James Kenneth McLay, CNZM, QSO (born 21 February 1945), generally known as Jim McLay, is a former New Zealand politician. He was Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the National Party and Leader of the Opposition for a short time.
McLay's first major challenge was Muldoon himself. On his defeat, Muldoon refused to accept any portfolios offered him, thereby becoming a backbencher. McLay's attempts to give Muldoon an "elder statesman" role within the party were rebuffed, with Muldoon insisting on an active role. The relationship between McLay and Muldoon deteriorated further as McLay outlined a major departure from Muldoon's interventionist economic policies. Muldoon's hostility was to prove a major problem for McLay's leadership, and undermined all attempts to promote unity within the party. Later, when Muldoon made a strong public criticism of the entire party leadership, Muldoon (along with loyalist Merv Wellington) were demoted to the lowest ranking within the National caucus.
Muldoon, apparently realising that there was little chance of him regaining the leadership, threw his support behind Jim Bolger, who remained opposed to McLay. There was considerable media speculation that McLay would be deposed before the end of 1985. The rumoured challenge, however, failed to eventuate, and McLay remained leader. In early 1986, however, McLay made a fatal mistake - in an attempt to "rejuvenate" the party's upper ranks, he demoted George Gair and Bill Birch, both of whom were highly respected for their long service. Gair and Birch, two of National's most experienced politicians, quickly allied themselves with Jim Bolger. From this point, McLay's fall was almost guaranteed.
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