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Sir John Ross Marshall GBE, CH, ED, PC (5 March 1912 – 30 August 1988), generally known as Jack Marshall, was a New Zealand politician. After spending twelve years as Deputy Prime Minister, he served as the 28th Prime Minister for most of 1972.

Early life Edit

Marshall was born in Wellington. He grew up in Wellington, Whangarei, and Dunedin, attending Whangarei Boys' High School and Otago Boys' High School. He was noted for his ability at sports, particularly rugby.

After leaving high school, Marshall studied law at Victoria University. He gained an LL.B. in 1934 and an LL.M. in 1935. He also worked part-time in a law office. He also wrote a series of children's books called Dr Duffer.

In 1941, during World War II, Marshall entered the army, and received officer training. In his first few years of service, he was posted to Fiji, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, and the Solomon Islands, eventually reaching the rank of major. During this time he also spent five months in the United States at a marine staff school in Virginia. At the start of 1945, Marshall was assigned to a unit sent to reinforce New Zealand forces in the Middle East. This unit later participated in the battle of the Senio River and the liberation of Trieste.

Member of Parliament Edit

After the war, Marshall briefly established himself as a barrister, but was soon persuaded to stand as the National Party's candidate for the new Wellington seat of Mt Victoria in the 1946 election. He won the seat by 911 votes. He was, however, nearly disqualified by a technicality – Marshall was employed at the time in a legal case for the government, something which ran afoul of rules barring politicians from giving business to their own firms. However, because Marshall had taken on the case before his election (and so could not have influenced the government's decision to give him employment), it was obvious that there had been no wrongdoing. As such, the Prime Minister, Peter Fraser of the Labour Party, amended the regulations.

Marshall's political philosophy, which was well-defined at this stage, was a mixture of liberal and conservative values. He was opposed to laissez-faire capitalism, but was equally opposed to the redistribution of wealth advocated by socialists – his vision was of a property-owning society under the benign guidance of a fair and just government.

Marshall's politeness and courtesy were well known, and he was sometimes nicknamed "Gentleman Jack". He disliked the aggressive style of some politicians, preferring a calmer, less confrontational approach. These traits were sometimes perceived as weakness by his opponents. Marshall was a strong believer in common sense and pragmatism, and he disliked what he considered populism in other politicians of his day.

Cabinet Minister Edit

In the 1949 election, Marshall kept his seat. The National Party gained enough seats to form a government, and Sidney Holland became Prime Minister. Marshall was elevated to Cabinet, gaining ministerial responsibility for the State Advances Corporation. He also became a direct assistant to Holland.

After the 1951 election, Marshall became Minister of Health (although he also retained responsibility for State Advances until 1953). In the 1954 election, his Mt Victoria seat was abolished, and he successfully stood for another Wellington electorate, Karori. After the election, he lost the Health portfolio, instead becoming Minister of Justice and Attorney General. In these roles, he supported the retention of the death penalty for murder – New Zealand's last execution was carried out in 1957, during Marshall's time in office. He also supported the creation of a separate Court of Appeal.

When Sidney Holland became ill, Marshall was part of the group that persuaded him to step down. Keith Holyoake became Prime Minister. Marshall contested the deputy leadership, managing to defeat Jack Watts for this post.

Deputy Prime Minister Edit

Shortly after the leadership change, National lost the 1957 election to Labour's Walter Nash. Marshall, therefore, became deputy leader of the Opposition. The Nash government did not last long, however – its drastic measures to counter an economic crisis proved unpopular. Marshall was later to admit that the crisis had been prompted by a failure to act by the National government, although other members of the National Party dispute this assertion. Labour lost the 1960 election, and National returned to power.

Marshall once again became Deputy Prime Minister. He also took up several other positions, including ministerial responsibility for Justice, Industries and Commerce, and Overseas Trade, Immigration, and Customs. One of his major achievements was the signing of trade arrangements with Australia and the United Kingdom. Marshall also supported the abolition of compulsory union membership, which had been a National Party election policy – when the government eventually decided not to push forward with the change, Marshall's relations with some of his colleagues were strained.

Marshall was a leading proponent for the retention of capital punishment for murder. However, Labour under Sir Arnold Nordmeyer was opposed, and in 1961 ten National MPs including Robert Muldoon and Ralph Hanan crossed the floor and voted with Labour to abolish it.

Marshall became increasingly overworked as time went on, with Holyoake giving him more and more cabinet responsibilities. Marshall was also put under considerable pressure by ongoing labour disputes, which he took a significant role in resolving. Marshall's relationship with Robert Muldoon, the Minister of Finance, grew very tense, with Marshall resenting Muldoon's open interference in the labour negotiations. Marshall was also responsible for establishing the Accident Compensation Corporation, something which he regarded as one of his greatest achievements.

Prime Minister Edit

On 7 February 1972, Holyoake stepped down as leader of the National Party and as Prime Minister. Marshall contested the leadership against Robert Muldoon, and won. Muldoon became Deputy Prime Minister. Marshall was keen to reorganize the government, believing that it had become stagnated and inflexible. The public, however, were tired of the long-serving National government, considered the reforms insufficient. In the 1972 election, Norman Kirk's Labour Party was triumphant. Marshall became leader of the Opposition.

Later life Edit

On 4 July 1974, Marshall was informed that a leadership challenge was imminent. Aware that much of his support had drained away, Marshall resigned, and Muldoon became leader. Marshall's decline was primarily the result of his inability to damage the highly popular Norman Kirk – Marshall's quiet style did not fit well with the aggressive tactics that National needed.

Marshall retired at the 1975 elections, having received a knighthood (GBE) the previous year. He remained active in the National Party organization, however, and was highly respected for his many years of service. Marshall became increasingly critical of Muldoon, accusing him of being overly aggressive and controlling. Marshall also opposed Muldoon's highly controversial decision to allow a visit by a rugby union team from apartheid South Africa.

Marshall wrote and published several children’s books, his memoirs and a law book, and later became highly active in various charities and cultural organizations, including the New Zealand Chess Association (now Federation). Many of these were related to his strong Christian faith. Marshall died in England on 30 August 1988, en route to a conference of the United Bible Societies.

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