As Mike Moore was carried from St Patrick’s Chapel at his old school, Dilworth, yesterday, seven leaders of the party he went to war with over three decades paraded out behind his coffin.

His own Labour tribe, including the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and cabinet ministers and numerous MPs old and new, was there in force, with both Green Party co-leaders and the leader and two ministers from NZ First. The Labour list was a roll call of the past four decades: Jim Sutton, Rick Barker, Ross Robertson, Trevor Mallard, Annette King back from the High Commission in Canberra, Bob Harvey, Maryan Street, George Hawkins. There was Richard Prebble from the deep Labour past and Phil Goff from the Independent present. Helen Clark was overseas. 

There were mandarins, officials, lobbyists, High Commissioners and veterans. Most of all there were mates. 

But the breadth of Moore’s political history and impact, and personal warmth and relationships, was most evident by the blue party grandees who came to pay tribute: National leaders Sir Jim McLay, Jim Bolger, Dame Jenny Shipley, Sir Bill English, Don Brash, Sir John Key, and Simon Bridges. 

Beyond them, there seemed to be almost as many National MPs as Labour: Sir Don McKinnon pushing Paul East in his wheelchair, Sir Lockwood Smith, John Luxton, Murray McCully, Simon Power, Katherine Rich, Philip Burdon, John Banks, Gerry Brownlee, Scott Simpson, Chris Bishop and Paul Goldsmith.

On a brilliant Auckland Friday afternoon, Michael Kenneth Moore (Order of New Zealand, Officer of the Australian Order) inspired a rare coming together of the political class. As Ardern said in a touching tribute, he was tribal Labour, a “true believer” all his life. But as his friend and former South Australia Premier Mike Rann noted in his eulogy, Moore was “not a captive of dogma”.

Former Prime Minister Moore, who died aged 71 on February 2 after three bouts of cancer, a heart attack and a grave and debilitating stroke, bridged the political spheres. He bridged the Tasman, too, with Rann and fellow Labor grandee Kim Beazley, who served at the same time as Moore as an Ambassador in Washington, among those who spoke.

Beazley said: “I had, as an ally in Mike, a man of genius. He was permanently realistic but also alert to the possibilities.” The pair were in the US capital at the time of negotiations for the original TPP trade deal and the Australian felt they had influence beyond their expected reach because Moore “was an advocate for free trade, from the Left”.

He said Moore’s leadership of the World Trade Organisation was vital. “He saved the WTO when it virtually collapsed as an entity, like seven wild dogs in a sack.”

Kim Beazley

Noting the forces now working against multilateralism in trade, Beazley said: “They could do with his brilliance now. When the WTO needs him most, he has been incapacitated and now he’s gone, far too young.”

Beazley, a former Labor Party leader, said of the broad show of political and diplomatic support for Moore at the funeral: “I sense in this small room an intensity of Kiwi patriotism.”

The grounds of Dilworth were packed with Crown limousines and vehicles bearing diplomatic and consular corps’ number plates. 

It was a final return to Dilworth for Moore, whose father died when he was a child and who had the chance of an Auckland private education through the trust that sponsors children from families in need. Moore had left Dilworth early but later in life reconciled with the school and was a big supporter of its own charitable works.

Unlike some of those in Labour who during the Fourth Labour Government had supported the market reforms of the ‘right’, Moore never joined another party. Never stood against that big red L.

Ardern’s eulogy was heartfelt and personal. Others told her from the lectern that Moore had been “so proud” of her 2017 election win and her leadership.

She told of a Mike Moore she first encountered as a teenager watching him speak on television on the night of the 1993 election, a knife edge result that he boldly but wrongly called for Labour, or more precisely against National and Jim Bolger (‘a long cold night for Jim Bolger’).

She recalled where she was when she listened to his election night speech: on the mezzanine floor of her family’s Lockwood home looking down at the TV. 

Ardern the adult did not know Moore but when she became Opposition leader, he “generously offered his time and advice”.

