Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Leaders' first trip to ballot box

Young people are being urged to get out and vote. We asked leading politicians who got their first tick at the polling booth

Internet Party leader Laila Harre says she was 'born left'. Photo / Chris Gorman
Internet Party leader Laila Harre says she was 'born left'. Photo / Chris Gorman

A spat between MPs in a TVNZ green room propelled weatherman Brendan Horan into the voting booth for the first time at the age of 44.

Horan, now an independent MP, knows about being in the political wilderness.

He's run solo since New Zealand First expelled him in 2012 amid allegations he took money from his late mother's bank accounts, a claim he denies.

Watching the half dozen MPs argue over the correct pronunciation of Waimakariri in the television station's waiting room was his "OMG moment", Horan said. "I thought 'I have to vote'."

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig wasn't even the legal voting age when he ticked his first ballot paper.

His father took the then 13-year-old into the polling booth in 1981, but restricted his son's decision to three candidates, Craig said of the caper.

"I don't want my father arrested because of this story," he said, laughing.

Several party leaders were — unsurprisingly — heavily involved in the campaigns of those they gave their first vote.

Internet Party leader Laila Harre backed Labour Party Eden electorate candidate Richard Northey in 1984. "I was born left."

Act Party leader Jamie Whyte also sweated his way to the polling booth in 1984 — knocking on doors and handing out flyers for New Zealand Party Pakuranga candidate Josephine Grierson.


From left: Te Ururoa Flavell, John Key, Colin Craig and Russel Norman have not changed their politics since their first vote.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell and United Future leader Peter Dunne rewarded Labour candidates with their first votes, although the youth vote was not encouraged.

"The parties did have youth wings but they were tolerated rather than involved," Dunne said.

Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader David Cunliffe both voted in favour of the parties they would eventually lead, Cunliffe's first vote in 1984 prompted by a desire to "get rid of Rob Muldoon".

Brisbane-born Green Party co-leader Russel Norman's first trip to the ballot box — ticking Labor in the 1986 Queensland election — was fuelled by a desire to oust controversial premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

Winston Peters wouldn't say who he picked when aged 21 in 1966.

- Herald on Sunday

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