide


          To suggest any other government wouldn’t have rebuilt Christchurch, for example…

          You can’t really say the rebuild has been an unqualified success.

          • Muttonbird

            Yet by dint of AD attributing the Christchurch rebuild to John Key himself, he would have us believe another prime minister would not have done the same.

            The rebuild has been average to below average at best. I’m not resident, just an observer from the outside, but this rebuild has been a sorry tale of small government, lack of vision, brittle and experimental PPPs, and a fat and aggressive queue-jumping minister.

            Like it or not, rugby is crucial to communities in NZ and they are still fighting over a stadium rebuild six years on!

            I am certain a different government would have delivered a new and better Christchurch without the rancour.

            • Lanthanide

              Getting us through the GFC is another thing that’s erroneously attributed to Key. Actually that was purely due to Clark’s good management. If we had elected Brash in 2005, there’d be no interest free student loans, no kiwisaver and the superannuation fund and working for families would likely have been gutted, all so we could have tax cuts instead. Then when the GFC hit, the government would have had a higher debt load and no room to maneuver.

              It’s much more likely that we would have faced austerity.

              • JamieB

                Because Clark ramped up Govt spending so much a Brash Government would have had a much lower level of of expenditure 2008, and would have needed to borrow much less to cover this come the GFC.

                • framu

                  helps if you include that we barely had the resources to run an election when clark govt took office.

                  if your going to talk increases youve got to include the start point

    • Draco T Bastard 5.5

      Daft to consider fibre rollout a success. May not even be used widely in the future.

      The first sentence is correct. If we’d kept Telecom instead of selling it fibre would already be across the majority of the country, we’d have higher speeds and lower prices.

      The second sentence is just bollocks. A physical connection will always be better and more secure than a wireless one.

  6. whisperingkate 6

    What happened to Michael Savage??

  7. There’s a lot to dispute here, but let’s start with Muldoon. You’ve ranked him fifth with a key general test of whether he changed NZ for the good. On that test:

    1. His “leading” us through an economic crisis meant we were facing an even worse economic crisis when he left office than when he started. That’s not good.

    2. “Stopped Labour’s superannuation scheme” was a change for the worse, not better.

    3. He didn’t so much “divide our opinions” on South Africa as “backed the South African apartheid regime to the great detriment of his own country.”

    4. His sinking enormous sums of public money into white-elephant industrial projects was one of the main things that helped the libertarians take over after he lost office – that conspicuous wastage of taxpayers’ money brought them a lot of supporters.

    • Ad 7.1

      Which ranking would you change?

      • Psycho Milt 7.1.1

        Muldoon would be at the bottom, as most of his efforts had more of a harmful effect on the country than a beneficial one. It’s hard to decide how to place that against people who were only PM for a very short time, eg it’s likely that Muldoon did more good than Rowling just by virtue of having been in office a lot longer.

        I’d also rate Holland lower – he did quite a bit of good, but casually eradicating NZ citizens’ civil rights just to gain leverage in a union dispute is a piece of evil that weighs pretty heavily in the balance. I’d put him below Holyoake.

        Key I’d also rate lower. What are the great achievements of his time in office? We weathered the GFC more because we have Australian-owned banks and because his predecessor paid down public debt rather than through any actions his government took. His public sector reforms are just the usual Nat/Lab trade-off in which Labour governments build up the public service and National governments reduce it, and his education “reforms” will be overturned by the next centre-left government. I doubt he’s going to be remembered for anything much beyond the Auckland council reform, although I guess historians may well give him the credit for us weathering the GFC, just because he was PM at the time. On the other hand, he hasn’t wrought notable evil the way Holland and Muldoon did, so I’d leave him around the 6 mark.

        Lange I think needs to go higher. His government really did lead us out of a major economic crisis, and the liberalising effect it (his government) had on the country was enormous (think homosexual law reform, anti-nuclear legislation etc – there was a new normal by 1990 that had definitely not been there in 1980). For my money, that outweighs the bad things his government did.

        • RedLogix

          A thoughtful response PM.

          To be fair I think Ad has been quite even-handed in applying his criteria, but it remains open to shading between effective-good and effective-bad.

          Another way of looking at this will be “what will history remember them for?” On that measure Key will surely tumble down the list to snuggle up with Holyoake … not a great mover or shaker.

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 7.2

      While I half-heartedly defended Muldoon at 1.2.1….I can’t help agreeing with PM on most of these criticisms!

  8. Muttonbird 8

    And why ‘post second world war’?

    What is the reasoning?

    Oddly, you defined your list as ‘post second world war’, yet claim ‘massive leadership and mobilisation through world war 2’ as the greatest achievements of your number one pick. Your list is contradictory in the very first line. Barely read the rest on this evidence.

  9. Richard Rawshark 9

    Key 2nd last. His dishonesty and lies have ruined any of the good he did. If any.
    Bill English!!!! my god remember bill was the man for a tiny bit.. never ever again.

    Rowling last, then key, then Muldoon, Best, The Clarke and Cullen team. Because frankly I feel that was actually the pair of them. Keeping the country steady during boom years is tricky too and often overlooked as the easier to do, however controlling markets prices and spending during that time was well controlled.

    Not many people say Labour waste money anymore or are bad fiscally as they used too thanks to C&C. respect.

  10. Richard Rawshark 10

    Poor Bill Rowling, I remember his sad chances so well, to be against the Muldoom was a tough act to follow.

  11. Sirenia 11

    Rowling is vastly underrated. Widely liked and respected, especially by the powerless. Ditto Nash.

    Auckland’s traffic problems go back to Sid Holland’s overthrow of extensive public transport (mainly rail) plans in favour of motorways. Universally disliked except by big business. Who ever had a photo of Holland in their house.

  12. save nz 12

    Is this a joke? Are Labour supporters now joining the John Key post truth fan club???

    Do you factor in John Key’s, record debt of NZ to win votes, selling off the country, polluting the country, refusing to get into the 21st century with rail and non carbon power generation like solar. Destroying a free media, corporate welfare for broadband that is slow and expensive, cronyism in Christchurch rebuild and taking too long, not settling claims, taking away prisoners rights to vote, manipulating employment figures so that people unemployed can’t get on welfare, Privatising prisons, social bonds, spying on Kiwis, lying again and again, destroying Fonterra’s reputation and our overseas reputation with Ponytail gate and food scandals, putting us on the UN watch list for tax havens, record homelessness, selling state houses etc etc

    Sorry not buying it. John Key will go down as one of the worst PM’s in history especially when the books come out.

    • Ad 12.1

      Who would be your new No. 4 then?

      I honestly thought lefties would be more annoyed at putting Kirk at 9.

    • Olwyn 12.2

      Let me flesh out etc etc a little. Turning legal aid into a loan scheme, kicking people out of state houses for spurious reasons, and setting them up in motels, generating loans that they will never be able to repay. Glibly changing the law wherever it proves inconvenient. Casually undermining our system of government. Setting public institutions against the very people they were created to protect. I agree. John Key could well turn out to be the worst PM in NZ’s history. In fact I hope he does, because I would hate to see a worse PM.

      • Karen 12.2.1

        +1 Olwyn. Key at the bottom for me as well.

