I first met Paula Bennett around 20 years ago when she was Murray McCully’s Electorate Agent. I think it is fair to say that working for Murray takes a special form of endurance and talent. Murray does not tolerate fools, and the fact Paula worked for him says something.
Paula became a List MP in 2005 and in 2008 cracked Labour’s hold on West Auckland and won Waitakere off them. She is probably the best known Westie MP. What I love about Paula is she is so authentically herself.
She was one of National’s best performing Ministers, seeing through welfare reforms that saw a huge decrease in welfare dependency. Her office had some of the best staff around, and her office parties were quite legendary. Paula’s sense of humour was awesome.
When Bill English became PM, she became his Deputy PM and it is a shame she only had a year in the role. I ended up attending a couple of CEO meetings with her and she was one of the few MPs who could take questions over pretty much all of Government. She made a good team with Bill, and I think if they had carried on in 2017 they would have made a real difference with their social investment programme of early interventions.
Paula’s tenure as Deputy Leader of National has finished but I think we should consider how remarkable it is that someone who was a solo mother at age 17 should become the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand. Can’t think of a better example of National’s values in promoting equality of opportunity.