Mike Moore didn't so much lose the Labour leadership – he preferred to think he had mislaid it.
That was a quip from him in one of his famous exits, his valedictory speech in Parliament on August 24, 1999.
But like the best of jokes, it was based in truth.
During the valedictory speech, Moore wished Helen Clark well in the coming election and said he hoped she would form the next government – which she did.
By that stage it may have been a genuine sentiment because his future had already been mapped out as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.
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Just three years previously, Moore had been part of the unsuccessful attempt to unseat Helen Clark and to reclaim the Labour leadership he had "mislaid".
When I arrived in the Press Gallery in 1994, Labour was in a vicious cycle of unforgiving factionalism.
The Left, primarily the disaffected who had joined the Alliance but also elements of Labour, had not forgiven the "Rogernomes" for their economic reforms and the division it had unleashed on the party and country.
And Moore's people could not forgive Clark and the left of the caucus for unseating him after the 1993 election when he had come so close to making the Jim Bolger Government a one-term wonder.
There was a perpetual sense of mistrust and some pleasure in some quarters at seeing Helen Clark doing so poorly in the polls.
Like Tony Abbott in Australia, Moore's very presence in the caucus was a source of friction, and he stayed two terms after being rolled, two terms too long.
Had he left earlier, the factions that persisted through the 1990s, the Clark Government and two terms into Opposition may have been blunted. The first leader to blunt that factionalism in Opposition was Andrew Little. It appears to have entered a dormant state under Jacinda Ardern.
Moore had the example of David Lange as well, who stayed for two terms after resigning as Prime Minister.
But Lange did not have the same antipathy to Clark. In fact it was Lange who tipped off Clark's people in 1996 to the fact that she was about to get a delegation of frontbenchers (Cullen, Phil Goff, Annette King, Jim Sutton and Koro Wetere) trying to persuade her to step down without a leadership challenge.
For years it was debated as to who they were going to replace her with, Cullen, Goff or Moore.
But in 2011, former party operative Phil Quin who had been up to his neck in the plot, revealed that they had eventually settled on Moore.
With her refusal to go and the acceptance that a challenge would drive poor polls even lower, it remained a failed coup.
Moore has received widespread recognition since his untimely death on Sunday for his enormous talent, his achievements, intellect and huge personality.
Amidst them was a comment from Cullen saying while Moore would have been an inspiring prime minister with just a few more votes in 1993, he had an inability to let grudges go.
He had a ringside seat as deputy leader to Helen Clark from 1996 to 2008.
Long after hostilities were apparently over and Clark was serving her third term as prime minister, Moore paid her this particular compliment in the pages of the Herald.
"The hardest job in politics is shooting the wounded, particularly when they are your best friends and loyal supporters," he said after David Benson-Pope was forced to resign.
"Helen Clark is brilliant at this. She lets them bleed, they become anaemic and can't fight back and then she puts the pillow over their heads. I think Helen has sacked or lost more ministers than any other prime minister in history."
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters had a special bond with Moore. He used a very public cup of tea with Moore on Lambton Quay during the parallel coalition talks to give himself more leverage with National.
Peters announced in Te Kuiti during the 1996 election campaign that he would have a "Ministry of All Talents" and no matter who was in government, he would make Moore the Minister of Trade Negotiations and Overseas Trade.
Moore had the good sense to publicly decline the offer but he and Peters remained friends – in his valedictory, Moore thanked their go-between, "Mr Johnnie Walker and Ms Gilbey".
A truce between the left and right factions in Labour, essentially Clark and Moore, ensued between 1996 and 1999 and National campaigned hard for Moore to take the world's top trade job.
Asia was flexing its muscle and demanding power in international institutions and would have vetoed Moore's appointment without what was effectively a job-sharing arrangement with Thailand's deputy Prime Minister, Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi.
Moore went first, for three years, instead of the usual five, followed by Supachai, and his first year was marred by the "Battle of Seattle" – a literally riotous response to attempts to launch the Doha Round of negotiation.
In his valedictory speech, Moore said he left Parliament "disappointed".
"There is lots more I would like to have done for New Zealand."
It is clear that Michael Cullen was right, Mike Moore could not let go of the past. Like the biggest of grievances, it sustained him at times. But the sentiment was returned; Helen Clark's Labour Government did not put his talents to good use.
Moore served New Zealand with distinction as ambassador to the United States, under the John Key National Government and threw a damned good annual Pacific Party at the embassy.
He appeared to mellow in his declining years but his life, like elements of his career, has been cut cruelly short.