        From the bottom going up: Shipley did nothing of worth and as Social Welfare minister was responsible for cutting benefits , Marshall may have been PM when the ACC act as passed but he was not responsible for it in any way (and he also brought back hanging when justice minister).

        Sid Holland was a hideous man who all but destroyed the lives of hundreds of working class families and was in the pocket of the US, Bolger made Ruth Richardson finance minister and presided over an extension of Rogernomics that would dramatically increase inequality. I’d throw Moore into this lot who would make up the bottom lot with Key.

        Muldoon would come next and was then Holyoake and Nash equally just above him. Holyoake was seen as a pompous twit by my working class Dad and all his mates and was not as popular as you make out. I’d put Palmer next then Rowling then Lange.
        Lange has to be held responsible for allowing Rogernomics but given some credit for eventually realising the damage that was being done and trying to stop it.

        I have always seen Clark and Fraser as very similar politicians – both were internationalists, and were pragmatic, highly intelligent, careful politicians who were respected rather than loved. Kirk was more popular, more willing to take risks and achieved a lot during his time as PM. Unfortunately he has to come behind Clark and Fraser as his tenure was so short.

        • millsy

          IMO much of the social malaise that this country is in can be traced back to Ruth’s 1991 budget. A whole generation was written off by those cuts,

        • millsy

          The economic growth after Roger/Ruth and during Clark was largely due to the expansion of credit. If a company director burrowed money and declared it was income, they would find themselves milking cows in Tongariro.

        • Smilin

          Yep not a bad summation

      • save nz 12.2.2

        @Olwyn – totally agree the only one worse could be some sort of genocide leader like Stalin or Hitler – but then – turning a blind eye to what’s going on in Narau concentration camp, removing people’s rights to a passport, national spying, keeping people in prison beyond their sentence, political harassment and media control are the first steps. As well as being mates with leaders committing war crimes and egging them on.

      • Leftie 12.2.3

        +1 Olwyn, agreed.

        John Key last. He would however, top the list for “Worst PM.”

  13. dukofurl 13

    As for bailouts, ‘Bolgers budget was constrained by the BNZ bailout’, Im surprised that was taken into account as the BNZ would be considered an ‘investment’ not operational expenditure.

    Other bailouts since then:
    Air NZ $885m in 2002

    South Canterbury Finance $1.2B 2010
    plus a raft of finance companies
    Allied Nationwide (about $130m)
    Equitable Mortgage ($188m).
    Mascot, Strata, Vision Securities, Rockford, Viaduct Capital and Mutual Finance. $$$?

    AMI Insurance $500m 2011
    Western Pacific $33m 2011

    • Ad 13.1

      Sometimes I can’t tell if they’re overall good or bad for the country in their effect.
      Would it change your ranking of Bolger?

  14. Craig H 14

    Kirk also introduced the DPB.

    • Ad 14.1

      I was tempted to slip that in, but Holyoake’s team had done a lot of the ground work. Kirk does deserve a good measure of the credit there.
      Is 9 a bit mean for Kirk?

  15. Richard Rawshark 15

    Some of those guys are well before my time i’m only 50, I can remember Muldoon and Rowling with any knowledge of those times.

    Since the mid 70’s I can only judge and ten years when Lange came in, we left NZ and emigrated.. Parents never liked Labour funny that I can’t stand national and it’s elitism..

    • lprent 15.1

      ..funny that I can’t stand national and it’s elitism..

      National is more like stupid short-sighted and rather greedy cronyism than elitism.

      With elitism there is usually some expectation of noblesse oblige (?sp) and attempts to plot a forward path. After all it is the duty for the better bred to lead and the more effective members of elites tend to have longer-term timeframes.

      With National’s style it is more like they usually skip on the things that are required for longer term planning or operations in favour of the immediate satisfactions of tax cuts, jobs for the boys, and outright greed.

      Which is why they use any excuse to run down the effectiveness of the police and the military, screw around with daft experiments on education and health and prisons without bothering to look at available evidence (lots of private contracts in forcing privatisation), and don’t work on any basic infrastructure required in the future outside of their electorates unless forced to.

      It is all completely stupid if you look at it from the viewpoint of a society that wants to progress into the future. But it is great at extracting short-term profits for individuals. Unfortunately it also runs completely out of steam, which is why our economy is tanking, outside of their current short-term fix of excess inward migration.

      • Draco T Bastard 15.1.1

        National is more like stupid short-sighted and rather greedy cronyism than elitism.

        Yes, but they do that while thinking that they’re all a bunch of Super-heroes.

  16. Wayne 16

    It makes sense to try and be a bit detached, rather than view this sort of list through hyper-partisanship.

    I was surprised at the high rank for Holland, but it also looks like he did more than I had appreciated.

    Ranks 10 to 15 are accurate. None were there long enough to have any meaningful impact as PM – their real achievements were as Ministers.

    So the real interest is in the top 9. I would put Holyoake above Bolger, and David Lange above Bolger. The Lange/Douglas government has been the most significant in my adult life.

    Clark and Key; it is perhaps a bit soon to really assess their correct position, but both will be regarded as having done well in the circumstances they had to govern. Neither would be above Fraser, who is probably correctly placed at #1. So maybe correct at #3 and 4. Arguably Clark could be #2 and Holland #3. If Key gets a fourth term, he will have the opportunity to do more. For instance the new Christchurch will really have taken shape and the sheer extent of new transport infrastructure across New Zealand will be very evident.

    Muldoon will always be problematic. His last term was really terrible, but he remains one of New Zealand’s more interesting(!) Prime Ministers. In my view he should be ranked lower than #5.

    Kirk is a hero of the left, and is properly remembered for starting the independent foreign policy, but really not much else. He did provide a new sense of nationhood. The economy blew up under Kirk – I remember how bad it quickly got in respect of interest rates, inflation and unemployment. But probably better than #9 notwithstanding his short term.

    So in my view a re-sort is required of positions #5 through to #9.

    • Lanthanide 16.1

      What did Jenny Shipley achieve as a minister?

      • Lanthanide 16.1.1

        For the record, this is what Wikipedia says about Shipley’s ministerial tenure:

        Shipley became Minister of Social Welfare, and also served as Minister for Women’s Affairs (1990–1996).[3]

        In her role as Minister of Social Welfare, Shipley presided over sharp cutbacks to state benefits. Later, when she became Minister of Health in 1993, she caused further controversy by attempting to reform the public health service, introducing an internal market. When National gained re-election in 1996, Shipley left the Women’s Affairs portfolio and took on several others, including responsibility for state-owned enterprises and transport.

        In other words, she did nothing of note.

        • alwyn

          Prior to becoming Prime Minister we had another politician who had been Minister of Housing, Minister of Health and Minister of Conservation.
          In other words about the same level of job as Jenny Shipley, who you class as “In other words, she did nothing of note”.

          That was, as I am sure you recognise, Helen Clark.
          By your criteria, judging people by the portfolios they held before becoming PM I suppose you would have to say that Sid Holland, Norman Kirk, David Lange and John Key had done even less than that as none of them had ever been in Cabinet before becoming PM.

