In the second of a weekly election diary, National’s Hutt South MP Chris Bishop enjoys the culinary delights of the south and prepares for the party’s fiscal plan launch. Labour MP Deborah Russell will also contribute each week.

Trite but true: it’s been a funny old election campaign. Level 2 for Wellington and the Hutt has meant no door-knocking – the staple of politicians on the weekend. No big public events. Social distancing. After a rough year, people are exhausted – and there’s still just under a month to go. 

Monday 14 September

I’m off to Dunedin for our Southern Transport package announcement. Turns out, so is the Prime Minister, although I suspect more people met her at the airport than met me (zero). I pick up my rental car, and as per usual, it’s a big beast (“you’ve been upgraded sir!”), when I much prefer small, nippier wheels (and preferably electric).

It’s a stunning Dunedin day – the sort you only seem to get down south – and I drive the absurdly long distance from Dunedin airport into town for the announcement at the historic Dunedin railway station. 

It’s apparently a criminal offence to visit the south and not have a cheese roll, so after the obligatory photo-op, it’s off to the university and to a business visit before it’s back to the airport for…a six-hour hour flight home. My flight home direct to Wellington is cancelled, but fortuitously the Government has relaxed the social distancing requirements on flights earlier in the day, so we’re all put on later flights going via Christchurch. I make it home at 11pm.

Tuesday 15 September

Amongst all the campaigning, the ordinary, critical work of an MP continues – there are people out there who need help, and that need for help doesn’t stop just because there’s an election on. So I spend the bulk of the day in the office, meeting with my office team and then seeing constituents.

Politician campaigning in the south? You can’t turn down a cheese roll. Photo: Supplied.

Wednesday 16 September

Politicians and bureaucrats (more the latter than the former) speak in a language that is frequently utterly incomprehensible to ordinary people. That’s never more clearer than on “PREFU Day”, which the political class has been eagerly anticipating for weeks, probably months. It’s when “The Treas” have to open the Government’s books for all the world to see in advance of the election.

It’s brutal. Never-ending deficits, increasing unemployment, billions of dollars of debt. I’m desperately trying to get my head around this before a Meet the Candidates meeting in the evening at the Hutt Libraries, while fitting in the local Citizens’ Advice Bureau AGM and other appointments.

One of the constant battles as an MP is never having quite enough time to read – forget for pleasure – but actually properly read detailed policy and background material. You get good at skimming, and reading summaries, but I like the detail.

This is our 5th MTC event, and we’re starting to get to know each person’s little stump speech very well by now (in 2014 I could almost recite Trevor Mallard’s word-for-word by the end of the campaign). The best question of the night comes from the youngest person in the room (9), which is about how we’re going to improve the environment for future generations. 

Friday 18 September

National’s Fiscal and Economic Plan Day! (NFEP – watch, it’ll catch on). An exciting day for National, as we launch our plan to give tax relief to New Zealanders as a temporary measure to get us through the difficult months ahead, and get the economy moving again. Sadly I can’t be there for the announcement itself (another Meet the Candidates), but it seems to go down well.  As we move into the final couple of weeks of the campaign, the distinction between the parties is becoming clearer, and things will get even more intense.

Tonight I’m off to the production of “PSA: Election 2020”, a political play at Circa, in which apparently my good mate Nicola Willis and I have a role in. We’re taking our respective campaign teams with us for moral support. I suspect we’ll need it!

Chris Bishop is the National MP for Hutt South

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