Few political careers end well.
Some are cut short by voters - a fate few politicians see coming, even when it's obvious to the rest of us. Others are yanked from the stage, either under the cloud of scandal, or because party bosses simply want someone fresher, more on-brand, in their place.
But even among those lucky enough to chart their own exit, bitterness often lingers. Ambition goes unrealised, personal and factional grievances fester, the sudden loss of limelight leaves them wrestling with what ex Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans coined "relevance deprivation syndrome". There is nothing quite as former as a former MP.
In New Zealand, we are particularly dismissive of ex-politicians. They don't get to choose from many dignified or lucrative off-ramps.
A select handful are able to forge a successful post-Parliamentary career in the corporate world, like John Key, who chairs the ANZ board, or his former National Party colleague Katherine Rich who heads up the Food and Grocery Council.
A smaller number still get prized diplomatic postings - like Lockwood Smith in London, Tim Groser in Washington DC or Annette King in Canberra - but these are few and far between.
Numerous ex MPs have parlayed name recognition into success at local body elections - a mixed blessing in that it can bring useful experience to bear but also blocks the path into politics for a new generation of leaders.
Of all the paths retired politicians take, punditry is possibly the least helpful. There are exceptions, but old MPs commenting on the current state of politics is about as relevant and constructive as silent film stars lamenting the advent of talkies. Or worse, like John Banks or Don Brash's Band of Boomer Bloggers, they can poison the discourse with their worldviews which are antiquated, scornful and in my view promoting racial division.
My old mate Mike Moore, who died exactly a year ago, built a singularly impressive career after elected politics - first as director general of the World Trade Organisation, then as New Zealand's ambassador to the United States.
It is a testament to Mike's abilities and stature that he was appointed to the latter post by the National Party, his lifelong adversary. In most countries, someone with those credentials would be feted for their accomplishments, given elevated stature, especially within the political party through which they built their career. Think of the adulation afforded Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke in Australian Labor circles, where their mere presence at an event would trigger obligatory standing ovations, and whose passing provoked national mourning. By contrast, Mike's name had all but dropped off Labour Party mailing lists by the time he retired.
Mike didn't complain too much about this. He actually admired the laidback Kiwi attitude towards fame, often telling the story of an esteemed Kiwi mathematician who, making conversation with one of his father's mates during a trip home to the West Coast, told him that a textbook he wrote had just been published in the US. "Show-off," came the reply.
But I know Mike sometimes felt as if he were persona non grata within a party and movement to which he had dedicated life - and, understandably, it stung. He had enemies within Labour, for sure, but I think it was more benign neglect than malice that led to what he sometimes felt was ostracisation. And nor was it universal - Jacinda Ardern, to her credit, made the effort to reach out several times in the latter stages of Mike's life, and it touched him. He was always generous when it came to recognising talent in others, and saw an abundance in Ardern.
Mike told war stories with the best of them but, unlike many of his contemporaries, he effortlessly moved with the times. He did this in part through voracious reading, always staying in touch with the newest thinking and best ideas. But he was also endlessly interested in young people, including my own kids, whom he peppered with questions about how the world looked to them. They loved him for it, too, and miss him no less than I do.
I'd like to see Mike's legacy honoured in a way befitting his contribution and approach to public life. He doesn't need a statue or a portrait unveiled at Te Papa. Too static, too reverential. But how about one of our universities – Auckland or Canterbury make the most sense – were to endow a Chair in International Studies in his name, or offer Mike Moore Scholarships to students of outstanding potential in the realm of international trade and diplomacy? This would aptly reflect his relentless – and sometimes derided – focus on what the future holds for New Zealand, as well as his insatiable intellectual curiosity.
Mike came from a tough background and always saw himself as among the Children of the Poor: How poverty could destroy New Zealand's future, the title of one of his many books. For that reason, he understood in his bones the unrivalled power of education as a means to overcome adversity and prosper in life. He wanted every single kid to have that chance, fuelling a passion for service that kept him energised, staved off cynicism, and informed his every step. That's a life we would do well to celebrate.
"The greatest betrayal we can make of our people is to not care." - Michael Kenneth Moore.
Shane Te Pou (Ngāi Tūhoe) is a company director at Mega Ltd, a commentator and blogger and a former Labour Party activist.