Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand

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The Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand is second most senior officer in the Government of New Zealand, although this seniority does not necessarily translate into power.

Generally, the position is held by the deputy leader of the ruling party, but now that the MMP electoral system makes coalitions more likely, the role may instead go to the leader of a junior party. This occurred with Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First, and Jim Anderton, leader of the Alliance.

The post of Deputy Prime Minister was formally established in 1949, although it informally existed prior to then. Since 1949, sixteen people have held the position (one of them doing so twice). Of those people, only Holyoake, Marshall, Watt, Muldoon, Palmer, and Clark have eventually served as Prime Minister.[1]

Little scholarly attention has focused on deputy prime ministers in New Zealand or elsewhere. In 2009, an article by Steven Barnes appeared in Political Science where nine 'qualities' of deputy prime ministership were identified: temperament; relationships with their Cabinet and caucus; relationships with their party; popularity with the public; media skills; achievements as Deputy Prime Minister; relationship with the Prime Minister; leadership ambition; and method of succession. Barnes conducted a survey of journalists, academics, and former Members of Parliament to rank New Zealand's Deputy Prime Ministers since 1960. Across the nine deputy prime minister 'qualities', Don McKinnon achieved the number one ranking, followed by Brian Talboys, Michael Cullen, and John Marshall. In a second 'overall' ranking, Cullen was ranked number one, followed by Talboys, McKinnon, and Marshall. Jim Anderton, Winston Peters, and Bob Tizard were ranked lowest in both sections of the survey.[2]

List of Deputy Prime Ministers of New Zealand[edit]

Colour key
(for political parties)

 NZ First  

No. Name Portrait Term of Office Prime Minister
1 Keith Holyoake Keith Holyoake (1960).jpg 13 December 1949 20 September 1957 Sidney Holland
2 Jack Marshall Jack Marshall Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F011973-0020 cropped.jpg 20 September 1957 12 December 1957 Keith Holyoake
3 Clarence Skinner CF Skinner.tif 12 December 1957 12 December 1960 Walter Nash
(2) Jack Marshall Jack Marshall Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F011973-0020 cropped.jpg 12 December 1960 9 February 1972 Keith Holyoake
4 Robert Muldoon Muldoon 26 June 1969.jpg 9 February 1972 8 December 1972 Jack Marshall
5 Hugh Watt Hugh Watt.jpg 8 December 1972 1 September 1974 Norman Kirk
6 Bob Tizard No image.png 10 September 1974 12 December 1975 Bill Rowling
7 Brian Talboys Brian Talboys.jpg 12 December 1975 4 March 1981 Robert Muldoon
8 Duncan MacIntyre Duncan MacIntyre Greg Tate.jpg 4 March 1981 15 March 1984
9 Jim McLay Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT - Flickr - The Official CTBTO Photostream (18).jpg 15 March 1984 26 July 1984
10 Geoffrey Palmer SirGeoffreyPalmer.jpg 26 July 1984 8 August 1989 David Lange
11 Helen Clark Helen Clark UNDP 2010.jpg 8 August 1989 4 September 1990 Geoffrey Palmer
Mike Moore
11 Don McKinnon Don McKinnon (cropped).jpg 4 September 1990 16 December 1996 Jim Bolger
12 Winston Peters Winston Peters, 2011.jpg 16 December 1996 14 August 1998
13 Wyatt Creech No image.png 14 August 1998 5 December 1999 Jenny Shipley
14 Jim Anderton Jim Anderton, 2010.jpg 5 December 1999 15 August 2002 Helen Clark
15 Michael Cullen Michael Cullen.jpg 15 August 2002 19 November 2008
16 Bill English Bill English.jpg 19 November 2008 incumbent John Key
  1. ^ Note: Some lists consider Hugh Watt as a New Zealand Prime Minister. Watt served as acting Prime Minister for seven days from 31 August to 6 September 1972 following the death of Norman Kirk. He is not normally counted in the official numbering of New Zealand Prime Ministers.
  2. ^ Steven Barnes, 'What About Me? Deputy Prime Ministership in New Zealand', Political Science, Vol. 61, No. 1, 2009, pp. 33-49