Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:
Should recently selected party insider Chris McKenzie retain co-leader Tariana Turia’s Te Tai Hauauru seat for the Maori Party next year, he will become the latest in an increasingly long line of those who have made the leap from political employee to MP.
Phil Goff, former employer of a handful of present MPs, says a stint working in Parliament is the perfect training ground for those with ambitions of changing society for the better through politics. But former Act MP Stephen Franks says the increasingly well worn path from the Beehive’s back offices to a seat in the House is symptomatic of the worrying rise of a self-interested political class.
They are both right.
Goff is correct that being a staffer in Parliament is good training for being an MP. You can come into the job knowing how Government works, how oral and written questions work, using the OIA, standing orders, parliamentary debates and the like.
But Franks is also right that there is a growing trend of a political elite – in Australia also, where a growing proportion of MPs come through the party machine, and have not done much in their lives except work in politics.
So my advice is that it is great to have some parliamentary experience if you are a prospective MP, but before you stand make sure you go out and do some other stuff. Work in the private sector. Set up a business. Become a teacher. Raise a family.
If you are a New Zealand MP, there’s a one in 10 chance you worked for your party in Parliament before getting elected. And if you are one of those 12 current MPs who has worked in Parliament before, there’s a better than one in three chance you worked for Phil Goff.
The crop of Goff office graduates in Parliament comprises Labour’s David Shearer, Kris Faafoi, Jacinda Ardern, Moana Mackey and National list MP Paul Goldsmith. “Five disciples and a renegade”, jokes Mr Goff. “Maybe they thought if this guy can do it, anybody can do it.”
Goff has been there so long, I’m surprised more haven’t worked for him
But Mr Franks said the number of MPs who’ve come from the ranks of party employees parallels the emergence of a “political class”, a group of people “who’ve never done anything else with their lives”.
He is worried such people have achieved little “other than worming their way around political process and therefore will be judged on politics as if it’s a game”.
“It’s an insider class. They tend to be a bit contemptuous of outsiders, they tend to share more with their opponents who have a similar background than those they purport to represent. There’s an absence of deep conviction and there’s no external track record on which to judge them. All we know is whether they’re good at the game which is basically the game of greasing.”
As I said, it is when they have not done anything else with their lives that I worry.Tags: Parliament