John Marshall


John Marshall
John Marshall

‘Gentleman Jack’ Marshall, for long – too long, he felt towards the end – Keith Holyoake’s deputy, spent mere months as PM, but served Cabinet well for two decades.

Marshall was a Wellington lawyer. After war service, he entered Parliament in 1946. From 1949 until 1972, with the exception of a short stint in opposition between 1957 and 1960, he was in every National Cabinet. For 12 of those years he was deputy PM. The range of portfolios he held was probably exceeded only by that other barnacle of Cabinet, Sir Joseph Ward: health, justice, customs, industries and commerce, overseas trade, immigration and labour.

At times Holyoake overloaded his hardworking and reliable deputy, who spearheaded negotiations over the trade consequences of Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community. Marshall also established the Accident Compensation Corporation.     

Marshall remained leader after Labour’s 1972 victory but was no match for Prime Minister Norman Kirk in the polls. In mid-1974 he fell in a coup led by his deputy, and former Cabinet rival, Rob Muldoon, a man he had commanded during the war. He left Parliament the following year.

In retirement, Sir John (knighted in 1974) wrote his memoirs and a children’s book. He was also was active in religious and charitable work and was a founder of the New Zealand Portrait Gallery.

By Gavin McLean

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