He was once deputy leader of the National Party in the Parliament of New Zealand, and was considered by many to be a possible contender for the leadership itself.
In Parliament, Gair came to be regarded as a competent and diligent administrator.
He briefly became Minister of Customs in 1972 at the end of the Second National government, but this was interrupted when National lost the 1972 election to the Labour Party under Norman Kirk.
When National was returned to power in the 1975 election, Gair was returned to cabinet in the Third National government. Between that time and National’s defeat in the 1984 election, Gair held a number of challenging portfolios, including serving as Minister of Health and Minister of Social Welfare.
Gair’s support of abortion earned him the hostility of many National Party colleagues, including that of the party’s leader, Rob Muldoon.
Muldoon was already somewhat distrustful of Gair, as Gair had occasionally been spoken of as an alternative party leader.
The political styles of Muldoon and Gair were radically different – Muldoon had a reputation as being tough and confrontational, while Gair was seen as polite and diplomatic. Some members of the party who disliked Muldoon’s “dictatorial” style saw Gair as a possible alternative.
In 1980, when a number of party dissidents began to plot against Muldoon’s leadership, Gair was on the list of potential replacements. However, Gair was regarded as too liberal to gain majority support within the party.
The dissidents eventually decided to encourage Brian Talboys, the party’s deputy leader, to make a leadership bid (now called the “Colonels’ Coup”).
Gair was not involved in planning this bid, but was supportive of it, and worked hard to convince Talboys that a challenge was a good idea. In the end, however, Talboys bailed out, and the coup collapsed without a vote ever being taken.
Gair continued to advocate a challenge, but Talboys was adamant that preserving party unity was more important than curbing Muldoon’s damaging leadership style.
The Homosexual Law ReformBill, a private bill by Labour’s Fran Wilde to lift restrictions onhomosexuality, was being hotly debated.
Gair was somewhat ambivalent towards the bill, believing that while change was “long overdue”, certain aspects of the bill went too far.
On 2 July 1986, Gair’s vote blocked a motion of closure on the bill, which would have brought it to a vote – because of bad weather, a number of the bill’s supporters were unable to be in Parliament that day, and since a few votes could potentially decide the fate of the bill, Gair believed it unfair to let the vote go ahead.
Had he voted for closure, the bill would probably have been defeated, and many of the bill’s opponents therefore blamed Gair for its subsequent success.
In 2010, aged 83, he graduated from Auckland University of Technology (AUT) with a masters of philosophy. Prime Minister John Key said he was saddened to hear of Gair’s passing.