There was a story, probably true, that everybody in the press gallery knew about Mike Moore when he was trade minister in the fourth Labour government.
His chief of staff was an affable public service veteran named Gray Nelson who had served prime minister Norman Kirk a decade earlier and senior ministers in every government since. But working for Moore, poor Gray, so the story goes, came to dread Monday mornings.
For he knew his minister would come into the office with a list of bright ideas that had occurred to him over the weekend.
Anyone who had ever had a conversation with Mike Moore, did not need to hear any more of the story. He was always bubbling with ideas, just about all of them off the wall but not completely impossible. "Lamb burgers" was the best-known example.
They were great ideas, just not the kind of thing governments can do with the levers readily available.
Moore was the third-ranked minister in the most radical New Zealand government of our lifetime. Arguably he did more to create that government than either of its leading figures, prime minister David Lange or finance minister Roger Douglas.
Moore was probably the instigator of the group within the Labour Opposition, known as the "B Team" or the "fish and chip brigade" after a Herald photographer caught them in conference, who worked assiduously to replace its leader, Sir Wallace Rowling, with Lange.
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Moore was Lange's most determined acolyte, his "bagman" when numbers were being assessed ahead of caucus votes. He was in awe of Lange's brilliance as an orator and believed it would require nothing less for Labour to overcome the dominance of Sir Robert Muldoon.
Moore himself possessed many of the qualities required for leadership of the Labour Party in those days. He was in the mould of Kirk, a working class lad without a higher education who was hungry for knowledge and read books voraciously for the rest of his life.
He was aged 6 when his father died. His mother ran a second-hand shop in Moerewa, Northland. He attended Dilworth boarding school in Auckland, then Bay of Islands College in Kawakawa. When he left school he entered the printing trade and became active in unions and the Labour Party.
At the age of just 23 he became the country's youngest MP in the Kirk landslide of 1972. Three years later he lost the marginal Eden seat in Muldoon's reverse landslide and returned in 1978 with a seat in Christchurch he held for the rest of his parliamentary career.
Like Kirk and Lange, he was a big, outgoing, likeable personality with infectious enthusiasms and he was a forceful speaker. It is rare for a politician with leadership ambitions to work as hard as Moore did to put a contemporary into party leadership, and Moore was ambitious.
When the "B Team" finally forced Rowling to stand down in 1983 and Lange was elected leader, Moore stood for the deputy leadership. The caucus, though, elected a former Rowling supporter, Geoffrey Palmer, for the sake of unity.
In memoirs Lange would later write, "Palmer's victory turned out well for me. Moore was incurably ambitious which would not have made him a reassuring deputy. He was impulsive and in his enthusiasm not always comprehensible. We would, I think, have made a volatile combination."
Moore was often deeply hurt by Lange's failure to return his loyalty when Moore eventually became Labour's leader. By then Lange had become a "volatile combination" with Douglas and the fourth Labour government never recovered.
Lange stood down in mid-1989 and Palmer was unable to sustain an improvement in the polls. Two months before the 1990 election the government in desperation decided to try a third leader. Helen Clark, already deputy to Palmer, could have had the job then if she had wanted it. But it had become a poisoned chalice, which Moore accepted.
He was prime minister for eight weeks, the shortest premiership in living memory. At 41, he was also New Zealand's youngest prime minister of last century.
After Labour's inevitable defeat, Moore retained its leadership, helped by National's unpopularity as finance minister Ruth Richardson set about reducing government spending to slay inflation with the economy in recession.
On election night, 1993, the country was looking at a hung Parliament. An over-excited Mike Moore was not seen at his best beside a statesmanlike Jim Bolger. When the final result was declared National had survived by one seat and Labour wanted a new leader.
Moore remained in Parliament until 1999 when, with the National government's support, he became director general of the World Trade Organisation. During a fateful period for the newly enlarged body he negotiated China's entry to the WTO and launched the Doha "millennium" round of negotiations which ultimately failed.
The next National government appointed him ambassador to the United States where he helped bring the US into the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2015. A stroke that year ended his public life.
From retirement at Matauri Bay he could look back on a life of effort, enthusiasm and endless ideas for the betterment of the country he loved.