Derek Cheng talks to Jamie Strange of the Labour Party in the first of our new series Backbenchers.

What has surprised you about being in Parliament?

I think the biggest thing is just getting used to the systems. Looking after yourself, eating well. Just getting all those systems in place. [Strange later emailed to say the height of the ceilings in Parliament surprised him and he wondered how they were cleaned.]

Were you warned about the Bellamy's Bulge? (the tendency for some new MPs to put on weight at Parliament's in house eateries)


Yes, absolutely. Although Andrew Little, he said after he'd been here about six months he couldn't fit his trousers anymore for the opposite reason. They were too loose. I sort of felt the bulge a little bit but I've put some things in place to fix it early.

What issues would you like to address in a member's bill?

Something in the area of health. So look out for that.

Name a politician you admire who is not in your own party.

I admire people who speak well in the House. I think Gerry Brownlee (National) does pretty well in the House. Bill English on his day, at times. But people who can really capture people when they're speaking in the House. It takes a lot of skill to do that.

Controversial choices there. No coalition partners, I see.

Good point. Well, Winston [Peters]. I should probably say Winston. Winston in his prime is absolutely fantastic, without doubt.

Tell us about your upbringing and family? Would anything surprise us?

My mother and father had three children in their 20s, and we thought that was it. And then in their 30s, my mum decided she wanted more kids, and she managed to bring Dad around to it, and my parents when they were 47 had two more children. So there is myself and my two siblings all in their 30s and 40s and I've got two sisters who are 12. So that's quite a big gap. My mum had the twins when she was 47, had them naturally with 18 specialists in the room there. It's something that is quite unique.

Tell us about your punk rock era?

I've probably written about 40-odd songs and I put out an album in 2007.

Jamie Strange says he may introduce
Jamie Strange says he may introduce "something in the health area" in a member's bill. Photo / File

Did it sell well?

[laughs] Friends and family. I've still got a few in the garage. It was good fun. The album was called Thanks for Faking It Sometimes so it was sort of a satirical look at the clichéd rock star and the title song Rock Star Clone really sums that up.

Your videos featured a mannequin and a dwarf. What was that about?

The mannequin was basically representing the plastic-looking girlfriend rock stars often have. The short guy was one of my friends and in the films he's my manager.

The mannequin – I forgot about her. Kate Brightstar. I bought her from a store called Brightstar and just named her Kate.

I felt a bit guilty – I sold her on Trade Me to a truck driver. He said he has to do long trips and he wanted a companion. I haven't heard from her in a while, but I'm sure she's doing fine.

Would you like to see more te reo Maori spoken in New Zealand?

Absolutely. When I was a school teacher, I tried to bring it into my lessons as much as I could. I would like to speak more.

What is your view on the euthanasia bill?

I voted against it and the reason I voted against it, number one is around the sanctity of life. But I think there's a key point round our doctors and the palliative care sector. They're in that sector because they want to make people get better. If we give power to people to say to them 'I want you to end my life' then we are basically disempowering those doctors and those working in that sector. We are saying to them we no longer want you to do the job you are there for, to heal people. Also I potentially see it as a slippery slope. Laws do tend to slide over time so I'm just a little bit concerned about that.

How will you unwind this summer and where?

Spending time with family. In this job you do have periods of time away from family so I'm really looking forward to spending time with my four young children and my wife. We'll be mainly in Hamilton. Hamilton is just such a great place for kids – the best playgrounds in New Zealand.

Tell us about a special beach or place you holidayed at as a child.

We shifted to Hamilton when I was 9 and every second Christmas we'd hop in our car at 2am, drive to Wellington, hop on the ferry, go across to Nelson and arrive at Collingwood just out of Nelson at around 4pm. We'd stay on the farm with the family and there's a river that goes through the farm and you can catch whitebait there. So I remember my dad catching sacks when I was young. You can still catch a bit. So having whitebait fritters with the family, caught from the river is a really good childhood memory.


NAME: Jamie Strange
PARTY: Labour
AGE: 41
LIST MP based in Hamilton East
OCCUPATION: Former music teacher