The shadowland manipulator: Sir Ernest “Booze”, John A. Lee, and the Labour Party


  • John Horrocks



For Mine is the Kingdom, published in 1975, is John A. Lee’s tell-all account of his long relationship with Sir Ernest Davis, the Auckland beer baron, philanthropist, mayor, and leading financier of the Labour Party. It is frustrating as an historical document because of Lee’s fondness for reconstructed conversations and its semi-novelistic style. As a result, it is often hard to assess the accuracy of Lee’s portrayal of the sinister but engaging “Sir Booze.” Despite these limitations, it remains the most detailed description of the links between the early Labour Party and the brewing industry. As an exercise in psychobiography it is also only partially successful, yet its description of Davis’ relentless womanising and exploitation of his female staff, as well as his financial support for Labour, is emblematic of the shadowy way Davis operated, both in the bedroom and in the interests of his business.


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