They were, in a way, similar figures – called in by Labour on the eve of an election at short notice. His attempt in 1990 could not stave off electoral disaster. Hers, with the help of Winston Peters, led to Government after nine years.

Ardern went to see Moore two days before his death. “It meant a lot to him that Labour was in government for a fourth time in his adult lifetime.”

“The last conversation he asked about my family, how I was, how our polling was – which was quite good,” she said. “As I went to leave I asked if there was anything I could do for him. He asked that I look out for the people who had always looked out for him.”

Her eulogy was healing and pitch perfect.

She singled out former Labour minister Clayton Cosgrove, a friend of Moore and his wife Yvonne as boy and man, for Labour’s support. Cosgrove was of the Labour ‘right’ in the factionalised days of old. Ardern said: “One of his studies was Clayton Cosgrove. In my mind the mark of a great person is the loyalty and love they draw from those around them.”

The Nats in the room, and the former Act people and those of other political persuasions, might have held Moore fondly, but Ardern recognised him as Labour red from birth to death.

“He believed so deeply in fairness, social justice and equality of opportunity. Mike lived and breathed Labour values all his working life.”

And no one in the chapel could have argued that.

Rann, who first met Moore through their mutual friend Phil Goff before Moore stood for and won the Eden electorate in the 1972 election, said Moore had “helped this country remove the fear of failure and replace it with a desire to win”.

“Mike must have been so pleased with what you are doing here: Phil, with transport – and the infrastructure plan announced by the Government just a day or two before he died.”

Rann told of being with Moore in Washington when Yvonne broke a needle in his arm administering medication. They had to go to hospital, Moore unshaven and dressed in a T-shirt saying: “I got Bourbon-faced in Shit St, New Orleans”. The doctors could not believe he was the Ambassador they were expecting.

Yvonne Moore with Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Pool

All the speakers paid special tribute to Yvonne Moore. Rann spoke of her “heroic, loving career” and tough few years as Moore faced a “cloud of pain”.

Ardern told Yvonne Moore that while the country had lost a former Prime Minister, she had lost a “husband, a soul mate, a warrior and a hero and someone you believed in for close to 50 years”.

Cosgrove, who met Moore at age 14 and signed up as a member of the Labour Party the same day and then went on to follow him into Parliament and the ministry, said Yvonne and Mike were “family. They are my closest friends.”

He reached across the party divide, thanking former National Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley (who also read a psalm at the funeral) for backing Moore’s bid for the top job at the WTO, and thanking the next National PM, Sir John Key, for appointing Moore Ambassador to the United States. They had recognised “the qualities of country and patriotism”.

It was that kind of farewell: To a man who told his staff during election campaigns to “take no prisoner and shoot the injured”, one with what Cosgrove described as “foibles”, but who was always speaking up for the little guy, his “ordinary Kiwi battler”.  A great political and national character.

His neighbour for two decades at Maraetai, Scott Williams, told the congregation Moore distributed swan plants to ‘”thousands” of people in the area to breed Monarch butterflies. “This summer we had not a single Monarch. But on February 2 [the day Moore died] you could turn your head to any part of the compass and you could see Monarchs dancing in the air.”

Behind Moore’s coffin during the service sat about 60 senior Dilworth boys, members of the Dilworth Foundation choir. As the great and good spoke of this boy who came to Dilworth from Northland, left school early, worked as a printer and then went on to local, national and international political success, what might those boys have been thinking? Maybe, as Moore would have liked, they were recognising opportunity, dreaming big, hoping to follow him as a “happy warrior”.

Hundreds of the school’s boys then lined the driveway, with that thundering force and sudden stillness of the mass haka, a frisson of tension and release known only to Kiwis, like Mike, as the hearse carried away our 34th Prime Minister. 

Tim Murphy is co-editor of Newsroom. He writes about politics, Auckland, and media. Twitter: @tmurphynz

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