Wananga landing Wananga landing
CUP book

Palmer: The parliamentary years

20 November 2023

'Palmer: The parliamentary years' by Raymond Richards is a fascinating warts-and-all account of the political career of one of New Zealand’s brightest sons. Learn more and get a copy.


November 2010
472pp, Paperback
234 x 153 mm, 12pp B&W photos
ISBN 978-1-877257-92-6

This is a fascinating warts-and-all account of the political career of one of New Zealand’s brightest sons.

The son of a crusading newspaper editor, the young Geoffrey Palmer was a serious and purposeful child who latched onto the idea of being a lawyer when it was put to him by his well-read mother. He absorbed progressive ideas at the University of Chicago law school and planned to use legal means to effect social reform when he entered parliament in 1979.

Palmer The Parliamentary Years

In 1984 Palmer became deputy prime minister in the radical fourth Labour government, where his organisational and diplomatic skills were the perfect foil for David Lange’s disordered brilliance.

Through hard work and high intelligence, he compiled a record of reform unmatched in this country’s history, concerning parliamentary procedures, the voting system, the environment, longstanding Maori grievances, the Bill of Rights, economic reform and many other matters, big and small. He also shaped the legislative programme of the most reforming government in New Zealand’s history.

After five turbulent years Lange resigned, and Palmer became New Zealand’s 33rd prime minister. His government made major and controversial decisions, but Palmer stepped down after only 13 months, following a challenge from within the party.

Written for a wide audience, Palmer: The parliamentary years is the product of research involving more than 200 linear metres of archives, as well as interviews with Palmer, his family and associates, some now deceased.

‘… an indispensable account of "the lawmaker" who was arguably New Zealand’s best ever deputy prime minister.’ Listener

‘… an important text for those interested in New Zealand politics.’ Dominion Post

Raymond Richards was born in Hamilton, New Zealand. He gained a BA (Hons) from the University of Waikato before heading to the US to study for an MA in Historical Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He completed his PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1989. In 1994 Penn State Press published his book Closing the Door to Destitution: The shaping of the Social Security Acts of the United States and New Zealand, which was nominated for five awards. Dr Richards is now a senior lecturer in History at the University of Waikato.

Privacy Preferences

By clicking "Accept All Cookies", you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.