It has been dubbed the "schnapps" election and was one of the most dramatic and important moments in modern New Zealand politics.
Today marks 35 years since Sir Robert Muldoon announced the 1984 snap election, a political gamble that ended his role as one of New Zealand's most dominant prime ministers.
Prime Minister since 1975, Muldoon, late in the evening of Thursday, June 14, 1984, announced the election because he felt uncertain about National's majority in Parliament.
National MPs Marilyn Waring and Mike Minogue had crossed the floor to vote with the opposition Labour Party for Richard Prebble's Nuclear Free New Zealand Bill.
The late-night announcement was later dubbed the "schnapps" election because Muldoon had appeared drunk in front of media.
He is said to have continued drinking well after midnight and intended to drive himself home in a Triumph 2500, but chief whip Don McKinnon intervened, instructing a tyre be let down.
Muldoon was heavily defeated by David Lange's Labour Party in the July 14 election, unleashing both a brief constitutional crisis in which Muldoon temporarily refused to relinquish control, and long-term economic changes.
The Herald approached people close to those events to hear about them in their own words:
Sir Don McKinnon, Deputy Prime Minister in the 1990s, was Muldoon's chief whip.
Richard Griffin, was a Radio New Zealand political editor and later its board chairman.
Tony Verdon, was the Herald's Press Gallery bureau chief.
Waring, now professor of public policy at Auckland University of Technology, referred us to her new book, The Political Years.
Waring writes that in early June 1984, Leader of the House David Thomson visited her parliamentary office to try to persuade her against supporting Prebble's bill, telling her of his own idealism as a young man. If the bill passed the Government would have to call an early election and she could lose her imminent entitlement to MP superannuation.
"He played his last card: 'Even if a majority of Parliament were to vote to support the legislation, the Cabinet would withhold the legislation from going to the Executive Council for the Governor-General's signature'.
"'David, I can't believe you threatened that', I said, rising. 'You had better leave before this gets any worse. How dare you suggest this? It totally undermines democracy and the essence of what the National Party stands for."
The Speaker highlighted a Speaker's Ruling that a bill affecting the rights of the Crown could not pass without the recommendation of the Crown, even with a unanimous vote in the House.
"Muldoon continued to argue that ANZUS could not survive if the Bill was passed.
"The Bill lost by one vote on introduction. Mike [Minogue, National MP] was still seething from the Speaker's ruling, and voted with me, the two Social Credit members and the Labour caucus. The two old Labour Independents voted with National."
"I could resign from Parliament. That would leave the Government without a reliable majority and Muldoon would ensure I became an election issue. I did not want more vitriol and savagery, and I was tired."
"There must, I thought, be a strategic route through all this, whereby the outcome would be an election but I could try to protect myself from being the scourge of the Prime Minister."
On June 14, Waring asked the Clerk of the House if there were rulings or provisions for withdrawal from the caucus, but not from the party or Parliament, while also assuring the Government of her vote on confidence and supply. There was none.
She wrote to Don McKinnon saying she would be absent from the caucus meeting and later a memo "advising him I would not longer attend caucus or sit on select committees.
"When Sue [Wood, National Party president] arrived at the Whip's office [some time after dinner], Rob Muldoon was waiting. Barrie Leay [party secretary] and Don McKinnon were there too."
"'Just what do you think you are up to now, you perverted little liar?' was the PM's opening line as I walked in. So much flashed through my mind: I could hear both Barrie and Sue, who looked stunned, reprimanding him for this language. So - he had taken the bait. With that opener, he would not back down. The next few hours would be vicious. Okay, I would give as good as I got. 'If you say that again outside this room I will sue the shit out of you', I replied."
With Wood alone, Waring told her, "about the threats made in the House, and to me, to circumvent democracy".
"We returned to Don's office. She said, 'I have Marilyn's word that she will not bring the Government down. I accept her word'.
"'She is a liar', Muldoon interrupted, and with another brandy and ginger poured by McKinnon, he was off again. 'She can't be trusted. She's just after headlines to please her lefty feminist friends', he said. "Always loving the headlines. She won't be quiet'.
"Shortly after 10.30pm came the sound of MPs shuffling into the government caucus room right beside my office. I went and snibbed the locks on my door."
"The press would be straight to my door, so I crawled under my desk to hide. The knocks came, but then there was a very funny moment. My friends couldn't work the snib locks. The door was tall with an old lever window into the corridor. I watched them push a table under the window.
