Former Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has candidly discussed how his sexuality influenced his previous bids for the Labour Party leadership, recognising that his sexual orientation was an inhibiting factor in obtaining Party leadership.

In 2013 and again in 2014, Robertson competed for the leadership position but was unsuccessful. Reflecting on these attempts, he admitted to Q&A host Jack Tame that his identity as a gay man was considered problematic by some within the party, affecting his campaigns.

“The issue was certainly more pronounced during my first run,” he remarked, pondering on his 2013 attempt. “Though I’m uncertain if the outcome would have been different without this consideration.”


By his second attempt in 2014, perceptions had shifted slightly, though the issue hadn’t completely vanished. David Cunliffe and Andrew Little were selected as party leaders in 2013 and 2014, respectively – both lost their elections.

Choosing not to vie for the leadership a third time in 2017, Robertson took on the role of Deputy Prime Minister under Jacinda Ardern’s leadership, a role he found greatly rewarding. He mulled over running again following Ardern’s resignation in 2023 but decided against it, citing a deep understanding of the position’s demands and a desire to remain faithful to his capabilities.

As New Zealand’s most prominent openly gay politician, Robertson noted significant progress in the nation’s acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community over the last decade. Nonetheless, he voiced that more efforts are needed for true equality and freedom for everyone to live authentically and be valued for who they are in society.

In his farewell address to Parliament, the retiring MP and ex-Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, delivered a passionate speech filled with humour, touching personal stories, and occasional tears.

Since entering Parliament in 2008, Robertson endured “nine lengthy years” in opposition before ascending to manage the nation’s treasury. His political journey, marked by Labour’s departure from power last year, prompted his February retirement announcement.

Robertson reminisced about his days as a zealous student activist, humorously recounting an episode where then-Education Minister Dr. Lockwood Smith resorted to escaping through a window at Canterbury University to avoid confrontation with him and Megan Woods, who would also serve as a future Labour MP. This anecdote prefaced his later interaction with Smith, who, as Speaker of the House, humorously botched the name of Robertson’s colleague, Carmel Sepuloni, in Parliament.

Reflecting on his political career, Robertson acknowledged the influence of Heather Simpson, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Helen Clark, praising her as a formidable political strategist. He extended heartfelt gratitude towards several key women in his life, including Marian Hobbs, his predecessor in the Wellington Central seat, lauding her as his “political conscience” and commending her principled and empathetic nature.

Robertson will soon take up his new role as the Vice-Chancellor of Otago University, beginning 1 July.