Key Points:

Phil Amos, teacher and politician. Died aged 80.

As a Labour MP for 12 years Phil Amos has sometimes been characterised by acquaintances as an idealist, a man uncorrupted by the possession of political power, including three years as Minister of Education (1972-75) and Minister of Island Affairs (1972-74).

Amos was a man with "a patient, consultative approach", a Herald political editor noted in March 1975. Such a demeanour had merits. But it could also be viewed as making him slow to act.

Elected into the then new seat of Manurewa in 1963, (defeating a National Cabinet minister Sir Leon Gotz), Amos' parliamentary career ended in 1975 - he lost his seat and Labour lost the election.

A family friend, Anthony Haas, suggested at Phil's funeral the origins of such an inclusive approach. As young teachers after World War II, Phil and his wife Jill worked in isolated New Zealand communities where Maori and Pacific people faced challenges of rural isolation or urban migration. They brought with them such notions as non-violence, racial equality and belief in parental involvement in schools, attitudes then uncommon in New Zealand education.

It also taught Phil Amos, who joined the Labour Party in 1946, about fighting causes and in challenging established positions.

As a Minister of Education he was not afraid to step outside the traditional Labour Party square, as with the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act. That allowed private schools to voluntarily integrate with the state system without sacrificing their particular character.

After his political career evaporated he disappeared from view, going to Tanzania in 1977 to teach and at one time living in a baked earth hut on Mt Kilimanjaro. His wife Jill came back after a year and they divorced. He met Odilia, also a teacher, and they had a daughter.

Back in New Zealand in 1987 Amos met David Lange and Roger Douglas embarking on Rogernomics. When Jim Anderton left the Labour Party in 1989 and founded the New Labour Party Amos decided to go with him. He told Anderton he was "devastated by the actions of the Labour Party".

He is survived by his second wife Odilia and children from his marriages.

His first wife Jill is still alive.