          So what? The question is what did they do as PM, not what did they do before that. I made the same mistake regarding my initial opinion on Jack Marshall of course.

          • Lanthanide

            Er, no, I’m not judging Shipley for the portfolios she held. I’m judging her for there being nothing of note being done by her in those portfolios in her time.

            So what? The question is what did they do as PM, not what did they do before that.

            And there’s where you fall down, for failing to read the context of my comment.

            Wayne said:
            “None were there long enough to have any meaningful impact as PM – their real achievements were as Ministers.”

            So I asked what Shipley did as minister, and no one responded with anything.

            • alwyn

              I read your comment, and Wayne’s and I think you have given far too much weight to what he said.
              All I took him to be saying was that, because they had so little time as PM they didn’t really get time to do anything in the role, and that anything they had done was as a Minister. I didn’t take it as claiming anything in particular about whether they did much at all.
              However, perhaps Wayne really was praising their performances in that role. If so I would tend to agree with you that she probably had the least glittering record of the last 6 in Ad’s list.
              All I really remember of Shipley as PM was that she had charisma to spare. Vastly more than I observed in her successor as a matter of fact. That and of course the fact that she managed to keep a stable Government going after Winston’s mob tried to throw him out and then split down the middle.

    • Ad 16.2

      Appreciate the thoughtful response there Wayne.

      I can see from all the comments there are few fans of Muldoon around.
      Much as I detested him morally, for his first two terms I thought he wasn’t bad at all.

      We went through multiple crises as a country, and he was the command-and-control politician to lead us through them.

      His third term and his response to the 1981 South African Rugby Tour, and the expelling of Maori from Bastion Point, among others, are real low points.

      I agree with your note about Kirk and national identity. He had real mojo.

      • Red 16.2.1

        Muldoon convinced Douglas that command and control of a complex economy in a rapidly globalising world was not going to work, especially after we lost access as the Uks farm, thus Douglas and Lang was a natural progression from Muldoon, funny many here want to go back to Muldoon policies

      • Wayne 16.2.2

        Just reflecting further.

        I am pretty clear that the people in positions #10 to #15 is accurate. The actual position in this group is actually a bit irrelevant, but I guess Moore has to be #15 because of his short time.

        I am pretty happy with Fraser at #1. He is war time role and his overall role in the Savage/Fraser govt ensures that.

        Both Clark and Key deserve high places. Clark’s govt had some major achievements. Key had to deal with the GFC and the earthquake. NZ is now pretty much near the top of the OCED in a whole number of measures. Quite an acheivement in the circumstances.

        On reflection I would put Holyoake well above Holland. When Clark got elected she actually said on TV she wanted to give the country the same sense of stability as Holyoake. The reason was partly nostalgic in that she was remembering her youth, and partly political in the sense she wanted to reassure middle NZ she would be safe. Surely that reflection boosts Holyoake’s position.

        And if the Lange/Douglas govt is the most significant in my lifetime, that elevates Lange even if his govt is more about Douglas.

        So my order of the top 9 is;
        1. Fraser
        2. Holyoake
        3. Clark
        4. Key
        5. Lange (though do I really mean Douglas?)
        6. Muldoon
        7. Kirk
        8. Bolger
        9. Holland

        Kirk is above Bolger because he really is the first PM to articulate the modern independent foreign policy. Bolger has credit for Treaty settlements and restoring fiscal responsibility.

        I ended up dropping Holland way down (and below Muldoon). I have no real sense of Holland, except that the 1950’s seems a truly distant country. I have no real knowledge of his achievements, notwithstanding the things Ad has credited him with. Obviously as a National Party member I think defeating the 1951 strike was pretty important so that the country could function and progress, though I appreciate Labour activists will have a different viewpoint.

        I saw a clip on Q&A this morning about a 1955 citizenship ceremony. The whole style of the event, the people, and the language just seemed so far from the present. On that ground alone I marked Holland down.

  17. mary_a 17

    Norman Kirk should rank 1. He was a man of the ordinary Kiwi.

    Referring to the present incumbent – “The Prime Minister most at ease with the media … ”

    Could this be because he has the media in his pocket, dancing to his tune?

    • Anne 17.1

      Norman Kirk should rank 1. He was a man of the ordinary Kiwi.

      Agree – or at least he should be among the top 3.

      His appeal was wide-spread and the only reason his legacy was not greater is because he tragically died less than two years in office. I recently listened to a speech of his, given not long after he became PM, and it reminded me what an inspirational leader he had been… how much better off we would be today if he had lived. Nobody since has come within coo-ee of him.

  18. chris73 18

    Not a bad list, I probably wouldn’t have Key in there as he may get a better (or worse) ranking once a few years after he’s left office (once th dust settles kind of thing) but all in all not bad

  19. Keith 19

    Did you quote National Party propaganda?

    John Key, Broadband fibre-optic rollout? It’s late 2016, 9 + years after National announced this policy and still a dream just a few km’s away from Auckland’s CBD. My down load averages 3 mbs on 20th century ADSL as thats all that is available.

    Public sector reforms are damaging not achieving, look at closed Police stations and the crime stats for starters.

    Low unemployment but only if one jukes the stats, as per ours, spectacularly.

    Low interest rates are nothing to do with National, its a world wide sickness thanks to the GFC.

    Public transport firmly remains the poor cousin for this government and has done since it came to power. Joyce delayed the introduction of electric trains in Auckland by 5 years easily and left Aucklanders with a hefty bill as a result. Look at the North Western Motorway rebuild with virtually no alternatives except the private vehicle. But yes to motorways, these pricks cant get enough of them.

    Achievements are when one actually turns something into a reality! Not when they are on Nationals bullshit list!

    • Draco T Bastard 19.1

      Low interest rates are nothing to do with National, its a world wide sickness thanks to the GFC.

      Actually, it’s due to a failed socio-economic system called capitalism. Of course, high interest rates are as well.

      A healthy economic system has interest rates at 0%.

    • millsy 19.2

      “John Key, Broadband fibre-optic rollout? It’s late 2016, 9 + years after National announced this policy and still a dream just a few km’s away from Auckland’s CBD. My down load averages 3 mbs on 20th century ADSL as thats all that is available.”

      There seem to be a lot of issues with UFB. My parents wanted to get it, but the tech who came round reckoned he had to rip up their shared driveway, and cut through all this red tape, and it would cost about 10k or something.

  20. Ralf Crown 20

    A most interesting comparison. Myself, I grew up in the aftermath of one of the worlds most two effective national leaders, their name was Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Could we also make a list and rank those New Zealand leaders who been the best leaders to follow the wishes and meet the needs of the people.

  21. swordfish 21

    Peter Fraser – “Instrumental in forming the United Nations”

    Glad you mentioned this, Ad. Not many people today realize just how important Fraser (albeit greatly encouraged by a group of highly progressive key advisors, including influential Labour Party activists) – together with ALP Foreign Minister “Doc” Evatt (and his advisors) – were in forcing Labour’s Liberal Internationalist***, human rights-based principles onto the agenda when the UN was being established at the 1945 San Francisco Conference and in key exploratory meetings over the immediate months before this event. They played a decisive role in shaping some of the most enlightened facets of International Law.

