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Norman Vazey Douglas, QSO (15 March 1910[1] – 26 August 1985) was a New Zealand trade unionist and left-wing politician. He joined the New Zealand Labour Party in 1932, but when John A. Lee was expelled from the party in 1940, Douglas followed to join the new Democratic Labour Party. He rejoined the Labour Party in 1952 and represented the Auckland Central electorate in Parliament from 1960 until his retirement in 1975, serving time on the Opposition front bench.

Norman Douglas

Norman Vazey Douglas.jpg
Douglas in 1938
Member of the New Zealand Parliament for Auckland Central
In office
12 December 1960 – 29 November 1975
Preceded byBill Anderton
Succeeded byRichard Prebble
21st President of the Labour Party
In office
Preceded byNorman Kirk
Succeeded byBill Rowling
Personal details
Born(1910-03-15)15 March 1910
Hikurangi, New Zealand
Died26 August 1985(1985-08-26) (aged 75)
Auckland, New Zealand
Political partyLabour
Democratic Labour (1940-43)
Spouse(s)Dorothy Jennie Anderton; 4 children (including Roger and Malcolm Douglas)


Early lifeEdit

Douglas was born in Hikurangi in 1910, the son of a policeman. He lost his left arm in a duck-shooting accident in 1927. Joining the Grey Lynn branch of the Labour Party in 1932, he became a close friend of Member of Parliament (MP) John A. Lee (who lost his left arm in World War I). He became president of the branch in 1935. That same year he was elected to the Auckland City Council for Labour and served three years until Labour's defeat. He became the assistant secretary of the Auckland Coach and Car Builders' Union and the Auckland Brewers', Wine and Spirit Merchants' Employees' Union in 1936, and then secretary of both unions the following year, remaining in that post for the latter union until 1963. He was secretary of the Auckland Trades Council from 1939 to 1941 and led the Labour Party's Junior Labour League.[1]

When Lee was expelled from the Labour Party in 1940, Douglas left also and helped him set up the Democratic Labour Party. He was a member of the party's national executive and edited John A. Lee's Weekly. He ran for Parliament in 1941 (1941 by-election in Waitemata)) and in the 1943 election (for Onehunga) but was defeated. He operated a bookselling business for about 15 years from 1944, first with Lee and then on his own after he and Lee fell out in 1954.[1]

Member of ParliamentEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1960–63 33rd Auckland Central Labour
1963–66 34th Auckland Central Labour
1966–69 35th Auckland Central Labour
1969–72 36th Auckland Central Labour
1972–75 37th Auckland Central Labour

Douglas rejoined the Labour Party in 1952. When his father-in-law Bill Anderton, Labour MP for Auckland Central, retired from Parliament in 1960, Douglas was elected in his place. He served as president of the Labour Party from 1966 to 1970, and sat on the Opposition front bench as spokesperson for education, social security and industrial relations from 1967 to 1972.[1]

When Labour came to power in 1972, Douglas missed selection for cabinet and took himself to the back benches in disappointment. His son, and parliamentary colleague, Roger Douglas, only 34, did win a place in the ballot for Cabinet. Norman did not hide his bitter resentment. The day of the ballot, Prime Minister Norman Kirk was so concerned by the extremity of Norman's reaction, and its effects on his son, that he called Douglas' mother to enlist her help. Kirk told his secretary Margaret Hayward, "It should have been the best day of Roger's life but instead it was the worst".[2]

He then retired from Parliament at the 1975 general election.[1][3]

Family and deathEdit

Douglas married Dorothy Jennie Anderton, a daughter of fellow politician Bill Anderton, in 1937. They had one daughter and three sons.[1] Two sons, Roger Douglas and Malcolm Douglas, also became Labour MPs, the former becoming Minister of Finance and later founder and leader of the right-wing ACT New Zealand party.[citation needed]

Douglas was appointed a Companion of the Queens Service Order for public services in the 1976 New Year Honours.[4] He died in Auckland in 1985, aged 75.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Hudson, Switzer. "Douglas, Norman Vazey 1910 - 1985". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  2. ^ Hayward 1981, p. 99.
  3. ^ Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.
  4. ^ New Zealand list: "No. 46778". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1975. p. 36.


New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Bill Anderton
Member of Parliament for Auckland Central
Succeeded by
Richard Prebble
Party political offices
Preceded by
Norman Kirk
President of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Bill Rowling