Barry Soper is Newstalk ZB's Political Editor

Barry Soper: Farewelling John Key, like the good old days

Former Prime Minister John Key, right, with NewstalkZB political editor Barry Soper, at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Former Prime Minister John Key, right, with NewstalkZB political editor Barry Soper, at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

There's nothing quite like the send-off of a prominent politician. It brings together those who've played a role in our lives over the decades.

I fondly remember the sense of occasion when the first Prime Minister I'd reported on was farewelled.

It was Rob Muldoon, who was the star guest at a dinner organised in secret by his old nemesis Bob Jones at the Wellington Club.

The who's who of politics turned out, Ronald Reagan was beamed in from the United States and Maggie Thatcher sent her best wishes.

Muldoon came on to my radio programme the next morning with Jones and the pair made up after a long standoff during which time the property tycoon and founder of the New Zealand Party, picked up 12 per cent of the vote in 1984, or more than quarter of a million voters, and seeing off his old mate's Government.

Muldoon became tearful on radio as the pair reminisced about the good old days.

They all turned out at Parliament the other night to farewell John Key, several hundred of his closest friends.

Again those who'd once been prominent on the political landscape, like Jim Bolger, were there swapping stories of times gone by.

As Key was speaking, a tinge of envy must have run through Bolger's mind, given that his departure from the job he'd held for the same time, was ignominious.

He was stabbed in the back by Jenny Shipley, who wasn't there, but who'll go down in history as our first female Prime Minister, even if she wasn't elected to the job.

Key talked about what life has been like since he stepped down from the job in December, how this multi-millionaire now takes Uber taxis, and how he has to carry his own bags and remember his passport.

He reminisced about the time he'd recently checked into a hotel with his wife Bronagh and daughter Stephanie to discover that just one room had been booked.

He gave the bed to the women and lying on the floor looking up at them, he declared: "I used to run a country you know."

As the crowd mingled, I was talking to the man who for my career has denied me the title of the longest serving member of the Press Gallery.

Ian Templeton this year celebrates his 60th year in the place, seeing off 14 Prime Ministers to my mere nine.

In his speech, Bill English referred to us as the undertakers.

He'll be living in hope that our embalming fluid will still be in the cupboard on September the 24th!

- Newstalk ZB

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