Parliament has lifted until after the election. Whatever the outcome, it will be a different looking parliament.
18 colleagues across the parliament are leaving. Fourteen of them gave their valedictory speeches in the last two weeks. All were posted on Red Alert.
Four didn’t give a valedictory speech. Rodney Hyde, Hilary Calvert and John Boscowan from Act. And Alan Peachey from National.
I think Hilary felt she hadn’t been around long enough. Boscowan is standing in a unwinnable seat in order to secure some Act party votes so couldn’t give a speech and Hyde, well who knows why he didn’t. Perhaps he thinks he’ll be back (like Arnie).
Allan Peachey didn’t give a valedictory for reasons many of us will understand. Trevor wrote a thoughtful post about him.
All the valedictory speeches were all powerful in their own way. I found myself a bit teary during many of them. Doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum you are on, hearing a colleague speak from the heart evokes an emotional response.
A few I’d like to mention. I learnt things about my colleagues Ashraf, George and Mita that I didn’t know. I loved Lynne Pillay’s line that while she was lucky to have her partner Mike, that he was lucky to have her too (true).
There was a common theme in several of the speeches of the importance of action, not just words.
Jim Anderton put it like this:
To those critics who constantly belittle and cynically demean political participation and representation in parliament, I can do no better than quote the words of former United States President, Teddy Roosevelt, who said, in a speech on ‘citizenship’:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who knows at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall not be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Pete Hodgson, my Dunedin colleague who’s experience and wisom will be greatly missed by me and others (the ODT wrote a great editorial today), put it like this in his trademark succinct style:
In all of those (14) portfolios a lot got done. I was an activist Minister. I was and am a restless person. The government was a restless government. We were criticised sometimes for having too many strategies to implement. I say better too many than too few.
And Simon Power, who despite me not agreeing with much of what he’s done, has my respect for his approach to doing it. He said:
Politicians must have a plan. A plan that is in place early, and one they are prepared to lead.
I believe that politics is 90% preparation and 10% execution. At a day-to-day level, politics, particularly at a ministerial level, can quickly deteriorate to the daily management of tasks – dealing with papers, the media, OIA requests, Question Time, Written Questions, expectations from colleagues and your Party; tasks that become all consuming, and tasks that in the end do not improve the lives of New Zealanders at all.
That’s not why we run for Parliament. We run to lead agendas, improve the lot of our countrymen, to push change, and to execute ideas. People don’t spend years getting elected, more years waiting to get into Cabinet, to then say “Well, I managed that week well, I minimised risk, had no view, took no decisions, stayed out of trouble: well done me.”
Once in office, you’ve got to do something. That is why having a plan matters. Ideas also matter. In politics, ideas matter more than the political players themselves, because those people will come and go, but ideas endure.
The ideas do endure. The people who had them are to be honoured.