Jim Bolger entered Parliament in 1972 and served as a minister under Robert Muldoon. He became leader of the opposition in 1986 and though he lost in 1987, he won handsomely three years later when the electorate rejected Labour.
Bolger kept Labour’s anti-nuclear and environmental legislation, and demoted radical Finance Minister Ruth Richardson after the 1993 election, when only voter memories of 'Rogernomics' (Labour's neo-liberal economic policies) allowed National to scrape back in. Bolger did not favor electoral reform (he wanted a new upper house), but he kept his promise of a referendum on proportional representation. That led to the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system.
After leaving Parliament in 1998, Bolger was ambassador to the United States. Back home, he chaired Labour creations Kiwibank and the renationalized rail operator, which he had privatized in the 1990s. ‘My life is full of ironies’, he replied when someone questioned that philosophical flexibility.