Annette King, who made her parting address to Parliament on Thursday, has been one of our best politicians. Sensible, good natured, good company and firm when she needed to be, she won respect and affection on all sides of the House. She was a minister in two Labour governments, coming into Parliament at the change of government in 1984 and steadily rising to cabinet rank by 1989.

She is one of the few survivors of those tumultuous years of rapid economic reform, losing her marginal Horowhenua seat when the Government was defeated in 1990, but returned three years later in safer Miramar, then Rongotai. When Labour returned to power under Helen Clark in 1999, King was handed the health portfolio and later police in a Government that endured for nine years.

But perhaps her best service to the Labour Party, and the nation's politics, has been seen since Labour lost office in 2008. She has been a constant familiar face and stabilising force in the Opposition through four changes of leader, serving as deputy leader to two of them. She stepped down from that role in March to make way for Jacinda Ardern after the Mt Albert byelection and must now be glad she did.

She is set to accompany Ardern on the election campaign before leaving politics for good. She can look back on a 30-year parliamentary career evenly split between government and opposition and know she has contributed to New Zealand being in much better shape today than when she came in.

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