Murray McCully's background in public relations before coming into politics almost 30 years ago has served him well.

He's had something of a chequered career but has always come through, although at times smelling of stinging nettle. He's now calling it quits at the next election.

Even though for the past eight years the man known variously as the Black Prince or McCullyavelli has been our relatively high profile Foreign Minister, he's never made it to the front bench of his party, either in Government or in Opposition.

He once joked that his leaders didn't think he was good enough and anyway, given the amount of time he's spent overseas, the seat would be mostly vacant.

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Over the years McCully's been National's backroom string puller, credited with getting rid of former leader Jenny Shipley, replacing her with Bill English until he took the party to its crashing defeat in 2002.

He became a confidante of English's successor Don Brash who now says he no longer returns his calls.

So his career's been one of ups and downs and the downs have been fairly spectacular.

He resigned his tourism portfolio back in 1999 after questions were raised about his handling and subsequent payout to two tourism board members.

The payouts were said to be illegal, although they were said to be made with the genuine perception that they were in the best interests of the industry.

The shonky sheep deal with the Saudi businessman was again seen to be in the interests of getting a free trade deal with the Gulf States, which has yet to happen.

He was accused of making his department dysfunctional with a clumsily handled restructuring plan.

To McCully's credit he secured New Zealand a seat on the United Nations Security Council but what has it done for this country, other than making us feel important, is a little difficult to fathom.

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Our intention of resolving the Middle East crisis crashed and burned with Russia and the United States clashing swords.

Unlike the two other Cabinet Ministers who are stepping aside to make English's Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday easier, McCully says it's up to the new boss to decide what role he can take in the transition.

So it seems he's not taking his seat from the Cabinet table, although behind the scene it looks increasingly as though the Foreign Affairs deal's been done for Jonathan Coleman's willingness to step aside from the leadership tussle.

For once McCully wasn't part of the manoeuvre, he's having his final bite on the taxpayers' credit card in the Big Apple.