Frequently outrageous, always amusing - that's Trev

Trevor de Cleene: Always larger than life itself and frequently fun to be around.
Trevor de Cleene: Always larger than life itself and frequently fun to be around.

"Me first," implored Trevor de Cleene from across the debating chamber.

The member of Parliament from Waipa had just mentioned to the Speaker that if she were the mother of certain ill-behaved MPs, she would "spank their bottoms".

It was typical of Trevor - sometimes outrageous but always amusing.

A little over 11 years ago, the now former MP for Waipa and I attended a wake held at the Greerton Pub in Tauranga for Trevor. It was how he wanted to be farewelled from his "bigger than life" sojourn. It felt appropriate.

As a local body councillor, he knew he was in trouble when he and the MP for Palmerston North at the time, Joe Walding, came close to the edge of the law themselves on a land dealing.

His nemesis, Palmerston North Mayor Brian Elwood, was going to "do him" at the next council meeting. Trevor beat him to the draw. He arranged to go deer stalking on government forestry land with P J Proby, a visiting pop singer.

He had obviously alerted the police, who arrested them for trespassing. He had a press photographer on hand to record the moment. So with the front page of The Manawatu Standard in his pocket, he called a point of order before the mayor could even adjust his robes and chain, and resigned as a councillor as a result of this minor infringement. The mayor spat tacks.

He and I met on the hustings in 1978. I had been picked by the National Party for the Manawatu seat. Trevor was selected as the Labour party candidate.

He was the opponent from hell. He painted a big van red with "Vote for the man" plastered all over it. Obviously, he was not going to be bound by Labour Party policies. They had always treated him with disdain and a little suspicion.

To be selected, he needed 1000 paid-up members for the Manawatu Labour electorate. I knew they would be lucky to have 100, which meant head office would select the candidate and it wouldn't be Trevor. On the afternoon before this selection process, he apparently handed a cheque to the party secretary for $1000 and said: "There you go. That's subs for 1000 members".

When asked for their names, he handed over a local telephone directory and said: "You pick 'em".

Linton Army Camp was in the Manawatu electorate and its voting booths always showed a healthy surplus for National. At a candidates' meeting on the campsite, Trevor told the 400 or 500 soldiers present that if they voted for him, he would make sure a crack force of 6000 was built up, which would have transport to go to any field of war in the world. They would have the best weaponry available and their pay would be doubled.

I felt the election slipping away from me and tried to save the day by asking Trevor if this was Labour Party policy.

"No, it's mine," he barked. I was greatly relieved.

I won on election day, but with a considerably reduced majority.

Three years later, Trevor replaced Joe Walding as the Palmerston North member. He and I seemed to agree on a whole raft of policy and I once asked him what he was doing in the Labour Party.

"When I dance, it's in small circles," he replied. "That's because my mum taught me how to waltz in the small front parlour of our state house. That's why I'm a socialist."

It seemed so simple!

He, as taxation minister, and I as Opposition finance spokesman, made sure that when Roger Douglas introduced GST, it was implemented through the select committee in the most efficient way possible. After all, GST had been my idea in the first place.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Rob Muldoon wouldn't have a bar of it.

In life after politics, Trevor and I both served on the Casino Control Authority for 10 years, setting up the casino industry throughout the country.

By then, he was hitting the bottle fairly hard and we always started our meetings as early as possible so that a lunchtime "bottle of pretty good red" didn't intervene. After lunch he was a damned nuisance, but before lunch frequently brilliant.

I don't think he liked me all that much, and there were times I wished I hadn't met him, but he was always larger than life and frequently fun to be around.

We, Kate and I, both drank a few sad glasses of wine at the Greerton pub!

Waikato Times