My first Christ­mas since… be­com­ing an MP


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I already know what I need from Christ­mas this year, be­cause I learned so much from last year. My first Christ­mas af­ter I fell into pol­i­tics came at the end of last year, wedged be­tween an earnest, ide­al­is­tic and se­ri­ous-as-hell bid for the Auck­land may­oralty, be­fore be­com­ing a Green Party can­di­date in what be­came the cam­paign of our lives. I was 22, which was my iden­ti­fy­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic in any news story I fea­tured in, to such an ex­tent that my friends jok­ingly re­ferred to me as ‘Ch­löe Swar­brick, 22’.

That Christ­mas was a sigh of re­lief at the end of a chaotic, largely un­planned foray into un­charted ter­ri­tory. I’d dis­cov­ered that be­com­ing a politi­cian was much like be­com­ing an adult. As a kid, you feel as though adults have a clue – they know the mean­ing of life. Then you be­come an adult and re­alise no­body knows what the heck is go­ing on. Be­com­ing a politi­cian is a bit like that: you come to re­alise pretty quickly that ev­ery­body is just do­ing the best they can with the re­sources avail­able to them.

Last Christ­mas Day I spent the morn­ing at my dad’s do­ing what we usu­ally do: eat­ing crois­sants and plough­ing through cof­fee. The af­ter­noon was spent with my part­ner Alex’s ex­tended fam­ily – some­thing un­like anything I’d ever seen grow­ing up: the fam­ily-hol­i­day equiv­a­lent of an ex­citable labrador – big and un­wieldy and as warm and wel­com­ing and loving as anything. Box­ing Day was spent with Mum and my nana, re­clin­ing in the sun and pre­dict­ing an un­pre­dictable year ahead.

There was noth­ing that could have pre­pared me for 2017. About three years ago, juggling the fi­nal years of a law de­gree, run­ning two busi­nesses and work­ing part-time, I thought I’d hit peak busy­ness. But by Au­gust of this year, I was reg­u­larly wak­ing up in a dif­fer­ent city or town, at­tend­ing events I’d had no time to think about un­til I was in the midst of them.

Elec­tion day hit me like a brick wall. It’s against the rules to cam­paign on elec­tion day, so af­ter months of cam­paign­ing, which had be­come as nat­u­ral as breath­ing, I felt at a loose end. I spent Septem­ber 23 at a sausage-dog race with my good friend Tim, be­fore head­ing out to de­liver sand­wiches to Green Party scru­ti­neers, those peo­ple who wear rosettes at polling booths. That night was a bit of a blur, as the votes flowed in and a bit­ter­sweet cer­tainty rolled into the party: the Green Party had sur­vived, but the size of our cau­cus had nearly halved; we had one, po­ten­tially two, new MPs; and the chance of chang­ing the gov­ern­ment hov­ered closer than ever be­fore. Then came a flurry of in­ter­views.

I’ve not yet re­ally had time to set­tle into the new job. I feel the weight of re­spon­si­bil­ity and the un­de­ni­able priv­i­lege sit­ting in my new of­fice, typ­ing this sur­real ret­ro­spec­tive, over­look­ing a quiet and beau­ti­ful Wellington CBD at 10.51pm on a Mon­day evening.

This Christ­mas, I think I’ll eat crois­sants and plough through cof­fee. I’ll see my mum and my dad, my lit­tle brother and sis­ter. I’ll hang out with Alex, and I’ll take a mo­ment to breathe.

I feel the weight of re­spon­si­bil­ity and un­de­ni­able priv­i­lege

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