Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Ninth Floor

Browsing through the recent copy of 'New Zealand Books' in Brian Easton’s review of ‘Crisis’ Alan Bollard’s account of the reserve Bank’s reaction to the global financial collapse I came across the following paragraph.

‘Another group of specialists who will use the book is the policy studies community, many of whom have little practical experience of how it really is. When teaching the subject, I used to encourage my students to read Harvey McQueen’s ‘The Ninth Floor’, which describes his life as an education adviser to David Lange.’

Unsolicited and unexpected praise. It seems ages since I wrote that book. For 18 months I was a bit player in the Beehive. Looking back it seems unbelievable. An office a few doors away from the Prime Minister. This little flesh and blood boy from Okuti.

I was flattered when Dr Lockwood Smith as Minister of Education later put out a feeler about my working for him. It would have been interesting working for a different administration. But I declined. I’d worked in the Beehive. Been there, done that. My two months working out my education contract in Phil Goff’s office had showed me the hard grind of a ministerial office without the glamour of the Prime Minister’s department.

Here’s a quote from ‘The Ninth Floor’ about my feelings when I left.

‘Two personal symptoms surfaced – a lack of adrenalin surge and information withdrawal. As for the first, although I had complained about the excitement, it was invigorating; one never knew from one moment to the next what might happen. One phone call and the adrenalin would be pumping. The place is addictive; it compares with travel. Afterwards one forgets the hassles in airports, the Italian siesta, French waiters and the grubbiness of London streets. So too the power game exercises its own siren song - one forgets the burn-out, the cruel dashing of hopes, the lack of time for real relationships, the insularity, the emotional brutality. I missed this high voltage. Talking to others who have left before and after my departure, I get, the same reaction, increasing the bad times fade and I find myself recalling the humour and the periods of elation. Second, not only had I read the major dailies, but often I had known what would be in them, and further there was all the insider information, the rumours, the Beehive buzz.'

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