    Unfortunately, our historiography over the past 35 years has been dominated by the sort of middle class first-wave Baby Boomers who have spent a lifetime indulging in generational self-promotion, while downplaying the progressive currents that undeniably existed in New Zealand society before the late 60s. Some have even gone as far as suggesting that an Internationalist outlook was unknown before the “New Generation with a New Explanation” arrived on the scene, with Beatles albums in hand. In fact, New Zealand was arguably experiencing its finest progressive hour on the international stage when the hippies were busy shitting their nappies in the midst of some unusually difficult potty training.

    *** Not to be confused with the uber-hawkish liberal interventionism (and the American Exceptionalist faith that underpins it) associated with Susan Rice, Samantha Power and, most importantly of all, “Nixon in a Pantsuit” (Hillary Clinton). But I digress outrageously …

    Oh … and Kirk should definitely be higher – in spot number 2 or 3, I’d say.

    • Ad 21.1

      Yes there’s no accounting for the moist sympathy for Kirk. He was a rare person. Achieved sweet F.A., but a rare person.

      Re internationalism, my big regret of the GFC is that no institutions were strengthened out of its multiple crises. Whereas after the Depression and after WWII, plenty of new ones were kick started.

      Sometimes I just put it down to neoliberalism having successfully weakened the idea of the state, and weakened too many states, that it was just too hard.

      Sometimes I just put it down to having weak leadership. Just unlucky.

      But we’re sure paying for weak-instrument states now.

  22. Observer Tokoroa 22

    . Hi AD

    . It is fair enough that you place Leaders that you select based on no particular set of criteria. It’s your show.

    ‘ You are probably too young to know what was achieved between the First world war and 1945. And therefore you have no idea how relatively easy it was to build on their work.

    . Interesting that you like politicians who damn Unions, leaving workers at the mercy of our overseas masters. Why do you hate people who show concern for people who do the work – their wages, conditions, health and safety.

    . Also, I am amazed that a narcissist of the calibre of John Key (people like narcissists – ref Key and Trump) has been a disaster.

    Key’s lack of grip on raising immigration levels to staggering heights, WITHOUT BUILDING INFRASTRUCTURE, has created long term nation wide chaos.

    . But as I say AD – it’s your show.



    • Ad 22.1

      If I’d gone further back and included Savage, I would probably have to have gone back to WWI. I think of the end of WWII as the extent of living memory in which people can really pop in here and share their truth from meeting or dealing with them as Prime Ministers.

      Actually, I’m not too bad on history and how things build one to another.

      I can understand the feeling about Key. I’m no fan, but where possible I sought to keep my own political leanings out of it.

  23. millsy 23

    Under Helen Clark we went down to Harvey Norman and bought a whole lot of stuff on tick and called it an economic boom.

    Ironically Cullen’s idea of NZ Super Fund and ACC buying some of Kiwibank was a pretty interesting idea and could/should have been applied during Lab5’s time in government, reinventing the role of the state in the economy, a missed opputunity.

    Lange/Douglas — we could thrash that one to death for the next few hundred years.

    IMO the country was better off under Kirk, Rowling and Muldoon. Zero unemployement, free health and education, more generous benefits, no homelessness, no school donations, better wages and conditions, living standards were just higher, with zero child poverty. Power bills were cheap, and people didnt have to choose between paying the rent or buying food. Local and central government invested in facilities, infrastructure and services. Everyone was happier. The only people that werent were the wealthy, because they couldnt make as much money as they wanted to.

    Muldoon was probably the greenest PM — rolling our support for converting our vehicle fleet to run on cleaner CNG, electrifying the NIMT, and building more clean hydro dams.

    • Ad 23.1

      Not sure why you bother with Kirk and Rowling.
      Kirk was the gregarious suit-wearing minor romantic interlude for hippies, and Rowling was turned into polyfiller by Muldoon every time he opened his mouth.

      But Muldoon, now there’s a socialist. Really, really Soviet-scale big stater.
      A prick, a command-and-controller of the highest order sure.

      But quite a PM. I have sympathy for a higher ranking for Muldoon.

      • Adrian Thornton 23.1.1

        I just rewatched the Revolution doco on the disastrous Lange government,
        The strange thing was how Muldoon came across, he seemed to actually really care about New Zealand and the citizens in a authentic way that I just haven’t seen displayed for a long while, maybe he was just one of the last of that generation of politicians that didn’t have a constant and incessant stream of PR bullshit shovelled at them to spew out to the public.
        Anyway I would have definitely have had him above Holland, well from a Left perspective anyway.

  24. Adrian Thornton 24

    Sidney Holland at No 2 WTF, like all right wing leaders very effective at being a regressive reactionary, lets take a little look at his time in office..Cold War warrior (SEATO), selling state houses (but not building new ones), reintroducing the death penalty, and of course how can we forget the ’51 waterfront strike, where Hollands cynical use of the prevailing National and media fueled Red hysteria did more to undermine the progressive Left project in NZ in the long term than just about anyone post war.
    Also strengthening police powers to deal with citizen protests off the back of this despicable attack on workers rights and unions.
    Also to include as a positive attribute that he kept welfare fare and full employment is ridiculous, the New Zealand population fully understood at that time what those safety nets meant to them in very real terms, he would have lost any election instantly had he been seen to alter those Labour policies.
    Will give him credit for his work on the National Parks though, and yes he did consolidate the National Party into the fighting force it is today.
    Nice footnote: one of his final actions as PM was to support the invasion of Egypt and the Suez canal, just the sort of aggression all right wing parties instinctively support.

    • Ad 24.1

      Finally! I was kinda hoping good lefties would have a go at Holland’s placing there.

    • Leftie 24.2

      +1 Adrian Thornton

    • Macro 24.3

      So agree Adrian! I’ve read a whole stream of BS of how “effective” Holland was – but I can tell those who are younger than I, he wasn’t a well liked PM in the towns. The farmers of course loved him. And yep he made conditions harder for a lot of people with his constant attack on unionists, as well as his sell off of State housing – as English and Bennett are doing today.
      As for Holyoake! OMG yep he was effective – at feathering his own nest! Sending troops to Vietnam, and the most excellent voice in the House! Ho! Ho! Ho!. It was a grey day for NZ when he finally went.
      I’d rate these two down the bottom with Mike Moore.

  25. Leftie 25

    Abolition and its aftermath: 1961 onwards

    “Aware of growing public opposition to capital punishment, the National Party allowed its MPs to exercise a conscience vote in Parliament, and ten National MPs crossed the floor to vote with the Labour Party. The result was a majority of 11 against capital punishment, 41-30. The ten National MPs were Rev. Ernest Aderman, Gordon Grieve, Ralph Hanan, Duncan MacIntyre, Robert Muldoon, Herbert Pickering, Logan Sloane, Brian Talboys, Mrs Esme Tombleson and Bert Walker. The death penalty was therefore abolished for murder, being retained only for treason and other similar acts in theory.

    “In principle, this meant that de facto abolition had occurred from that point onward.”

    “These last theoretical vestiges of capital punishment were abolished under the Palmer Labour cabinet in November, 1989 with the passage of the Abolition of the Death Penalty Act 1989, and there were no further executions during the interim period. Passage of the Abolition of the Death Penalty Act ended all capital punishment in New Zealand.”

