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Sir Brian Edward Talboys CH KCB AC PC (7 June 1921 – 3 June 2012) was a New Zealand politician who served as Deputy Prime Minister for the first two terms of Robert Muldoon's premiership.[1][2][3] If the abortive "Colonels' Coup" against Muldoon had been successful, Talboys would have become Prime Minister himself.

Sir Brian Talboys

Brian Talboys.jpg
7th Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
12 December 1975 – 4 March 1981
Prime MinisterRobert Muldoon
Preceded byBob Tizard
Succeeded byDuncan MacIntyre
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wallace
In office
1957 – 1981
Preceded byTom Macdonald
Succeeded byDerek Angus
Personal details
Born(1921-06-07)7 June 1921
Wanganui, New Zealand
Died3 June 2012(2012-06-03) (aged 90)
Invercargill, New Zealand
Political partyNational


Early lifeEdit

Talboys was born in Wanganui on 7 June 1921. He attended primary school in Wanganui and Wanganui Collegiate School, 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.[4]

Early political careerEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1957–1960 32nd Wallace National
1960–1963 33rd Wallace National
1963–1966 34th Wallace National
1966–1969 35th Wallace National
1969–1972 36th Wallace National
1972–1975 37th Wallace National
1975–1978 38th Wallace National
1978–1981 39th Wallace National

In the 1957 election, Talboys contested the Wallace electorate as the National Party candidate. He was successful,[2] defeating a Labour Party challenger to succeed retiring National MP Tom Macdonald. He held the Wallace electorate for his entire parliamentary career, usually gaining an outright majority.[5]

In 1961 he was one of ten National MPs to vote with the Opposition and remove capital punishment for murder from the Crimes Bill that the Second National Government had introduced. In 1962, Talboys was elevated to Cabinet, becoming Minister of Agriculture.[6] At the end of 1963, he gained the additional role of Minister of Science.[6] In 1969, he dropped the agriculture portfolio, and became Minister of Education instead.[6] For most of 1972, he was Minister of Industries and Commerce, and Minister of Overseas Trade.[7] He was also briefly Minister of Trade and Industry towards the end of 1972, but National's loss of the 1972 election ended all his ministerial roles and put him into Opposition.[7]

In 1974, Talboys was elected deputy leader of the National Party, and so when National won the 1975 election, Talboys became Deputy Prime Minister. He also became Minister of Foreign Affairs,[8] Minister of Overseas Trade, and Minister of National Development.

Colonels' CoupEdit

Talboys addressing the UN General Assembly, August 1980.

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 lifeEdit

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.

He was appointed Companion of Honour in 1981,[1] an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia on 26 January 1982 for service to Australia/New Zealand relations,[9] and Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in June 1991 for public services.[10]

He died in 2012 at the age of 90 at his rest home in Invercargill, just a few days short of his 91st birthday.[11][12] He was survived by his wife and their two children.[12] Patricia, Lady Talboys, died in 2019.[13]


  1. ^ a b "No. 48604". The London Gazette. 8 May 1981. p. 1.
  2. ^ a b James, Colin (11 September 2005). "New blood needed to hold on to power". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  3. ^ Alex Fensome. "Sir Brian Talboys | Former NZ Deputy PM Dies". Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  4. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 346.
  5. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 238.
  6. ^ a b c Wilson 1985, p. 90.
  7. ^ a b Wilson 1985, p. 91.
  8. ^ Pepperell, Susan (5 April 2009). "Brotherly love: Rob Hamill wants justice for brother killed by Khmer Rouge". Sunday Star Times. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  9. ^ "TALBOYS, Brian Edward". It's an Honour. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  10. ^ "No. 47109". The London Gazette. 14 June 1991. p. 1.
  11. ^ "Former Deputy PM Sir Brian Talboys Dies". New Zealand Herald. 4 June 2012. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  12. ^ a b "Ex-deputy PM Talboys dies". The Press. 4 June 2012. p. A2.
  13. ^ "Lady Talboys death notice". New Zealand Herald. 10 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.


  • Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. ISBN 0-474-00177-6.
  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Tom Macdonald
Member of Parliament for Wallace
Succeeded by
Derek Angus
Political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Kinsella
Minister of Education
Succeeded by
Herbert Pickering
Preceded by
Bob Tizard
Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Duncan MacIntyre