20 Oct 2020

Tears, goodbyes and silver trays for departing National MPs

From Checkpoint, 6:07 pm on 20 October 2020

It was haere rā to a massive chunk of National's caucus on Monday, after the blue bloodbath at the weekend.

The party met for its post-election mop up, and to say goodbyes.

As they leave the bear pit that is Parliament, National's MPs get the party's equivalent of a medal for participating - a silver tray for their service.

Today the queue of recipients was long.

Checkpoint caught up with three MPs who are packing up their offices and shipping out.

Lawrence Yule is leaving after losing the Tukituki seat. He was a first-time MP in 2017, but has spent two decades in politics, local and national.

"The leaking culture has been extremely damaging, and unless it stops, it's going to be pretty hard for the party to move on. That's my number one concern," he said, in reflecting on the party's loss.

"Losing a seat was a difficult thing, I loved being the MP for Tukituki. I was beaten on the night and that's how it is, so you sort of grieve for a couple of days about what might have been, but it's done and I'm very, very comfortable and happy today to move on and leave this place knowing that I'm pretty satisfied with what I did while I was here."

He said he had no idea who National's leaker is, or if they were still in caucus.

"This was a time for people that were leaving to reflect and be presented with a tray for the service, so there was no telling offs, no," Yule said.

Upon leaving, National MPs are given a silver tray. Yule could not describe it as he had not yet opened it.

"I'm gone. Basically that's how it works. It is brutal but they have to make way for new people and new government.

"It may be sort of an obvious thing to say but I haven't written a CV for about 20 years, because my employment contract has been coming up every three years and people have made the judgement.

"This time I didn't win the race so now I actually have to put pen to paper and update my CV."

And what will he do with his free time in the Hawke's Bay?

"Do some DIY, see my grandchildren, whether I get into picking fruit, I don't know, I haven't thought about that yet."

Dan Bidois, another outgoing National MP, did not get to see a full term in Parliament. He won the 2018 Northcote by-election, winning Jonathan Coleman's old seat.

But he is still keen to be a part of the party's future.

"To position ourselves for 2023, we've got to make sure we've got a high-performing culture. That means no leaking and I think team discipline. The second area is really around making sure we do select the best and brightest candidates that represent our values to stand for National. Thirdly, I think that our ideas and our messaging reflects the concerns and aspirations of New Zealanders."

He said he was not angry about what had happened.

"I'm young, and I'm hopeful that National, if we get it right, we'll come through this, and I'm just excited about the future that I will play in that hopefully."

In the long caucus on Tuesday, Bidois said he thought leader Judith Collins was reflecting the mood of everybody in the room – disappointed and sad to be losing colleagues and talent. But there was no scolding, he said.

He's planning to use the time out of the House to work again in the private sector, and get married to his fiancée, "and then position us well for victory in 2023."

Bidois also had not yet looked at his silver tray departure gift.

One of the more veteran National MPs leaving is Alfred Ngaro, New Zealand's first MP of Cook Islands descent.

"It is sad, I mean, I've been here for nine years and journeyed with a number of people over that period of time, made some lasting friendships and felt that we've achieved a lot.

"It is a sad day. Sad for the friendships that I've developed. It's sad that you've invested nine years of your life, taken away time from your family to be here."

He's going to miss close colleagues like Mark Mitchell and Melissa Lee.

Could Ngaro return to politics? "They say never say never," he said.

"I think for me at the moment I'm looking forward to going and mowing my lawns for a start. Cleaning my garage, having a sleep, spending some time with my family.

"I did start off as an electrician and was a sole trader and I did some contracting, but also did a theological degree, pastored a church, ran a trust and also did some consulting and community development."

He said he had no regrets.

"I'm honoured, under the National Party, to have been the first Kiwi of Cook Island descent to become a Member of Parliament, and now we've got three."