Our most recent long-serving and highly-regarded Labour Prime Minister was Helen Clark, who was PM for three terms, from 1999 to 2008. Clark's first full biography documentary was made just last year, and screened on TV3. It was a two-parter called Helen Clark: The Road to Power. With relevance to Labour's current situation, this excerpt from the documentary talks about the compromises required for party leadership.
You can view it here:
Helen Clark's most famous television appearance is the one she likes the least - the combative interview with TV3's John Campbell that became known as "Corngate."
On July 9 2002, the Government was under pressure on the genetic engineering issue, when Campbell confronted Clark over the suspected release of GE corn seed in 2000. In a 3 News special, a fired-up Campbell, informed by Nicky Hager's yet-to-be-published Seeds of Distrust, alleged there had been a cover up. Upset at what she perceived as an ambush, Clark reacted tersely; she later labelled Campbell a "sanctimonious little creep."
You can see the infamous "Corngate" interview here:
The late David Lange also made a big impact in his time as Labour leader and Prime Minister. Though his 1984 to 1989 reign was a flawed one, he is remembered fondly for his wit and oratory skills. The acclaimed 2004 biography documentary Reluctant Revolutionary traces Lange's rise from plump doctor's son to lawyer, to Prime Minister leading the country through radical change. Along the way writer/director Tom Scott asks how a man as gifted as Lange allowed his Government to collapse around him after only five years in office.
View Reluctant Revolutionary here:
The year before his bio documentary, Lange had done this moving interview with veteran broadcaster Kim Hill, for her Face to Face TV series. Lange was 60 and battling serious ill health. He talks about "the loneliness of politics," and what you can and can't achieve; and also about facing his own mortality. Lange died two years after this interview, in 2005.
Watch Face to Face with Kim Hill - David Lange here:
One of the most loved Labour leaders of them all was the late Norman Kirk, who became PM in 1972, and died in office just 20 months later. Generally accepted as his finest television performance, this interview by visiting British TV interviewer David Frost screened in 1973. Kirk is assured and statesmanlike as he discusses topics ranging from looking after beneficiaries, to spying, to opposing French nuclear testing.
View Frost Over New Zealand - The Leaders here:
And perhaps the most legendary Labour leader of all time, and also the first, was Michael Joseph Savage, who was Prime Minister from 1935 to 1940. You can see rare footage of Savage making a speech in this episode of the 1971 National Film Unit history series The Years Back.
Savage's speech is at 10'40" into part two of the documentary, and you can see two of the Labour leaders who followed Savage, Peter Fraser and Walter Nash, towards the end of part one.
Watch The Years Back - The Thirties here: