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March 24, 2008 | by  | in News | [ssba]

An Interview with Darren Hughes

Emma Daken interviews the ginge from Otaki, but fails to find out if Helen did actually adopt him.

What did you want to be when you were growing up, and why?

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a Member of Parliament.


Absolutely! I wanted to represent the local area, and I wanted to be a Labour MP, so I knew all of those things ridiculously early. I never wavered from any of those things, too. So on one hand, I have always felt fortunate that I have never struggled to know what to do. But on the other hand, I can’t really explain why that was the case. For me, for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be the Labour MP for my home area.

Aside from having a successful election, what other political or personal goals have you set yourself for 2008?

The absolute top goal is to end the year as the Member for Otaki, and to end the year with Helen Clark as Prime Minister – those are my two top goals. These will take a lot of my energy and focus. But I have some other goals. I am really trying hard this year to be a lot healthier, so I have got a new gym routine. I’m sticking to it so far, trying to make that a priority. The difficult thing is finding time – so I am sort of going to the gym at 9, – 10 pm – which is probably not the best time to go, but I get to. There are some practical things I suddenly realised, I have almost lived in my house for 6 years, and I have been meaning to do things that whole time. Those would be my personal goals, but they are dwarfed by the political goals, ‘cause in the election year, the 3 year cycle is all consumed – that’s [the election] the priority.

Do your decisions in Parliament reflect your personal ethics – and where do these ethics stem from?

Yes – I think so. On the more difficult decisions, you can spend a lot of time debating things, within yourself, but I think one of the good things about MMP is that it means the 2 big parties have broken up into lots of small parties, and retaining Labour and National, it means that people can now belong to political parties that they genuinely feel a philosophical commitment to. I think that you have your own personal values, and you have to find a political party that matches up with that. When you join it, you should feel comfortable in there. It is a political market place under MMP, if your interested in Parliamentary democracy, then you should be able to find one [party] that fits you. And for me it was just clearly Labour [laughs]. And I have never ever doubted that.

What is the hardest part about being a politician?

I think the hardest part is trying to convey to voters that you are working on an issue and that things always end up being far more complex than the general public might appreciate. You meet a lot of people who give you quick fix solutions to every problem in the country – and they give it to you in the 10 minutes that they are talking to you. They genuinely believe these are good answers to the problems. When you get in here [Parliament], and you start working on things, you realise there is massive competition on for the attention of the Government, the funding, media space. In order for an issue to come to prominence, you have to do a lot of background work that takes a long time. The difficult thing is to let your constituents know about it. There is a real tension, and we live in a time when the opposition and the media love to make out that everything is easy – run a hospital? No problem, it’s simple to run a hospital. Well, it would be simple if everyone got sick in a logical and orderly fashion, but people don’t, lives don’t work like that and we have politics ‘cause peoples lives don’t function in a way like that – we need collective solutions to things like that, that you can’t leave people on their own, so I guess that’s the frustration of being an MP, is that things don’t happen quickly enough.

What is the best advice you have ever been given, and who gave it to you?

My good friend Winnie Laban, [The MP for Mana, New Zealand’s first Pacific Island woman elected to Parliament] said to me very early on when I got in here: ‘My Dear, don’t give negative people free rent space in your head’. And I think about that a lot, and that was good advice. It’s not about shielding yourself from constructive criticism, and being arrogant. But it is about putting things in perspective, and not obsessing about people who just want to attack you for the sake of it. I like that; I think it’s a great concept.


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