By AUDREY YOUNG and NZPA
The National Party caucus yesterday farewelled 16 MPs.
In an emotional morning, the caucus said goodbye to the 10 defeated in the weekend election rout and six who retired.
Gavan Herlihy - who lost the once-safe National seat of Otago - was more sad than bitter about a "very, very tough time".
"You put so much energy into this life ... It is pretty hard to take."
He said he did not want to blame anyone, and muttered, "Bugger."
Mr Herlihy went on: "Look, you go into politics knowing there are good times and bad times. Six years ago I wandered up those steps with such hope in my heart. Today the heart is ... "
He turned away with a tear in his eye.
Eric Roy, whose list place was not high enough to secure his return, was more upbeat.
He said he already had three job offers.
"The first at quarter to twelve on Saturday night. It is not the time to make quick decisions."
He was also planning to auction his personalised numberplate Work4U.
The defeated MPs were Mr Herlihy, Mr Roy, Tony Steel, Bob Simcock, Alec Neill, Belinda Vernon, Anne Tolley, Arthur Anae, Marie Hasler and Annabel Young. The six retiring were Jenny Shipley, Wyatt Creech, Max Bradford, John Luxton, Doug Kidd and Warren Kyd.
They got the traditional parting gift - a silver tray.
The caucus also welcomed five new members: list MP Dr Don Brash, Coromandel MP Sandra Goudie, Helensville MP John Key, Clevedon MP Judith Collins and Rakaia MP Brian Connell.
Leader Bill English and his deputy, Roger Sowry, were confirmed in their jobs.
Mrs Shipley said she felt as though she had been "let out of jail".
Mr Herlihy said he could now get a life. He then began to enlarge on how he came to Parliament with such high hopes, but stopped because he was too choked up.
Mr English said it was the saddest day of his political life. "That is the pain of defeat. This is the toughest lesson in how you have to be out there earning support every day.
"Today we start the permanent campaign."