Herald journalists have been spending time with party leaders for election series Leaders Unplugged: eight parties in eight days. Today, Act's David Seymour takes Carolyne Meng-Yee door-knocking in Parnell.

When David Seymour knocked on my door at the last election, my response was far from welcoming.

"Why should I vote for you? What are your policies? You only want me to vote for you so ­National can get in," I said cynically.

At the time Seymour, who was wearing a Ralph Lauren shirt in Act colours, replied: "Well, clearly you aren't going to vote for me. Bye."


Fast forward four years.

It's a brisk, sunny winter's morning and I'm pounding the pavements in Parnell with the Act leader. His helpers are dressed like movie Minions in bright blue and yellow T-shirts with "Seymour" emblazoned across the front. They are armed with Act pamphlets and trying to woo voters along Balfour Rd.

Seymour's "favourite aunty", Nicola Faithfull, is also pitching in. "It's funny how we both door-knock for a living," Seymour tells me. "But you go looking for trouble and I go looking for votes."

He didn't know I was scared of dogs and I didn't know he was scared of ­babies. "I love dogs, but babies are dangerous, they are like little hand grenades," says the 34-year-old. "When you pick up a baby, it can explode and cry."

Seymour isn't fazed if he's not "liked" - especially on social media.

"I despair of people who are always having a go at me on social media. I ­respect people who disagree with me but not people who insult me for the sake of it. They're sad losers."

But, he adds, it's important to be recognised - given Act is polling under 1 per cent.
"It's hard to vote for someone if you don't know who they are. Today a lot of people recognised me, which is huge."

It's not always the case. As we walk around the corner into the next street a man in a grey car with a "Vote Greens" sticker on the window tears past.

"He's just tried to run me over," Seymour yells. "He shouldn't be driving, he should be on a f***ing train."

David Seymour takes after his mother, Vickie, says Nicola.

"He is intelligent, compassionate and driven. Vickie was incredibly special and gorgeous to look at. She had a huge personality.

"She was determined and she would never take no for an answer. She was passionate about education - she would be so proud David is the under-secretary for education."

Victoria Seymour was 50 years old when she died from liver cancer, 10 years ago. Seymour was 24. He admired his mother's tenacity and insight.

"My mum was a strong individualist - she was one of the last people in the Western world to contract polio. She was told she wouldn't be able to work, go to university, have children or drive a car - but she did all those things.

"What she showed to me was you can overcome anything if you are determined to."

Seymour's dad, Breen, who has joined us for the day, says his wife's death came too fast.

"It was very sudden from the diagnosis. It was a very full three months trying to fit her bucket list in. Sadly, we weren't able to achieve everything - but Vickie got to go on a cruise."

Nicola says her sister's death had a huge impact on Seymour.

"It must have been terrible to watch your mother die. We were all at the hospice with her. Politics is such a rough and tumble game - and mum's the one who is always sticking up for you no matter what other stuff might be going on."

Before she died, Vickie recorded a DVD message for each of her three sons' future partners.

Seymour says it has taken years to process his mother's death and he still hasn't watched it.

David Seymour enjoys a drink with his father Breen Seymour. Photo / Nick Reed
David Seymour enjoys a drink with his father Breen Seymour. Photo / Nick Reed

"I am saving that because I haven't got a partner locked in yet.

"You grow up thinking nothing bad could ever happen to me apart from failing a test at school or losing a rugby game - but as you get older bad things do happen.

"It happened to me and it sucks. The main thing is I wish she was still here but the other thing is I connect more with people who fill the gaps."

Nicola has become "a surrogate mother".

Seymour strongly supports euth­anasia, although his mother's death didn't factor in his views.

"Mum died very comfortably in ­palliative care and for a lot of people that works. But I am worried about those people for whom it doesn't. I ­believe people should have choice. I think it's barbaric in 2017 that some people are trying to impose their values on others."

Seymour was born in Palmerston North but grew up in Whangarei with his two younger brothers, Mark, 31, a ­civil engineer, and Xander, 28, a ­physiologist.

