We are really excited to be bringing you our first guest post from a bonafide Member of Parliament. Jacinda Ardern is part of the new Labour intake from 2008, a Hand Mirror reader from way back, and an all-round fantastic person. We asked her to write about her impressions of the House as a newbie and she's responded as follows.
Pam Corkery once likened a new MPs first weeks in Parliament to starting a new boarding school. In some ways, she's right.
You're thrown into a flurry of inductions covering everything from setting up an electorate office, right through to the correct use of the microphones in the debating chamber (yes, there is indeed a right and wrong way to talk into a mic that doesn't move). And when the house is sitting in Urgency, which essentially means staying in Parliament Buildings from 9am till midnight, you suddenly find yourself having three meals a day in the same cafeteria, with the same people.
But for me, that is where the analogy ends. Unlike a newbie in the scary environment of a school, I mostly feel privileged to be here, and an enormous sense of responsibility.
I'm the youngest member of the new Parliament, a fact I am reminded of on a pretty regular basis. During the election campaign I had my fair share of (usually elderly gentlemen) telling me I was too young to be a candidate. Perhaps in an effort to be constructive, I was sometimes lucky enough get a follow up offer of marriage if I was looking for something else to occupy my time.
The election may be over, but the 'yuff' label lingers. The day I was sworn into parliament Radio Live wanted to chat about being 'young and new'. Much like the gentlemen in my electorate, the interviewer didn't mince her words, pointing out that my interest in politics from a pretty young age meant I could hardly purport to represent the majority of young people. My response to that is simple - I don't.
My age, just like my gender, does not give me the right to represent any particular group. But it does give me a sense of responsibility to ensure that young people have a voice in parliament, whether that means ensuring there are platforms for young people to have their say, or by building a greater understanding of the issues effecting young kiwis. Whatever the method, it's a continuous one. I don't believe a mandate is simply gifted to you once every three years. It must be earned, and it must be maintained.
Perhaps I was wrong on this school analogy - there may not be an exam at the end of this term, but there will certainly be a rather telling feedback session called an election.
Just as long as they don't poll the old man in the Waikato who's looking for a wife…...