Brian Talboys

From Academic Kids

The Right Honourable Sir Brian Talboys was a New Zealand politician. He served as Deputy Prime Minister for the first two terms of Robert Muldoon's premiership. If the abortive "Colonels' Coup" against Muldoon had been successful, Talboys would have become Prime Minister himself.


Early life

Talboys was born in Wanganui on 7 June 1921. He attended primary school in Wanganui, but then travelled to Canada to study at the University of Manitoba. He later returned to New Zealand and studied at Victoria University of Wellington, gaining a BA. For the next few years, he worked for a stock and station agents' company, and then gained a position as assistant editor of a farming newspaper. In World War II, Talboys served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force. After the war, Talboys settled in Southland as a farmer.

Early political career

In the 1957 election, Talboys contested the parliamentary seat of Wallace as the National Party candidate. He was successful, defeating a Labour Party challenger to succeed incumbent National MP Thomas MacDonald. He held the seat of Wallace for his entire parliamentary career, usually gaining an outright majority. In 1962, Talboys was elevated to Cabinet, becoming Minister of Agriculture. Two years later, he gained the additional role of Minister of Science. In 1969, he dropped the agriculture portfolio, and became Minister of Education instead. He was also briefly Minister of Trade and Industry in 1972, but National's loss of the 1972 elections ended all his ministerial roles and put him into Opposition. In 1974, Talboys was elected deputy leader of the National Party, and so when National won the 1975 elections, Talboys became Deputy Prime Minister. He also became Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Overseas Trade, and Minister of National Development.

Colonels' Coup

In 1980, unhappiness was growing in the National Party about the leadership style of Robert Muldoon, who was seen as increasingly confrontational and dictatorial. This dissatisfaction culminated in the so-called "Colonels' Coup", an attempt by certain members of the party to depose Muldoon and install Talboys as leader instead. The dissidents were led by the three most prominent of Muldoon's younger ministers: Jim McLay, Jim Bolger, and Derek Quigley. A number of people were considered as possible replacements, including George Gair and the three "colonels" themselves, but it was eventually decided that Talboys was the only credible challenger - each of the others was deemed to be unacceptable to at least one faction of the party. Talboys had been performing well as Acting Prime Minister during Muldoon's absence overseas, and was seen (unlike Muldoon) to be likable and diplomatic.

The largest problem for the plotters was the reluctance of Talboys himself. Talboys, while not particularly supportive of Muldoon's leadership style, refused to actively campaign against his party's leader, and would only make a move if it could be shown beforehand that a majority of the party supported it. While Talboys was willing to accept a leadership change if his colleagues deemed it necessary, he was not willing to actually seek Muldoon's removal himself. Despite Talboys' reluctance, his backers managed to gain a slim majority in caucus in favour of a leadership change. When Muldoon returned to New Zealand, however, he quickly launched a counter-attack, and managed to tip the balance of caucus opinion back towards himself. When the possibility for a leadership vote arrived, Talboys refused to challenge, believing that an open dispute would do huge damage to the party as a whole. No vote was taken, and Talboys remained deputy leader.

Later life

Talboys retired from Parliament at the 1981 election, a year after the abortive leadership challenge. He went on to hold a number of positions in the business world, and served as the first chairman of the Pacific Democratic Union.


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