"POLITICS is a rough, tough, hard and brutal business."
In the end, Morris Iemma told it like it is.
He was forced to resign as premier yesterday after dumping his treasurer, Michael Costa, only then to be rolled himself in his attempt to introduce new blood into his ministry.
"They didn't want to do it my way. They can get on without me," Mr Iemma said.
He said his colleagues had been loyal until yesterday, when they refused to support his choice of a new cabinet.
"They said, 'We want you to lead, but not with your team,"' Mr Iemma said. That was not good enough. Mr Iemma said he could not stay in the job without the team of his choice.
From his perspective, his biggest legacies would be his reforms to mental health and disabilities services.
"It never got me a vote or a headline," he said. But he said lives had been saved as a result of the mental health programs, and "that will do me".
His other legacies included the Government's contribution to the successful battle for compensation from James Hardie on behalf of asbestos sufferers, public housing improvements and the "holy grail" of reduced payroll tax for employers.
Mr Iemma also claimed credit for speeding up the political car-eer of his successor, Nathan Rees, who worked for him as a policy adviser when Mr Iemma was health minister and then premier.
As health minister, he mopped up after the Campbelltown and Camden hospital inquiries into unnecessary deaths, appointed new managers to oversee the hospitals and reformed the Health Care Complaints Commission.
There were no regrets about his handling of electricity privatisation, which contributed to his undoing. Full privatisation would eventually go ahead, he said, whether under a Labor or Liberal government.
That 60 out of 71 of his Labor colleagues supported his proposal had been a miracle.
Whether his achievements were correct was for others to judge but, he said, he did what he thought was right. "I don't leave with any regrets," he said.
The son of Italian migrants, Mr Iemma never planned on being premier, just as he never planned to resign until yesterday.
His motive for entering politics was bitterness at the way his parents, Giuseppe and Maria, were treated in their factory jobs. As a young man, Mr Iemma accompanied his father as an interpreter during his struggle to find work.
"That's what brought me to the ALP," he said.
Those who did not know him were surprised when the Labor Party machine installed Mr Iemma in the leadership job as a cleanskin, ahead of his closest rival, Carl Scully.
Mr Iemma was awkward before the cameras, a relative unknown when he replaced Bob Carr on August 3, 2005. The public was not even sure how to pronounce his name.
But his mentor, the right-wing Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson, whom Mr Iemma worked for before entering the NSW Parliament, was in no doubt about his future. When Mr Iemma was elevated from the junior ministry of public works, sport and recreation to the senior health portfolio after the 2003 election, Mr Richardson, a former ALP state secretary and federal minister, predicted his protege had the makings of a leader.
Mr Iemma never sought the premier's job; Mr Richardson did that for him.
But he chose to leave it as he entered - as first and foremost a husband and family man.
Unlike his predecessor, Mr Iemma did not choose the timing of his exit. He admitted yesterday was the first time he had seriously considered resigning.