"Brenda [Cuttress] climbed on top of it and poked her head out. 'I'm so sorry', she said. 'We are having trouble unlocking the door'. 'Where's Marilyn?' they demanded. 'We don't know', she replied, 'she went off to a meeting and hasn't come back'. I crawled out, quickly undid the locks and retreated under the desk. 'Just a minute', Brenda said. 'One of us has just managed to unlock the door'. It opened, and the gallery journalists looked in."
They explained a snap election had been called and Waring had been blamed. They left when told again her whereabouts was unknown.
Waring issued a media statement explaining she had told the party and the Government "that I would vote for the Government on all procedural motions and on all matters of substance for the 1984 parliamentary year with my position reserved on disarmament matters and the rape legislation".
"I was probably with Muldoon more than anyone else over that particular period.
"It started early in the afternoon when I told him Marilyn would not be supporting us. That got him really worried.
"The background to this is that this wasn't the first time Marilyn suggested she may not be supporting the Government.
"We had also had a signal from Mike Minogue, who was then the member for Hamilton West, that he was pretty unhappy with a few things. Muldoon never saw Minogue as a friend of the National Party, which was a bad judgement.
"He knew Marilyn was inclined to be difficult or weak - I'm trying to use words he [Muldoon] would use - on some issues. Therefore he always had in the back of his mind either one of those two could pull down the Government.
"His comments to me at the time were 'I'm not going to let anybody pull this government down. I'll be the one to decide whether we have an election'.
"Later on he said to me, 'I phoned my wife and told her that I'm not convinced we can go on the way we are going on now. We may well have an election fairly soon'.
"That was when I just knew he had decided in his own mind he wasn't going to be ruled by members of Parliament [voting against party policy]. If they were going to try and bring the Government down well he would go to the country first.
"That was during the afternoon sitting of Parliament. The machinery in his mind was already turning.
"Later in the evening he asked me to poll the various members of the caucus. How could we handle it, could we handle an election now. I went round all the caucus members and they all were aware we were heading for the edge of a cliff. The general feeling was if we have to go to an election we'll go to an election.
"Muldoon rang [National Party president Sue Wood] some time early afternoon to say 'Houston, I've got a problem, you better come to Wellington', and she did.
Herald - Did he tell her about his election thoughts then?
"I don't know. I wouldn't think so, knowing him."
Herald - How drunk was Muldoon at the announcement?
"I got to know him pretty well. He could look more inebriated than what he was. It would only sometimes take two whiskeys to make him look inebriated but there was nothing slowing down in his mind at all.
"I stayed with him for quite a long time that evening. There was no stage where he was staggering around or anything. I got him down into his car and told him sorry the car has got a flat tyre [which McKinnon had arranged]. Better send you home with a driver. That's what happened.
Herald - Was calling the snap election the right decision?
"I could see the difficulty we were in. Being chief whip all the time I knew we could lose a vote. We could lose a vote by accident. I think we did lose one by accident. We recovered from that.
"If you've got one member in particular who is not going to support you on a particular core piece of National Party policy, you were on the edge of an election all the time. I think In retrospect anyone who has been sitting in Parliament with a majority of one does understand that.
Herald - Was the Government acting anti-democratically?
"I wasn't there [in Waring's office]. Dave Thomson didn't talk to me about that. Whatever he said to Marilyn Waring is only with her and David's dead so there be it."
Gallery reporter Russell Hill had called the chief reporter in Auckland who called Verdon about the likely imminent announcement by Muldoon.
"We knew that he was going to call a snap election," Verdon recalls.
"By the time I got in there I remembered that Marilyn Waring had walked past the Gallery office before everyone else. Normally the whole caucus left around the same time. There had been a caucus meeting that morning and she had left early.
"At the time that didn't really mean much to us because people came and went all the time. But with the knowledge he was calling a snap election that was quite significant.
"So we were able to write a story that appeared on the front page saying 'MP's defiance marked by her absence' and there's a great Paul Estcourt picture of her standing outside a nuclear free zone sticker on her door which summarised the issue around which she had stood out.
"She'd said she was going to support Prebble's bill, nuclear free bill.
"That made sense, that she'd left early ... Before we had the press conference with Muldoon, I was able to talk to a couple of other backbenchers who confirmed that she was crucial to the whole thing.
"Then it must have been about 10 o'clock, or quite late, we went up to the ninth floor [of the Beehive, the prime minister's office], because someone said Muldoon's there having his press conference, and that's the famous one where he comes out of his office half cut and Dick Griffin asks him, 'One month doesn't give you much time Prime Minister', and he responds by saying something like, 'Doesn't give my opponents much time either'.