    <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_New_Zealand#Abolition:_1949.E2.80.931961

  26. RedBaronCV 26

    What a weird list starting with the way the criteria has been implemented. Good for the country? I actually found the list and ranking comments a trifle disturbing.

    Well improving say roads or infrastructure might be good for the country but how it is done and who captures all the benefits over the infrastructure lifetime matters a great deal too.
    Rolling out broadband , which as far as I can see is being paid for by moi the taxpayer, while the benefits are captured by multinationals, that’s a fail.

    Personally, I’d go back to the moral type criteria of Micky Savage who wanted to build a “whole” community within the country and give both plus and minus rankings to various PM’s.

    So giving a plus to Helen Clark for interest free loans should be balanced by a great big minus to the Nact’s of the 90’s who destroyed the previous community funding of post school education ( everything from apprenticeships to teachers training to University’s) with the great god of privatization.

    And things like Syd Holland & the watersiders? Positive WTF?
    Standards and life experiences where different back then. Pre-war workers in most industries had a hard life, left school young , minimal safety standards – much like the slave fishing boats in our waters today. Little wonder they organized hard to try to improve their working conditions and were relentless about it, they knew the other side of the coin. And no I’m sure they didn’t get it right all the time but they were facing the well entrenched employer class.

    As to how I’d rank – next posting

    • Ad 26.1

      NZTA are still trying to figure out after 70 years how to capture motorway benefits into their Monte Carlo analyses and BCR’s. I don’t think it’s criminal to say that rail couldn’t compete with the car and truck, and motorways were needed to join the long skinny country together.

      A cold ranking 1 to 10 is always a harsh business; worse than a star rating for films or washing machines. It’s just a form of argument. Hopefully it provokes right and left to see some of the good that’s been done on all sides.

      There’s a great argument to be had about the Watersiders. But it’s a litmus test that the Labour Party themselves hardy supported them at the time. It was union over-reach, and Holland’s actions were overwhelming supported by the population. Their actions at that point were a political gift to the National Government – counterproductive to the left and to Labour in most senses.

  27. john 27

    So my order:
    1; Peter Fraser: War time, small country, must have been both scary and difficult.
    2: John Key: Rock star economy, only thing people are complaining about is housing in Auckland, which is largely due to successive incompetent councils.
    3: R. Muldoon: Inherited a mess and a bunch of “must do projects” achievements still used today.
    4: Keith Holyoak: took a flagging economy and cleverly transformed it, there is a very good reason he got 4 terms.
    5:Sid Holland: Affible enough again, achievement are still part of NZ life all these years later.
    6: Jim Bolger: economic recovery from Moore’s lie about “the books balance”
    wind farms , MMP still out on trial as far as I’m concerned.
    7: jenny Shipply: recovery from Asia crisis cannot be under estimated, Brazil still haven’t recovered.
    8: Helen Clarke: Steered the ship almost straight. Loses massive points for all the lies (paintings, corn, speeding etc etc) and the electoral finance act.
    9:David Lange: Started well, then chickened out and left a mess in his wake that Bolger cleaned up.
    10: Jack Marshall good achievement above, considering short term to impress.
    11: Walter Nash: What a mess.
    12: Norman Kirk: What a mess, took a reasonable economy and wrecked it, mostly by inaction, when the oil crisis hit he did NOTHING.
    13/14/15:Walter Nash, Bill Rolling, G. Palmer….The best to say is…ineffectual.
    16: Mike Moore:…Didn’t join the others above due to , blatant lie: “The books balance”especially after Labour had introduced the act about economic discloser (opening of the books before an election).

    • Ad 27.1

      Very interested in your point about how Holyoake “cleverly transformed the economy.” What do you mean?

      • john 27.1.1

        Utilised our economy as an export focused economy, aligned us more with rest of the world economically, ie made our economy more compatible with our trading partners. One thing to point to was introduction of decimal currency (the dollar) which brings us in line with the majority of the nations of the world and made trading with us easier and easier to understand for our trading partners. Also, as it turned out, our future trading partners (post 1967).
        Also good to see, that you have a minor contention with my list.

    • Mutton bird 27.2

      You have got to be kidding me. The first Labour PM you mention gets points off for paintings and lightbulbs and stuff.

      Be good if you held all those other PMs to the same standard, except I’m sure that where you are coming from, you won’t.

      As a right wing person you see the retention of Labour government social reforms (which stand to this day) by a National PM as something they themselves achieved.

      • john 27.2.1

        Really do the test.
        A lie is something you say, that you KNOW to be untrue.
        electoral finance act
        just to start
        Your turn!!

        • Muttonbird

          Lol. Still bitter about light bulbs and shower-heads after all these years.

          I pity you and your type.

  28. RedBaronCV 28

    And what’s the deal about popularity at the time – the benefit of history is the ability to judge long term.

    Anyway I ranked in two ways economically & socially. Did they improve the lot of the country overall or drive it backwards? That means I can give a minus to Holland who left the countries finances in such a mess that Walter Nash had to wear it and did the best he could with what he had so Nash gets a +.

    The double + ve group is
    Fraser because he had to mange a wartime economy (no picnic) & he met the major social criteria of the day ” where Britain goes we follow” but only if our army is officered independently of the Brits and we go where I approve (echo’s of Gallipolli)
    Clark because she managed the economy well and socially started to roll back the neo lib tide but no where near far enough.

    Economic + Social 0
    Both maintained investment in New Zealand but no major social reforms

    Economic 0 Social +
    They either inherited major financial problems from outgoing governments which they failed to come to grips with Kirk/Lange or just accepted the status quo Bolger. Socially Bolger implemented MMP. That made my list.

    Economic 0 Social 0
    Manged the economy reasonably well for most of his time given the external shocks he had to cope with but failed to find future solutions. No great social change even where needed.

    The double -ve group is:
    all of whom have or will leave a major financial mess and who have led negative significant social change. Nothing positive locally and non independent foreign policy.

    Unranked because they really were not there long enough to institute anything are:

    and yes I do remember most of them.

    • Ad 28.1

      Really appreciate the thought and generous spirit you put into that ranking there.

      You could rank them by changes to either the GINI coefficient, or whether New Zealand society became less equal or more equal, and I think you’d get something similar to your ranking. That would drop Lange, Key, and Bolger down, and bring Muldoon up.

      • RedBaronCV 28.1.1

        I wasn’t trying for generous so much as reflective based on certain criteria.

        Yep changes to the Gini co-efficent would help with the economic ranking but like most economic measures it’s a one dimensional snap shot. It would be interesting to dig a bit deeper and try to map the GinI changes over the years for various birth cohorts to see how society worked out for them. To deepen the economic picture adding GDP per head might help. If it isn’t increasing as the population increases then we aren’t managing a smart immigration / emigration policy just an idiot volume one.

        But there is more to life than money. Wife beating didn’t become illegal until 1949, homosexuality became legal in 1986 hence a social measure of some sort (quality of life) matters to me. It also covers things like an more independent foreign policy – which I value for itself and also because in the longer term I see no economic benefits from being clutched to the US.

