47 / Michael Joseph Savage

(1872–1940)

Michael Joseph Savage, New Zealand’s first Labour Prime Minister, was born in Australia and came to this country in 1907. He joined the Labour Party when it was formed in 1916, and three years later was elected to Parliament, representing Auckland West – a seat he held for the rest of his life. He became Leader of the Labour Party in 1933, and two years later he was Prime Minister. Revered across the political spectrum, Michael Joseph Savage is perhaps best known as the architect of the New Zealand Welfare State. Known as ‘Everybody’s Uncle’ because of his kind and friendly nature (emblematically helping a family in Auckland move their furniture into their new state home), he is still considered New Zealand’s most loved Prime Minister. Savage’s avuncular image hung in the homes of the Labour faithful for decades and his popularity saw him named New Zealander of the Century by The New Zealand Herald in 1999.


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