"At the time everyone knew that he was quite drunk, but looking at the stories, we didn't really comment much on that. Nowadays you wouldn't get away with it because it would be lies and people would see he was drunk.
"It was a bit of a scramble getting that front page together but you were conscious that it was history in the making because there hadn't been one [a snap election] since 1951.
"We know now it was the end of the Muldoon era, but he had been such a dominant figure for so long. He was sort of like Thatcher was in Britain.
"The more interesting times were the election campaign and the night of the election when he refused to give up the reins.
"You knew that it would be very strange if you had to report anything as dramatic as that again in your career. I certainly haven't. It's the most memorable part of my career and I was in the gallery for almost a decade.
"I think we were so stunned, we thought that he might hold on, because he had been so invincible up to that point. I think part way through the campaign it became clear he probably was going to lose. I know that sounds naive, but at the time he just seemed such a colossus that it seemed unlikely that he would make such a mistake.
"We were quite convinced it was only a matter of a day or so [before the election would be announced]. As I remember it now Marilyn Waring had come out of a confrontation with the Prime Minister, locked herself in her office, then I think she got into a wardrobe
"It was about 6 o'clock it became obvious that the caucus meeting had been a disaster. So I went home for a bit of dinner and I got a call at home saying 'I think the Prime Minister is going to Government House'.
"I went back and it was clear at about half past six that something is happening and I just got off in the, I think it was the fourth floor in the Beehive, and the president of the National Party [Sue Wood] was there on her own looking distraught and walking in circles.
"I said, 'What's happening', and she said, 'I honestly don't know. I was going back to Auckland from the caucus meeting. I got a call to come back so I've just flown in and now no-one seems to know what's going on ... the Prime Minister is not in his office'. I said, 'I think he's at Government House', and she said, 'So do I'.
"Sue was looking desperate ... She had flown back from Auckland still unbriefed and he wasn't in his office and no-one could tell her what was happening except that Marilyn Waring had apparently gone rogue and the Prime Minister, who had had a few drinks even at that stage, had gone to Government House."
"At that stage it was obvious Muldoon had lost his nerve and he couldn't put a Budget together and he was going to call for a dissolution."
"He came back from Government House, because by that time we were staking out the ninth floor and Government House and I got a call from Government House from one of the people at the dinner that had been interrupted by Muldoon's arrival, saying, 'I think you will find there's a major crisis, Muldoon's been here and he's gone to the library with the Governor-General [Sir David Beattie]."
"We got back into the ninth floor. He came up in his own lift which there is no access to from the central core and went into his office, then he was joined by Wood and co, about half a dozen of his cronies. He clearly told them, they were in shock, including Don McKinnon and that was the first time that Don knew when he came back from Government House that they were going to the country.
"He briefed them for about 20 minutes, and he opened the door to the office, and we were in the core, by that time we had agreed that it was all over, he was surrounded by a group of very shocked senior ministers and Sue Wood who was pretending she knew what was going on, as did the ministers.
"He had had quite a few drinks by then, including a massive drink he had been given at Government House to settle the nerves. He made it very clear they were going to the country [in a month]."
Griffin paraphrases his famous question of the night: "Doesn't give you much time to prepare for an election Prime Minister [and the reply, with a Muldoon accent], 'Doesn't give them much time either Mr Griffin'.
"Not only did the party not know. The party wasn't ready for that. The MPs weren't ready for it. And dare I say he wasn't. I think he was seriously incapacitated, seriously off the rails. He had lost track of any significance, he was just going to try and brazen it out.
"[Waring] was absolutely shocked and horrified at his behaviour and the fact he was trying to blame her, or the cabinet was trying to blame her for the crisis, which wasn't necessary. It wasn't necessary for a crisis to happen."
"To see the collapse of a man who had been regarded as the warhorse of politics and there has never been anybody like him before or since, it was extraordinary to see him virtually internally collapsing. His mental health was obviously way out of whack. He was a mess.
"For a man who was constantly in control of himself, generally speaking anyway, it was the weirdest night I've ever had in politics and probably the weirdest night that's ever happened in that building. Weird in the sense that there were so many people out of control. Certainly not the way to run a government."
"There's been nobody before or since that's been so dominant in cabinet and his own party. But he was also Minister of Finance so he held all the reins. But more importantly he had such a powerful presence that even those as tough as McKinnon, for instance, weren't prepared to try to talk him down or even talk sense into him."