        Lastly, and thinking this over I would make one change to the list
        I would stick Key as dead last after, even the Prime Ministers who didn’t have time to do anything really. Roger Douglas can join him there.

        All the other leaders on the list at least tried to do their best for a reasonable group of New Zealander’s (usually farmers or local business men ) , and yes I know many of the leaders were less than exemplary characters and dumped on the other half of the population, but at least most of the silver was kept in house so could be rearranged later on.

        As far as Key is concerned I can think of no other Prime Minister who has so consistently put the demands and welfare of those who do not live here ahead of those of us who do live here.
        For most people there has not been a rock star economy just a steady economic decline and diminished freedoms and democracy.
        He didn’t navigate the GFC, Cullen left him able to do so and since then he has, despite some good terms of trade simply spent the country into a great big hole with nothing to show for it.

    • john 28.2

      Clarke….electoral finance act!!!!!….social responsibility???…..She tried to take away peoples freedom of speech and expression…MASSIVE fail on the social impact.
      She also inherited a growing economy that was further helped by “the best world economic conditions of a generation”…during which we trailed the rest of the world. So even with all these advantages, the minute the international conditions slowed, we went backwards and slipped into an economic recession 1 year BEFORE the GFC.

  29. Observer Tokoroa 29

    Hi Ad
    . Hi John

    . AD I realise you and John don’t have much time for Infrastructure; or for real wages for the people who do the work in New Zealand.

    You are only capable of supporting Farmers. People who poison our water; destroy pasture with unleachable Cadmium; behave like low grade hyenas towards unwanted stock; and who barely pay a legitimate wage to farming staff.

    We all hope NZ Farmers will eventually show some maturity. But it is taking a long time.

    But because of your macho outlook, you overlook some very good politicians who did not hog the media. Walter Nash was one such person. Lived in a humble house near Wellington and helped a lot of people. For many families left their husbands and sons on the wasteful battle battle grounds of Britain.

    But press on Ad and John. You want the farmers to completely destroy our environment. You want no housing for workers. You want no equality.

    In brief, you sadly do not want a Democracy.


  30. Adrian Thornton 30

    Are you joking about Helen Clark, how about this little gem…The New Zealand-China FTA, doesn’t sound like rolling back the neo liberal project to me, in fact it sounds a lot like grabbing it with both hands and running with it. The result, destroying NZ light and Heavy industries, destroying NZ artisan industries (shoemakers etc)…good job well done Helen.
    And the most insulting thing about it from a Left perspective,, is it was all built off the back of slave workers in China, so much for Labour’s solidarity with workers, head of the UN what a joke, no wonder Key is stumping for her.

    Here is Clark on the TPP…no surprises here I can assure you..

    Agree on Frazer though.

    • RedBaronCV 30.1

      Good point on Helen Clark . I’m also aware that she missed an opportuntiy to regularize the status of New Zealanders working in Oz.

      But hey didn’t JK manage to waste the proceeds of all that? NZ had the best terms of trade for many a decade and he squandered the lot.

    • Brigid 30.2

      True all that and she didn’t bloody give us Kiwi Bank. It was an Alliance initiative driven by Jim Anderton, FFS

    • Wayne 30.3

      How has the China FTA destroyed jobs (in aggregate) in NZ?

      Manufacturing is doing very well at the moment. The FTA insulated us from most of the GFC. Obviously some jobs change. But Hillside in Dunedin was hardly the centre of NZ manufacturing.

      Have a look at Europe with no China FTA. They are still worse off than they were prior to the GFC

      • Adrian Thornton 30.3.1

        Well I guess because when on one hand your shoe manufacturer in China pay’s slave labour rates to it’s workers, whom also have no workers rights, little or no health and safety standards, have little or no obligation to protect the environment in the process of manufacturing those shoes. While at the same time a New Zealand shoe manufacturer has to pay it’s staff at least the minimum wage, the workers are protected by hard fought for health and safety standards, is obligated to manufacture it’s goods to at least a reasonable standard environmentally.
        Of course this all takes place under successive neo liberal governments (left & right) that have let wages stagnate for most workers, so hence they have no recourse than to buy the cheap shoes from China….result New Zealand shoe manufacturer can not compete, with inevitable result for owners and staff.

        In the late 1980’s 95% of shoes sold in NZ were made in NZ, over 9 million pairs a year.
        By 2008 that figure had been reversed, in large main by imports from China.

        Employment in manufacturing has fallen in terms of full time equivalent employees – from 224,600 at the end of 1989, to 175,100 in the second quarter of 2016.

  31. Smilin 31

    Muldoon was the worst in my working life time a total dictator and purveyor of NZds police state in the work place Absolute rule thru the boss class like Key and that shit Bolger Shipley and to add Roger Douglas and his sinking of the Labour party
    Overall you’d have to give the top spot to Sid Holland as the worst
    Helen David and Norm would have to be the best

    • john 31.1

      Really and yet the LONG list of things Muldoon was reponible for that we STILL rely on, listed above.
      recovers economy from Lange, Palmer and Moore’s mess, Wind farms and MMP
      Shipply: recovery from Asia crisis.
      Lange insults all our trading partners and leaves us with a deficit.
      Clarke receives a growing economy, the best economic conditions in a generation and manages to turn that into a recession.

    • Richard McGrath 31.2

      Muldoon ran the place like a Polish shipyard. I well remember those bleak years, the closest we got to full socialism. The 4th Labour government were so liberating that I voted for them in 1987. I’m amazed people decry Muldoon for allegedly supporting the South African government by allowing the Rugby Union to host a tour by the Springboks in 1981, yet turn a blind eye to the All Blacks playing in that same year a team from a socialist dictatorship – Romania.

      • Millsy 31.2.1

        The Romainans didn’t make blacks and whites piss in seperate toilets in 1981.

        • Richard McGrath

          The Romanians did far worse things – and we still generally make males and females “piss in separate toilets”.

  32. alwyn 32

    I think you have been far too kind to Holland and most unfair to Holyoake.
    As far as Holyoake went I prefer to rely on Henry Lang’s opinion that Holyoake was “the cleverest man in the country”.
    I would put them in order as
    1. Holyoake
    2. Fraser
    3. Key
    4. Bolger
    5. Clark
    6. Marshall
    7. Muldoon
    8. Shipley
    9. Kirk
    10. Lange
    11. Holland
    12. Moore
    13. Nash
    14. Rowling
    15. Palmer
    I think that Clark and Muldoon were two birds of a feather. The only real difference between them is that the basic attitude of Muldoon was to do what was best for New Zealand. With Clark the final test was asking is it good for Clark?

    • Ad 32.1

      Marshall gets number 6 after only 6 months on the job?

      Shipley at 8 above Lange at 10?

      I can certainly see if you had lived through Holyoake’s long and prosperous reign that you can make a case for him high up there.

      • alwyn 32.1.1

        I think the significant things that came out of Lange’s term were really all due to Douglas and got done mostly because Lange was lazy and therefore didn’t really keep up with what Douglas was getting up too and because he hated getting into an argument with anyone.
        After he finally decided to confront him and “have a cup of tea” the Lange Government did almost nothing for the rest of his time as PM.
        Thus I don’t think he really was responsible for any of the successes of his administration.

