2 May 2014

Career marked by controversy

5:20 am on 2 May 2014

National minister Maurice Williamson has resigned after contacting police over a businessman he had supported for citizenship. In a nearly 30-year political career the MP has been no stranger to controversy.

National Party MP Maurice Williamson.

National Party MP Maurice Williamson. Photo: NZ GOVERNMENT

Mr Williamson has a quick tongue and has occasionally got himself into trouble making jokes about race and religion.

He was also suspended from the National Party in the early 2000s after criticising its then leader Bill English, who described him as "impossible to deal with".

Mr English did not survive as leader and Mr Williamson was rehabilitated once Don Brash took over the leadership.

Mr Williamson, though, has not done as well politically as his contemporary and, in the 1990s at least, close friend Murray McCully.

While Mr McCully is in the Cabinet and travelling the world as Foreign Minister, Prime Minister John Key has kept Mr Williamson slightly more at arms length.

There was some doubt whether he would be made a minister when National won back power in 2008. Mr Key did give him a position but outside Cabinet, a rebuff for someone of Mr Williamson's experience.

He has been the MP for Pakuranga since 1987 and is a former Minister of Research, Science & Technology, Communications, Statistics, Information Technology, Transport, Local Government and Broadcasting.

He is also Parliament's first computer nerd and was appointed a Fellow of the New Zealand Computer Society in 1995.

While describing himself as grumpy with reporters, Mr Williamson is genuinely liked, including by Opposition MPs.

Indeed most Labour MPs wanted him to become Parliament's Speaker when Lockwood Smith went to London, rather than the current Speaker, David Carter.

In what might be a political highlight for Mr Williamson he gained worldwide fame as a gay icon after speaking in Parliament about same-sex marriage last year. That speech prompted an invitation for Mr Williamson to appear on the Ellen De Generes show in the United States. He was unable to take up the invitation.

Now it appears Mr Williamson's career will end, as most political careers do, in failure.