Jim McLay

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His Excellency The Honourable
Jim McLay
Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT - Flickr - The Official CTBTO Photostream (18).jpg
9th Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
15 March 1984 – 26 July 1984
Prime Minister Robert Muldoon
Preceded by Duncan MacIntyre
Succeeded by Geoffrey Palmer
Constituency Birkenhead
24th Leader of the Opposition
In office
29 November 1984 – 26 March 1986
Preceded by Robert Muldoon
Succeeded by Jim Bolger
Personal details
Born (1945-02-21) 21 February 1945 (age 70)
Devonport, Auckland,  New Zealand
Political party National
Spouse(s) Marcy Farden
Children Denis McLay
Alma mater University of Auckland
Profession Lawyer

James Kenneth McLay, CNZM, QSO, LHD (born 21 February 1945), generally known as Jim McLay, is a former New Zealand politician. He was Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the National Party and Leader of the Opposition for a short time.[1] McLay is currently New Zealand's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In May 2015, McLay will become New Zealand's Representative to the Palestinian Authority.[2]

Early life[edit]

McLay was born in Devonport, Auckland. He was educated at King's College, Auckland and the University of Auckland, gaining a law degree in 1967. He worked as a lawyer for some time, and also became involved in a number of law associations. In 1983 he married Marcy Farden, who was an aide to American congressman Daniel Akaka.[3]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1975–1978 38th Birkenhead National
1978–1981 39th Birkenhead National
1981–1984 40th Birkenhead National
1984–1987 41st Birkenhead National

McLay had joined the National Party in 1963, and held a number of prominent positions within the party's Auckland branch. He also served on the party's national council. In the 1975 election, he stood as the National Party's candidate for the Birkenhead electorate, and defeated the incumbent Labour MP, Norman King.

Cabinet Minister[edit]

In Parliament, McLay was known as one of the more liberal members of the National Party, and had a particular focus on reforming laws that related to women's rights. In 1978, Prime Minister Robert Muldoon appointed McLay to the posts of Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

Deputy Prime Minister[edit]

In early 1984, following the retirement of Duncan MacIntyre, McLay became deputy leader of the National Party, and thus Deputy Prime Minister.

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

When National lost the 1984 election, there was widespread desire in the party for a leadership change. This desire came mainly from the younger and less conservative wing of the party, which saw Robert Muldoon as representing an era that had already passed. Muldoon, however, refused to leave the position voluntarily, thereby forcing a direct leadership challenge. The two main candidates in the leadership race (apart from Muldoon himself) were Jim McLay and Jim Bolger. McLay, in distinct contrast to Muldoon, promoted free market economic policies and a relatively liberal social outlook. Bolger, meanwhile, was seen as a more traditionalist and pragmatic candidate, although he was not so conservative as Muldoon. McLay won the caucus vote with slightly over half the votes.[citation needed]

McLay's first major challenge was Muldoon himself. On his defeat, Muldoon refused to accept any portfolios offered him, thereby becoming a backbencher. McLay's attempts to give Muldoon an "elder statesman" role within the party were rebuffed, with Muldoon insisting on an active role. The relationship between McLay and Muldoon deteriorated further as McLay outlined a major departure from Muldoon's interventionist economic policies. Muldoon's hostility was to prove a major problem for McLay's leadership, and undermined all attempts to promote unity within the party. Later, when Muldoon made a strong public criticism of the entire party leadership, Muldoon (along with loyalist Merv Wellington) was demoted to the lowest ranking within the National caucus.[citation needed]

Muldoon, apparently realising that there was little chance of him regaining the leadership, threw his support behind Jim Bolger, who remained opposed to McLay. There was considerable media speculation that McLay would be deposed before the end of 1985. The rumoured challenge, however, failed to eventuate, and McLay remained leader. In early 1986, however, McLay made a fatal mistake – in an attempt to "rejuvenate" the party's upper ranks, he demoted George Gair and Bill Birch, both of whom were highly respected for their long service. Gair and Birch, two of National's most experienced politicians, quickly allied themselves with Jim Bolger. From this point, McLay's fall was almost guaranteed.[citation needed]


On 26 March, Gair, Birch, and party whip Don McKinnon presented McLay with a letter signed by a majority of MPs in the National Party caucus asking him to step aside. Jim Bolger received a clear majority in the resulting caucus vote, ending McLay's leadership of the National Party.[1]

McLay is the only leader of the National Party who neither became Prime Minister nor led his party to an election.

After Parliament[edit]

McLay retired from Parliament at the 1987 election. Between 1994 and 2002 he was the New Zealand representative on the International Whaling Commission. He served as chairman of the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development, an independent industry body which advances best practice in infrastructure development, investment and procurement, from 2005 to 2006 and remained as patron until 2009.[citation needed]

Permanent Representative to the United Nations[edit]

In July 2009 McLay took up the role of New Zealand's Permanent Representative to the United Nations.[1] On 16 October 2014, McLay led New Zealand to victory in the United Nations Security Council election for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council winning in the first round of voting with 145 votes out of a possible 193 beating both Spain and Turkey.[4] McLay took up New Zealand's seat on the United Nations Security Council on 1 January 2015.

Representative to the Palestinian Authority[edit]

On 20 February 2015, it was announced that McLay is to finish his role as Permanent Representative after the end of his second term. McLay is set to become New Zealand's Representative to the Palestinian Authority, as well as being a special advisor to Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully and, when required, a Prime Ministerial special envoy.[5]


McLay was honoured with the Queen's Service Order in 1987 for public services. In 2003, he was made a Commander of the Order of New Zealand for services to conservation.[6] In 2012, McLay was awarded an honorary degree, a Doctor of Humane Letters, by Juniata College.[7]


Government offices
Preceded by
Duncan MacIntyre
Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Palmer
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Wilkinson
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Palmer
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Norman King
Member of Parliament for Birkenhead
Succeeded by
Jenny Kirk
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Rosemary Banks
Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York