        On second thoughts I agree that I have put Marshall too high. I was really judging him on his whole career. I think he would drop to 9 and Muldoon, Shipley and Kirk would all go up a place. I’d still keep him, and Shipley for that matter, above Lange though.

        I rate Holyoake very highly on his general competence. Nothing really went wrong anywhere during his time and there were a lot of changes that happened during the 60s.
        Even Vietnam was a success for him. He didn’t believe that there was anything good about the US intervention but he avoided getting on the wrong side of them. He didn’t even send the regular forces there. You had to join up specifically to go I believe. Then, I was told by someone who was there at the time, he actually encouraged the protests against our involvement. He could then suggest that he would like to do more but if he did he would lose the next election and then the Labour Government would not only withdraw the forces but recognise North Vietnam as being the legitimate Government. It kept the US Government off his back.
        I realise that sounds incredibly Machiavellian but the material in Gustafson’s biography seems to show he was against the Vietnam affair from the start.

    • john 32.2

      Another reason to place Muldoon higher, apart from the reasons agave above.
      Didn’t he bring about CER with Australia, that has also lasted, to our benefit, for 40 Years.

    • Halfcrown 32.3

      I agree with your choice of Holyoak first Alwyn, I always thought he was a very capable PM also an Officer and a Gentleman and acted like a statesman. Sir Keith like Mc Millian, Eden, and Heath were old school conservatives experienced the depression and the war years and to me had the basic “never again” attitude.
      I would have Jim Bolger second place. I thought he was a pretty good PM had lots of pressures from other quarters. The main cross Bolger had to bear was the poison dwarf called Richardson
      Although I rank Muldoon last I really thought he was concerned about NZ, but lost the plot in his later years. I will never forget the Colin Moyle affair. which was disgusting and the country being stifled in the end with all the restrictions of the wage and price freeze.
      Don’t know about the rest except that Lange would be very far down the list for letting Douglas and Prebble having free range over what they did.
      Muldoon Clake and Key would tie for the last place
      Muldoon for creating the conditions that gave Douglas the free hand to introduce the Neo shit we have today.
      Clark for continuing it, and Key for promoting it.

  33. venezia 33

    Key should not be included in this list. This far he has done a lot of damage to this country, but who knows – he may see the light, develop a vision of NZ, and do something progressive yet.

  34. Mike the Lefty 34

    Norman Kirk deserved to be rated higher than Holyoake. He achieved more in two years than Holyoake did in 12.

    • john 34.1

      Kirk failed at almost everything. He was lazy.
      He ignored the warnings of the experts on.
      Oil prices
      electricity supply
      etc etc

      He ran around acting like king of the world, except the Emperor never did have any cloths….or ideas that stood the test of time, ie were redundant and unworkable before poor old Rowling had to try and run an election campaign on in 1975.

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 34.1.1

        Wouldn’t want a PM who ignored the warnings of experts!

        ” He’s one academic, and like lawyers, I can provide you with another one that will give you a counterview.” (John Key)

        And when he produced the above quote – Key didn’t provide any factual counter to the facts raised by the expert.

  35. b waghorn 35

    excuse me but key has lowered nz ‘s international rankings on every measure that matters , me thinks you are just stirring putting the shit bag in your list .
    He will be long remembered for opening the door to corruption in politics in nz , and it will never be shut again.

    • Ad 35.1

      Prime Minister John Key is clearly not everyone’s cup of tea, and I don’t have t defend him particularly.

      But he is and will always be a major figure in New Zealand’s political life.

      Rank his performance wherever you like, but there’s no getting away from his significant impact.

      • Adrian Thornton 35.1.1

        @ Ad, Don’t think I can if agree with you on Key. sure he has been a major figure in NZ politics in his length of stay as PM, so of course we feel his presence in that light now, however historically I can’t see him being remembered for anything significant, unless I have missed something obvious.

        • Draco T Bastard


          About the only thing that I can think that he’ll be remembered for is being the countries most dishonest PM.

      • Colonial Viper 35.1.2

        Ad you really don’t understand the phenomena of Key.

        Key is the Brittney Spears of the music world.

        Apparently impactful and significant at the time , but in 20 years not a single person will recognise them nor the vacuous tunes that they danced to.

        c.f. Michael Jackson or Paul Lennon.

        • infused

          You will be very wrong about that.

          • Colonial Viper

            What do you think Key’s time as PM will be considered prominent for, 20 years after he leaves office?

            I can’t even think of fuck all interesting about his first term that is going to stay in the minds of people other than pol sci lecturers.

            • Lanthanide

              Tax cuts during a recession.

              • Ad

                Aye. Terminally stupid.

                • Lanthanide

                  Yet not “terminal” enough to drop below 4 on your ranking.

                  Might also want to see my comment at

                • Richard McGrath

                  Tax cuts without spending cuts are doomed to failure.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    I note that you live in a country with higher taxes than NZ and according to you, things are better there.

                    What an ingrate you are.

                    • Richard McGrath

                      Au contraire – I’m very grateful to have obtained work in Australia. And don’t worry, plenty of tax is taken from me working in NZ as well.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      You won’t stop clutching your small government straw though, eh ingrate.

        • Ad

          His gradualist changes have I think been as important as Clark’s – he’s just more subtle. Clark – like many Labour PM’s – made structure-altering moves and many grand gestures. Rather than structural alterations, Key is making multiple sustained cumulative change. That’s also one of the secrets to his popularity.

          • Adrian Thornton

            I do agree with you here, he certainly has and is making fundamental changes to the fabric of our country, unfortunately nearly all regressive changes that drag us all backward socially, destroying the very communities that vote for his insane political ideology.
            Of course that is the same gauge you can use to see how effective neo liberal propaganda has been, when so many people vote against their (or the children’s) own best interests, sad and quite scary.

    • Muttonbird 35.2


      Clearly a stirring post which has been admitted to by the OP when he claimed surprise people didn’t protest more about the position of Kirk and Holyoke.

      Not to mention the omission of Savage for as yet unexplained reasons.

      • RedLogix 35.2.1

        Oh I enjoy these ‘stirring’ posts. Unlike some people here I don’t feel The Standard needs to conform any particular ideological purity. Sure it will always have a strong leftie tailwind, but I really appreciate the variety of authors, the range of ideas and the raucous rabble who comment here.

        • Muttonbird

          You are a monied fleewee who lives in Melbourne. It must be nice for you to pontificate on New Zealand issues from the safety of a white Australian sub-State.

          • RedLogix

            True, but then again you might want to consider that out of my immediate family of six, I’m the only one with an income and all of our cash flow comes from me. So yes I’m well off compared to many, but not so much as you’d notice.

            For most of my adult life I resisted the temptation to flee the neo-liberal madness here in NZ. Frankly I hoped for more from Helen Clark and Michael Cullen, and then seeing so many sucked in by the Key schmooze I realised it was never going to get any better in my lifetime.

