As a new political year begins and MPs return to Parliament, Lucy Bennett catches up with some former politicians to see how they're faring in the post-Parliament world and ask whether they might one day return.

Former Labour leader David Cunliffe says wild horses wouldn't drag him back.

Not that there's currently a vacancy for a Labour leader at present.

Cunliffe says he's enjoying life since leaving politics.

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Now a partner in management consulting firm Stakeholder Strategies in Auckland, the 18-year veteran of New Zealand politics and former Labour minister says his only interest in Parliament now is "watching with interest".

"I'm enjoying having a life and enjoying working in a new environment."

He says he now also enjoys "working with a high-performing team who have each other's backs". Read into that what you will.

Asked if he might ever consider a return to Parliament, Cunliffe's response is swift: "Wild horses wouldn't drag me."

Cunliffe led Labour for just over a year until the general election in 2014 when Labour suffered its worst election result since 1922.

Labour polled just 25.13 per cent, forcing Cunliffe's resignation. He initially promised to recontest the leadership but stood aside after widespread criticism.

Former "Minister for Everything" Steven Joyce has now become "Consultant for Everything".

The former senior national Minister's new venture, Joyce Advisory, is undertaking some big projects in Australian government and commercially here as well.

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"It's quite fun to be looking after your own diary and all those things again. It's very pleasant actually, quite liberating.

Joyce, who entered Parliament in 2008, retired in April last year.

He misses some of the people in Parliament and some of the policy discussions, but not the commitment required.

He says he hasn't given any thought to ever returning to politics.

"I think once you've had your go, you've had your go. It was a wonderful privilege to do the things I got to do over the nine years I was there, but now it's about focusing on other parts of my life," Joyce says.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga copped a lot of flak over the Serco debacle while Corrections Minister in the former National government.

He was vehement in his belief he made the right decision to resign from Parliament in 2017.

Lotu-Iiga and his wife Jules have two children, Luka and Hope.

Now deputy chief executive Pasifika at Manukau Institute of Technology, Lotu-Iiga says the role's challenging but he's enjoying it.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, his wife, Jules, and her mother, Linda, who lives with them and children Hope and Luka.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, his wife, Jules, and her mother, Linda, who lives with them and children Hope and Luka.

"I'm enjoying asking ministers for money, the same ministers who in opposition asked me for money."

On why he left politics, he says: "Having a daughter and then a son, I think it crystallised a lot of what I was feeling about my family at the time. I KNOW I made the right decision.

"In fact, it wasn't that I made the right decision, it was Jules and I and the family that made the right decision."

Lotu-Iiga says he misses some of the people he used to work with in Parliament but not the time away from his family. "I don't miss the hours and the days away."

Likewise, Te Ururoa Flavell is in his happy place working in education.

The former Māori Party co-leader is three months into his new role as the chief executive of Wānanga O Aotearoa.

"It was a bit hard transitioning out of politics and getting a proper life [but] I really, really enjoy it, being back in the education sector and the job.

"I love it. I'm in my happy place."

Flavell spent 14 years with the Māori Party as an MP, co-leader and Cabinet minister, most recently Minister of Māori Development and Whānau Ora in the last National government.

Flavell, who along with fellow Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox, was turfed out of Parliament at the last election, says he benefited hugely from the experience and time in politics, but he wouldn't be back.

"I've done my dash. I did the years and I've moved on. I'm not about to give up my happy place to go back into that realm."

Former National backbencher Todd Barclay, once a rising star of the party, says he doesn't plan on returning any time soon.

At a time when workplace bullying and recording staff were not even a thing among MPs, Barclay was accused of both.

He resigned fairly quickly in June 2017 after Newsroom broke the story.

Barclay, who spoke to the Herald from London, says he loved his seven years working in Parliament, three of them as an MP.

Sue Moroney.
Sue Moroney.

"But I feel like I've had my turn so I'm not looking to return any time soon. There are other ways to be involved and make a contribution," he says.

Barclay now works for the Ishii family, the Japanese owners of Queenstown's Millbrook Resort.

"I'm the Europe & Middle East Representative for the family's group of design, software and IT companies, Too Group.

"I miss Parliament but not the politics. I miss being able to meet and work with a wide range of interesting and talented people across Clutha-Southland on exciting and meaningful projects, and in particular I miss working on individual constituent cases for people who need my help."

Barclay may not seek another foray into politics but one former MP who is not ruling it out is Richard Prosser.

He has probably burned his bridges with his old party New Zealand First after calling leader Winston Peters "erratic", among other things, but Prosser might have his sights set on National.

He's back working for the irrigation company he was with before he went into Parliament in 2011.

He spoke to the Herald from the road. He spends a lot of time travelling around the South Island, now as a business development manager.

Prosser was a controversial MP who was not returned to Parliament in the 2017 election after being demoted from 3rd to 15th on the NZ First list.

Prosser says that although he didn't like leaving unfinished business when his political career ended, he feels like he dodged a bullet given his former party chose to form a Government with Labour.

"I can't see it being a particularly happy arrangement to be in. If you look at the leopard not changing its spots (He's referring to Peters), they're all going to be jockeying for position and they're all going to be trying to eat each other's lunch.

"That party won't survive once he's gone. It won't survive anyway, but once he's gone it has no future because it's a one-person party."

Asked about a return to Parliament, Prosser says he's not sure there is a political home for him at the moment.

"My leanings have always been more towards blue than the other direction. I hope in some way, shape or form to assist in the restoration of team blue.

"At the moment I'm probably happier not to be there then not be there [but] I wouldn't rule it out. Like I say, never say never."

Former Labour MP Sue Moroney has found her niche after retiring from politics in 2017.

She's using her experience as a social justice advocate to head up Community Law Centres O Aotearoa.

Starting in June last year, Moroney, who is also a former journalist and unionist, heads a team of 170, as well as 1200 volunteers, at 24 centres across the country.

"It's a great continuation of my work fighting for social justice because what community law centres do is that we ensure there's a quality of access to justice for people on low incomes," she says.

She credits her 12 years in Parliament for teaching her some of the skills she now utilises.
"I bring my skills of working with people and being able to harness the amazing talent throughout our organisation, throughout Aotearoa," Moroney says.

Asked what she misses, she says: "I certainly don't miss feeling like I'm back at school because I have to respond every time a bell goes, and I don't miss the long hours."

But she feels she might have missed the bus with the Coalition Government.

"I do miss the opportunity to have been around the Cabinet table because I think I could have made a good contribution to progress and policy around there.

"But the reality is that the role I have now is a nationwide one where I can continue to ensure social justice issues without the constraints of Parliament, so it's a perfect role for me.