Spymaster Cheryl Gwyn, New Zealand’s “M”, has both the lawyer’s precision and clear thinking combined with a sense of humour that may belie her current role as head of the Security Intelligence Service.
A former socialist activisty who belonged to the very far-Left organisation that the SIS once took keen interest in, the Socialist Action League, which she joined along with equally far-Left former Green MP Keith Locke. She wrote articles for its newspaper Socialist Action, mostly about workplace disputes, between 1981 and 1984, and was the Hastings organiser for the Young Socialists, the SAL’s youth wing.
She worked at the Whakatu meat works following her graduation from Auckland University, where she campaigned for women butchers, and also worked for both Chapman Tripp and Russell McVeagh before being appointed by the Clark Government to the position of Deputy Secretary of Justice and in 2003 she became Deputy Solicitor-General in the Crown Law Office in a dramatic rise to power.
Some remain sceptical of her political leanings and the unusual position she now occupies, but few deny the power it provides, albeit more from the shadows than the parapets from which she once walked.
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