            Finally after being absolutely fucked over by yet another shit for brains employer, at the age of 58 I made the trip. I’ll make no bones of it, I wish I had done so 15 yrs earlier. Australia is no paradise, there is a lot to pick issue with, but unlike NZ they had the brains to reject John Howard’s Work Choices policy modelled directly on NZ’s 1992 Employment Contracts Act.

            I work long hours, for some tough minded people … but I get paid and treated fairly.

            Besides that within five years or so we’re likely to retire and return back to NZ, and we remain Kiwi citizens. I tend to be fairly transparent about my life when I’m posting here. That’s my choice, and if you want to make cheap shots on the back of that … be my guest. That’s your choice.

            And no it’s not Melbourne.

            • Ad

              Well, that’s more honest than most.

              Your inference about the average quality of business leadership and management is spot on.

              Good on you.

            • Richard McGrath

              Nice response to the sniping from Muttonbird. I too am working in Australia, sick of the shit wages in NZ. Thank goodness for free markets, relatively easy travel and the ability to cross the ditch and walk into a job with minimal hassle.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                What an ingrate you are. The reason you get a better wage in Aussie is: unions.

                • Richard McGrath

                  What an ignoramus you are. The main reason I get a better wage in Australia is: the remoteness of my workplace and the nature of the work.

      • Ad 35.2.2

        You must have missed this response above:

        First I was thinking about living memory – end of WWII is about the limit of it now. Would be great to hear from those who have met the older names on the list to test the line summaries for the lived reality.

        Second, WWII really is a before and after point for New Zealand that is so big it’s really hard to judge leaders of our country before and after. Argue that if you like.

        Finally I thought a much longer list would drag and be too hard to debate.

        Of course every cutoff is arbitrary. But as Captain Picard once said “The line must be drawn.”

  36. JanM 36

    I sort of took this list at face value until I read the bit about John Key ‘reforming’ education, now I think it’s an elaborate joke – please tell me no-one with an IQ of above 80 believes that the changes he has made in education have been anything other than negative

  37. DS 37

    My rankings. Mike Moore doesn’t count – six weeks is simply not long enough.

    1. Peter Fraser
    2. Helen Clark
    3. Norman Kirk
    4. Keith Holyoake
    5. Jim Bolger
    6. Bill Rowling
    7. Walter Nash
    8. Robert Muldoon
    9. David Lange
    10. John Key
    11. Jack Marshall
    12. Geoffrey Palmer
    13. Jenny Shipley
    14. Sid Holland

    • Colonial Viper 37.1

      I still don’t understand what people think Helen Clark built in this country that is so significant and so lasting she deserves a no. 2 position.

    • alwyn 37.2

      There is one thing you can probably credit Moore with, although people will differ on whether it was a good or a bad thing.
      With the way Palmer was going the Labour Party could have ended up with both Clark and Cullen going missing in action. They, and some other Labour MPs, could all have lost their seats in a truly massive landslide.
      Oh what a happy day that would have been.

      • Millsy 37.2.1

        Total refresh.

        • alwyn

          “Total refresh”
          It is a lovely thought that a clean up could have occurred and stuck. However you have to remember that Mallard, King, Duynhoven and Goff all lost but came crawling back in 1993. The rubbish returned to the surface I’m afraid.

  38. Great piece! Thoughtful, in depth and going beyond the obvious. The Standard should do more like this.

    Who is Advantage? Sounds like a good person to have a coffee or beer with.

    I’d add a couple of things – one to Sid Holland. Wallace Chapman the other day pointed out something I hadn’t known – when the Brits were starting nuclear testing in the 1950s, they asked if they could use the Kermadecs. Holland said no – and perhaps the start of New Zealand’s independnet anti-nuclear policy began there and then. (The Aussies said yes, and offered them the desert behind Adelaide at Maralinga, and weren’t too fussy about making sure there were no Aborigines still living there).

    On Bolger: It’s a popular myth the BNZ bailout was the main cause of the fiscal problems Bolger inherited. Of greater significance was unauthorized overspending in health, education and welfare in the run up to the election. There’s an Ombudsman or Audit Office report somewhere on this.

    I wouldn’t rank either Holyoake or Clark so high on economic management as you do, though Holyoake deserves credit for committing the barest minimum to Vietnam despite huge pressure from the US and Aussies (and a lot within his own party) to bring in conscription; also, covertly, encouraging his Justice Minister Ralph Hanan in his work dealing with Maori grievances. (Holyoake was one of a run of farmer PMs who have been quite sympathetic on such issues, going back to Coates and including Bolger).

    Clark came in on an economic upswing and took it for granted. I don’t think her party has ever quite recovered from her leadership and I’m amazed at the loyalty she still seems to command amongst committed Labour people.

    Key? I suspect the most important legacy will be Bill English’s quiet ongoing revolution the public sector and how social services are delivered.

    • Richard McGrath 38.1

      Not sure about that, ask the parents of the kids in charter schools whether their children are better off now

      • millsy 38.1.1

        Being converted into unquestioning corporate drones and homophobic extremists. I bet you now in a generation, thanks to charter schools, homosexuals will be systematically percecuted in South Auckland as they are in Eketahuna.

    • Ad 38.2

      Cheers Rob.
      I don’t post too often as work is too intense.

      Great factoid about the Kermadecs there.

      Clark was very fortunate to have Cullen, plus a strong bench for the first term, as well as strong economic conditions.

      Holyoake was fortunate that wool prices rebounded, and dairy demand was high.
      But when you get in power, luck is what you make of it.

      Key gets so intuitively that even though the rich are getting richer and rest going backwards, poll after poll shows us largely contented and happy as a whole. He’s not a nation-builder’s left tit, but he shares with Holyoake an intuitive sense of what most of us like.

  39. millsy 39

    “Clark came in on an economic upswing and took it for granted. I don’t think her party has ever quite recovered from her leadership and I’m amazed at the loyalty she still seems to command amongst committed Labour people.”

    Getting fridges, washing machines and TV’s on tick from Harvey Norman doesnt really count as an economic upswing.

    “Key? I suspect the most important legacy will be Bill English’s quiet ongoing revolution the public sector and how social services are delivered.”

    Key and English have learnt from when the Nats were last in power. Subtlety is everything when it comes to privatisation of public services.

    • Graeme 39.1

      Much of the economic upswing Clark benefited from came from a drop in NZD following the 99 election. For the last part of the campaign the right refrain was ” elect a Labour government and the currency will tank 20%” Well we did and it did. Markets are great like that.

  40. rod 40

    What about Bill English, oh, sorry about that, he only got just over 20% didn’t he, and now he is 2nd in command behind Superman. funny old world isn’t it.

  41. gnomic 41

    Your description of the ‘achievements’ of the Right Hon Smirking Weasel is remarkable in being 100% wrong. No wait, maybe only 95%. Some of the meeja love him, notably opinionated prats like the two Hs. You forgot to mention how the rich pricks and perhaps more especially the aspirant rich pricks worship him because he is fully vested, aka has fuck you money. Could that be the reason why he just doesn’t care what happens to Aotearoa after he and the regime have wrecked it?

    One can but speculate whether this person has a soul. I see no evidence to that effect. Selling your soul to the devil is not unknown.

    Nor does he have any authentic connection to New Zealand. Unlike most of the others on the list, abhorrent as some were.

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