On her website, Heather Roy, Act's deputy leader, says that in answer to the "often-asked question about what it is I do" she answers, "Mother, soldier, member of Parliament."

Since she became a minister outside the Cabinet she has added minister of consumer affairs and associate minister of defence and education to this list, which must make introductions lengthy affairs.

The MP bit is self-explanatory but given that "often-asked question" quote from her website, perhaps not. This seems a funny sort of admission from an MP; you'd think they assumed people knew they were MPs. But in the lobby of the hotel where we met, somebody came up and asked her if she was somebody else altogether, so perhaps she's just being honest.

She gave a speech at the Act conference this month which got her a headline in the Herald: Roy Buries Hatchet - In Hide's Back. She, with Roger Douglas, is supposed to have attempted to roll Rodney Hide. So on paper she sounds rather formidable.

Perhaps the most formidable thing about her is that somebody told me she really is a genuine "Super Mom" - she has five children, which seems a lot to me. I think she thought that asking whether five was a lot was an odd question. "I like children!" And, fair enough, five just seems normal to her. As well it might: she's the oldest of six. She's probably bossy then, I said.

She says her siblings would certainly say she was. I asked how often she saw her kids, which she seemed to take as an implied criticism (it wasn't) and she said, well, she'd been there when they were little which is what really counts. Her youngest is 14. I wondered whether she took that Super Mom as a compliment. She does. "I think that's very flattering," but says that nobody is really a Super Mom. I think she might be.

She wasn't supposed to be the politician in the family. She met her husband, Duncan, when he was campaigning for Bob Jones' New Zealand Party. This could have been a bit racy. Did he turn up on her doorstep and did she think: "He's a bit of all right", and invite him in? "Ha, ha, it wasn't quite like that!" Anyway, then Duncan got involved with Act and became a local co-ordinator but, "now, he's a great man but organisation is not his strong suit. So I ended up organising meetings".

You might guess that organisation is her strong suit. "Yeah, organisation is my thing. Well, I've got five children ..."

I thought she must have been head prefect at school but she wasn't, or not at first. She was deputy head girl at high school, in Palmerston in Otago, but did become head girl. Did she roll the previous one? "No! I didn't. She left school. That's very mean, Michele."

Oh well. She's got a very thick skin. I know this because she told me, and my head-girl gag is nowhere near as mean as Jane Clifton was in the Listener this week. The minister said she hadn't read Clifton and didn't intend to. But: "you're going to read it to me". I did read the bit about her speech, and Roger Douglas' speech, being "... larded with barely coded 'Rodney is a big, fat dork!' messages". She said, "that might be what Jane Clifton thinks. That's not what I think", and that she's been giving pretty much the same speech for three years now. Which might mean that she's been saying "Rodney's a ..." for three years now. That got me a ticking off.

But the really ouch bit of Clifton's column, I'd have thought, was this: "No one has much heard of Heather and those who have ... worked with her in government have failed to detect any modestly concealed quotients of charisma or superior intellect."

She is tough; she barely flinched. "That's Jane's opinion ... I think my National Party colleagues would say I was reliable." I said you'd have to have a tough skin not to have your feelings hurt by that and she said, "it's one person's opinion ..."

I had wondered a bit about the order of priority of her list - mother, soldier, MP - but in the end I couldn't be bothered asking. I didn't want another little talk about how she went into politics because the country was buggered - as she told me off for trying to put Clifton's words in her mouth, so I'd better say that "buggered" is my word - and how she wanted to help make it a better place for her children and so on.

The soldier part of her CV is the thing people know about her because she joined the Territorials in 2006 and a 60 Minutes programme was made about her experiences and led to her being called Private Benjamin, a nickname she doesn't mind. She likes being fit and must be pretty strong because she did her Army physical again last week and ran 2.4km in 11 minutes and 44 seconds and did 18 full press-ups and 120 sit-ups. She can do 200 sit-ups, and would have, but was told to stop at 120.

She says her Territorial stint has done her tough-girl pollie image no harm. She agrees there is still an idea that women in politics have to be even tougher than the men. "Yes, I do. You struggle. If you're female and you're younger and you're blonde then you've got barriers to jump over. Those six-foot walls that I'd try and jump over in the Army, you've got to jump over in politics every day." But she "really dislikes" the word feminist and says she isn't one because it "implies people who go right out on an extreme. Just to put their stamp on the ground purely because they are female. I'm a great believer in people getting somewhere because they deserve to". Which is what I'd have thought feminism was about, but perhaps not to Super Moms.

Perhaps Mother comes first on her list because it's intended to soften her hatchet- plunging image, or whatever her image is. I asked whether she had enough of a profile and she said, "oh, I'm hoping this might help!"

That speech at the conference certainly caused a bit of a stir. Only in the Herald, she said. Surely Rodney had words. "He hasn't had words with me about that ... Rodney's been the subject of a lot of headlines himself. You roll with the punches."

He must be cross with her, though. "Is he cross with me?" she repeated, then without answering the question, talked about moving forward, so we can but speculate. She said, "there's been a lot of speculation and, actually, misleadingly so, in the media about what happened last year and it's been a huge distraction".

The distraction is the rolling, or the not rolling, of Rodney. Is she capable of it? She is tiny, 162cm (5ft 4in), and wispy, which doesn't, of course, mean she might not also be formidable.

She has a tinkly, not quite certain, little laugh. She wasn't very amused when I got fed up with playing that politician's game of not quite answering questions, and attempted to jolly her into an answer.

I'd asked whether, at any stage in the future, she and Roger would try to roll Rodney . She said that Rodney could get run over by a bus tomorrow. Yes, and if he did, people would speculate that she and Roger had been driving the bus. "Well, they might. But they'd be wrong."

She didn't much like being asked if her style could be described as earnest (who would?) but people do say it about her, which came as news to her. She has a terrible habit, although it is certainly not unique to her, plenty of politicians do it, of repeating questions back, word for word, before having a go at answering by rephrasing them to suit. So: "Earnest? Ooh, what would I like to be considered to be? Somebody once described me as having a hard head and a kind heart. No, I don't know that earnest really describes me and I don't think many of my friends would say that. I think ... measured ... One of the things Rodney often says to me is, 'at least I know when you tackle an issue, I know you're well researched. You come in well-armed and ready to go'."

I thought she might be joking, but no, so perhaps she was being measured instead. But you'd think the last thing Rodney would want would be Private Roy being well-armed and ready to go. But never mind because, despite unfading speculation about this, she says she and Roger didn't attempt to roll Rodney, and that the PM certainly didn't step in to save Hide's hide last year and that the PM "categorically" didn't tell her that if Rodney went, she would lose her ministerial job.

I am apparently the only person to have ever asked her these questions, but it doesn't matter because nobody believes she and Roger didn't attempt a coup. "Well, they might not, but that's the fact."

I handed her a patsy question: Who does she most admire in New Zealand politics? If she was burying hatchets, you'd think she'd have chosen Rodney. She spoke at length about an inspirational and altruistic character, who "rescued this country", who she admires "hugely". So she chose Roger.

She said she hoped I wasn't going to agree with Jane Clifton that she had no personality. This was a peculiar thing to ask. Perhaps she's not as thick-skinned as she likes to think. Besides, I was busy pondering a more interesting question: Whether choosing Roger over Rodney as her most admired politician, in the face of that "misguided speculation", is proof of "... superior intellect", or the opposite. Time, or the polls, will tell.

All I know is that if I was Rodney I'd be keeping a careful eye out for buses.