Newly honoured Dame Annette King was one of those rare politicians liked and admired on both sides of Parliament. In our profile today she corrects the record of why she relinquished the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party last year.

It happened not long after list MP Jacinda Ardern had won the Mt Albert byelection and was suddenly touted for promotion at King's expense. The veteran former minister in two Labour Governments sounded reluctant to make way until leader Andrew Little had a word to her. But she was not pushed, she says today.

"I went to Andrew Little and said I want to step aside as deputy . . . I'll be 70 at the election and it's time I went. I was never asked to leave, I was never pushed as some have tried to claim."

If anyone deserves to be believed, she does. She has given good service to the country, as a strong, stable presence in politics through turbulent times.


As a new MP in the fourth Labour Government, she rose quickly through the ranks to the Cabinet. A supporter of economic reform, she was able to combine hard-headed practicality with personal warmth and compassion, the qualities of the dental nurse she had been.

Later, as a senior minister in Helen Clark's Government she was entrusted with the health, justice, police and transport portfolios at different times.

When Labour went out in 1990 she had lost the marginal Horowhenua seat but returned in 1993 in safe Miramar, enlarged in 1996 to Rongotai, the electorate she served until her retirement at the election last year.

If she was the first person to stand aside for Ardern, Little was the second. Any suspicion King was reluctant ought to dispelled by the supporting role she played for the new young leader in the election campaign. Ardern wanted the help, advice and experience of the party's "Auntie Annette" to be with her constantly.

Now Dame Annette, she has the satisfaction of knowing her honour was in train before the change of government. National and Labour, indeed all parties in the new Government and the last, recognised her at New Year.

Politicians have to expect their careers to end in public rejection when they lose their seat or more likely their party loses office at an election. King is one of the lucky ones who left on a high note, appreciated by all sides and surely destined now for a new position of honour.