Breen Seymour was a draughtsman and his mother a chief pharmacist at Whangarei Base Hospital.

"My childhood was idyllic.

"My grandparents had a bach at ­Oakura so we went kayaking, flying kites and go-carting - I was a bit of a geek."

Seymour is the oldest son and Breen says he inherited his mother's ­"common sense and brilliance".

"He got a bill passed so people could watch the Rugby World Cup in the ­early hours of the morning and he has done a lot in education with the charter schools," says Breen.

"I get very annoyed with keyboard warriors who accuse the Act party of being rich pricks. We are not rich people. I am near ­retirement age but still have a mortgage on my apartment."

Seymour and Breen enjoy live ­music and after a day's door-knocking we head to the Kings Arms to watch an 80s cover band. Breen plays bass guitar, Seymour plays ­acoustic. Breen likes pinot gris, Jimi Hendrix, Mi-Sex and Dragon. Seymour prefers craft beers, Dire Straits, Bic ­Runga and the Red Hot Chili ­Peppers.

When Seymour turned 13, he left Whangarei for Auckland Grammar School. "School was a big part of my life. Grammar had a fantastic culture and environment - it is meritocratic.
"I don't want to bag boarding school but there is no privacy, no personal space and the food is crap."

Seymour points out that, unlike some classmates, he never sneaked out of school to smoke weed because "I thought I'd be letting my parents down".

He says, like many Kiwi boys, he dreamed of becoming an All Black.

"I didn't realise I was going to stop growing a lot sooner than everyone else," he says, laughing.

When he was in the third form he was "stoked" to play a young Sir Ed in the docudrama Hillary - a View from the Top. "I got to meet Sir Ed. He was so cool. I had just come to the big smoke - everything was bigger, newer and exciting and then I got to be on TV. It was unbelievable."

He left school with a bursary at the end of the sixth form to study engineering at Auckland University because he wanted to meet girls. "It wasn't the smartest strategy," he adds.

He worries about being boring.

He's not.

Breen and David Seymour take a break from door-knocking and share a drink this week. Photo / Nick Reed
Breen and David Seymour take a break from door-knocking and share a drink this week. Photo / Nick Reed

Over lunch at a busy Japanese ­restaurant in Newmarket the Act leader reveals he has a "thing" about bowls.

He doesn't like eggs, soup or rice ­either. Eggs taste "icky" and soup is a lot of effort for the nutrition you get. "I am not opposed to soup but it's a lot of slurping for a little amount of food. Steak - now that's serious nutrition and delicious."

Nicola says he has ­always had quirky eating habits. "As he was growing up we tried to figure it out - but it was just one of those things. He makes up his mind about things and he isn't going to change."

Seymour rents a two-storey house in Remuera with three flatmates.

The white stone house has no ­garden and feels like a student flat with ­minimal furnishings. There are no photos or paintings in the lounge, just a huge heat pump, a big TV and a wall of books.

Seymour is keen to show off his tidy bedroom - he says he made his bed for our ­benefit. His seven suits, "one for each day of the week", are hanging neatly in the open wardrobe and his shoes are stacked in rows.

He has recently ­rekindled the flame with Rachel Morton, former TV3 reporter and now senior adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Paula ­Bennett.

Last night, he says, he cooked a ­romantic dinner using one of his ­favourite Jamie Oliver recipes. "I baked salmon with cherry ­tomatoes, olives, green beans on the side with anchovies on top.

"It's quite ­expensive but it tastes amazing."

He would like to settle down and have a family of his own.

He is hoping Morton might be "the one" but they are taking things slowly. "We've broken up twice, so third time lucky," he says.

"I think Rachel has tremendous ­tenacity - the way she has got all her jobs - mostly by bloody mindedness and harassing people. She has ­enormous self-belief and drive.

"She is really funny and has the ability to make me laugh, which is really good.

"She is a good person who wants the world to be a better place and she ­understands part of that is treating ­people the way you like to be treated yourself. That might sound patronising but you'd be amazed how many people don't get that."

Perhaps it's time Seymour watched his mum's DVD.