Lockwood Smith will give his valedictory speech this week. I’ve already blogged several times on Lockwood’s contribution to Parliament, and will cover his valedictory.
It is timely to recognise that this also sees the retirement of Beryl Bright, who has worked for Lockwood for over 25 years.
Many staff work for an MP for a couple of years only. To work for one MP for over half your working life is a huge commitment. You become essential to them, and effectively part of their family.
Those who stay with an MP for the long haul, often have their own ups and downs which coincide with the MP. If your MP is a Minister and there is a change of Government, you go from being a Senior Private Secretary managing an office of a dozen people to a sole executive secretary.
I recall in 1999 when this happened, Parliamentary Service added insult to injury by initially saying that someone who had been an SPS for nine years had to come in at the bottom of the salary scale for executive secretaries as their ministerial experience was deemed to be with a different employer! Common sense eventually prevailed.
An experienced staff member makes a huge difference to an MPs effectiveness. They don’t just run their office and diary. They act as eyes and ears and protect them whenever they can.
I think my first experience with Beryl was in 1991 when I was organising the Young Nats policy conference we wanted Lockwood as Education Minister to attend. It was at National Park in Mt Ruapehu. Beryl politely but firmly pointed out to us that what we were asking was for an extremely busy Minister to get up at 5 am, drive an hour and a half to an airport, then fly to Auckland, then fly to Taupo, then drive an hour or so to us, and then do the same in reverse. In other words he would be giving up his entire Saturday just to spend an hour with us. That was part of the job – making sure that we understood that while we were just getting him for an hour – his attendance was in fact a major undertaking for him. Lockwood was a great supporter of the Young Nats and turned up though pretty much every year without fail.
So if you are an aspiring MP, you should hope you manage to get a Beryl Bright to work for you. The difference it can make can not be under-stated.