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Scoop's Meet The New MPs Project: Aaron Gilmore

Scoop's Meet The New MPs Project: Jimmy Ellingham talks to National’s Aaron Gilmore

One of parliament’s 2008 intake of new MPs admits his music taste is different to his older colleges and even names Winston Peters in his dream team of politicians. Jimmy Ellingham reports.

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Photo by Katie Foley

National’s Aaron Gilmore, 35, entered parliament last year as a list MP by just 39 votes.

“In hindsight everyone thinks it’s hilarious.”

Gilmore says he never expected to enter as early as last year – targeting 2011.

He began thinking about becoming an MP when he worked in parliament in the late 1990s and after that, got more involved in the development of National Party policy.

“As a painter in the street, you get to vote, but you don’t get the same influence or ability to change New Zealand.

“I got really grumpy with Helen Clark and the lady I ran against [Lianne Dalziel] last election. You’d try and talk to them about some of their policies being wrong and they didn’t want to listen.”

The decision to run in the Labour stronghold of East Christchurch meant Gilmore turned down the chance to run in safer National seats.

“I don’t regret making those calls.”

The young MP though is gracious when naming his “political dream team” – reaching out to both side of the house.

The seven names Gilmore picks are:

John Key would be the captain. “[He’s] the most popular prime minister we’ve had ever.”

Gerry Brownlee: “He’s a wonderful leader of the house.”

Bill English: “He’s a classic Dipton farmer. He’s very calm. He’s cautious. It’s exactly the type of person you want to have as your Minister of Finance.”

David Lange: “He’d be one of the most charismatic politicians we’ve ever had.”

Winston Peters: “I’m not sure if anyone could control that gentleman.”

Keith Holyoake: “It would be interesting to see how he worked in modern political times, as one of his big faults is he wasn’t good on TV.”

Rod Donald: “He was an environmentalist – not a socialist.”

If those seven men could work together, they would be a “pretty unbeatable team”, Gilmore says.

No place for Helen Clark though.

“I don’t think she listened enough to the public. She was very good at trading off people’s views.

“I’d rather have Winston than Helen and Winston’s a very difficult man.”

Gilmore’s picking Rod Donald in his dream team comes as no surprise for the self-confessed “blue green”.

Gilmore says New Zealand has to have some sort of emissions trading scheme as climate change is happening, so long as the country finds a balance.

While the ACT Party may be climate change deniers, there were none in the National caucus, he says.

“There’s an opposite end of the spectrum who seem to think the world is coming to an end and we have to change our entire lives. Some of the Green Party believe that. That’s not right either.”

Gilmore does not deviate from the party line on the recent “anti-smacking” referendum either.

“I wholeheartedly support the prime minister’s decision…

“The question [was] terrible. It was badly worded. Most people when you talk to them didn’t know what they were voting for.”

Because of this, Gilmore says he did not vote.

And Gilmore is reluctant to say which way he would vote in an MMP versus FPP referendum. He says he would prefer to see the all the options proposed by justice minister Simon Power first. The self confessed “MMP child” is too young to have voted in an FPP election.

“MMP has its place and can work spectacularly – as can FPP.”

MMP does have “anomalies” though, including allowing ACT to re-enter parliament under the electorate seat rule, although it only received two per cent of the vote on election night. In contrast, New Zealand First missed out when receiving 4.2 percent of the vote.

“Is that fair? I don’t know, but most people would say not really.”

“People don’t understand list MPs either.

“In my job I get called all sorts of things. MP for Burwood. MP for Parklands. MP for Marsians. All sorts of stuff. In reality it’s very confusing.”

Gilmore though has an office open in Christchurch.

“I basically do all the work of an electorate MP”. Gilmore and his office staff have churned through about 2000 issued affecting Christchurch people since the election, he says.

“I thought I would enjoy the whole analysis-speechy stuff here in Wellington – and I do, but I don’t enjoy that as much as helping some little old lady out in the community on an issue. That’s quite humbling.”

Gilmore comes from a very much working-class background. Both his parents are shop-keepers.

He says he has always voted National.

“It was a line call in 2002 I must say.”

After a solid Christchurch upbringing, Gilmore’s working life began in the Ministry of Transport before a shift to the Beehive to work with Bill Birch and Tony Ryall in the 1990s National government.

But then National lost the 1999 election and Gilmore moved into the private sector.

“I met the new minister for SOEs at the time [Mark Burton] and I didn’t like him.”

His last job before entering parliament was with US multi-national General Cable.

Gilmore says winning the Christchurch East seat is his goal for the 2011 election. Last year, he slashed the majority of Lianne Dalziel from 14,000 to 6,000.

“If we don’t win next time, we’ll win the time after.”

So far in parliament, Gilmore has spent time on the education and regulations review select committees.

Gilmore says it was difficult but rewarding to deal with teachers and unions when on the education committee, but the worst of it was dealing with Labour’s Trevor Mallard: “The nasty little man that he is.”

Spare time is a foreign concept to a new MP like Gilmore, but he is a keen outdoors, sport and family man.

Musically, Gilmore, like many of his generation, goes for the Smashing Pumpkins and Navana.

And how does that go down with his more experienced colleagues? “It’s a bit weird – because no everyone knows who they are.”

Jimmy Ellingham is a journalism student at Massey University


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