A true giant of New Zealand politics

by Jake Quinn

Micheal Cullen will today deliver his valedictory speech to Parliament. For those who had the privilege to work for Michael today will be an emotional one. With Clark gone and now Micheal, It really does feel like the end of an era. 

Yesterday’s NZ Herald ran an op-ed by one of Cullen’s former press secretaries Jason Knauf (extract below).

Jason did a sterling job of showing the way Dr Cullen’s Labour colleagues and most beehive staff viewed him. I know that the few months I spent warming Jason’s chair after he departed for London were the most exciting and rewarding of my time in the building. 


But it was the same refusal to play by the PR rules that now leaves Dr Cullen a true giant of New Zealand politics. The “initiative-itis” suffered by so many politicians around the world never affected him.

Policy made for a good night on TV was rightly viewed by him as policy that had no place in government. His mantra was to keep an eye on the long-term – look over the horizon – plan for uncertainty – and go after the big challenges.

And from a personal perspective, it was being infected by this philosophy that was my greatest reward from a year with Michael. He turned an unapologetic, 25-year-old political junkie into someone who still loves the game, but now knows what the real prizes are.

And he also taught all of us who worked for him to keep the human aspect of political endeavours alive in all we do. When he called his wife throughout the day to ask what she was doing or to share a laugh about an on-air scrap he had with Sean Plunket, we were reminded that we shouldn’t let our ambitions overshadow our relationships and families.