Pam Corkery once likened a new MPs first weeks in Parliament to starting a new boarding school. In some ways, she’s right.
You’re thrown into a flurry of inductions covering everything from setting up an electorate office, right through to the correct use of the microphones in the debating chamber (yes, there is indeed a right and wrong way to talk into a mic that doesn’t move). And when the house is sitting in Urgency, which essentially means staying in Parliament Buildings from 9am till midnight, you suddenly find yourself having three meals a day in the same cafeteria, with the same people.
And the cafetaria food isn’t that great, to say the least. I’ve always wanted Parliament to go with a free market and scrap Bellamys and put a food court in. A Subway shop would do very well I suspect!
I’m the youngest member of the new Parliament, a fact I am reminded of on a pretty regular basis. During the election campaign I had my fair share of (usually elderly gentlemen) telling me I was too young to be a candidate. Perhaps in an effort to be constructive, I was sometimes lucky enough get a follow up offer of marriage if I was looking for something else to occupy my time.
Jacinda doesn’t quantify how many offers she received, or more importantly how many she accepted
The election may be over, but the ‘yuff’ label lingers. The day I was sworn into parliament Radio Live wanted to chat about being ‘young and new’. Much like the gentlemen in my electorate, the interviewer didn’t mince her words, pointing out that my interest in politics from a pretty young age meant I could hardly purport to represent the majority of young people. My response to that is simple – I don’t.
My age, just like my gender, does not give me the right to represent any particular group. But it does give me a sense of responsibility to ensure that young people have a voice in parliament, whether that means ensuring there are platforms for young people to have their say, or by building a greater understanding of the issues effecting young kiwis. Whatever the method, it’s a continuous one. I don’t believe a mandate is simply gifted to you once every three years. It must be earned, and it must be maintained.
I think the Internet through e-voting, e-consultations etc is one mechanism where MPs can engage younger voters mreo effectively.