Tolley enjoys challenge

Anne Tolley MP

FIFTEEN years in the House and a love for the strategy and thrust of parliamentary life, led East Coast MP Anne Tolley to accept the role of deputy speaker.

But for one moment it looked like she might have become Speaker of the House — if only temporarily.

On the day Parliament opened, the Labour-led Government appeared uncertain of their numbers in the House.

It was briefly possible that Mrs Tolley, who had already started her training as deputy speaker the previous day, could instead have been sworn in as Speaker of the House.

“For a moment it looked like that,’’ said Mrs Tolley.

“That was the threat (from National). But I would only be the Speaker until they got the numbers.

“It was exciting for a minute.”

Mrs Tolley said National Party leader Bill English approached her a week before, asking if she was interested in the role of deputy speaker.

“I said, yes, I would be.”

Mrs Tolley has been an MP for 15 years — 1999-2002 and from 2005 onwards including nine years as a Cabinet minister — and said she loved the House.

“I enjoy the strategy of the House because there is a strategy.”

Mrs Tolley has previously been deputy leader of the House.

But in terms of learning how the House operates, Mrs Tolley said she learned more from when she was senior whip.

“At the time, National was in opposition and you learn more.

“The job is to stymie the Government.”

Mr English has said that was still the aim of the Opposition.

Mrs Tolley said the National caucus had tried “a couple of things’’, which the clerks of the House had described as unique or which they had not seen before.

“The clerks have been very good.

“After sessions where there has been an incident, the clerks and myself have gone over it.”

Mrs Tolley still caucuses with the National MPs.

“But you are not involved in the day-to-day strategy.

“When they discuss questions to be raised in the House, in fairness, I leave.

‘‘The role separates you but it’s a wonderful opportunity.

“I enjoy the cut and thrust of the House, always have.

“I’m really enjoying it. It’s a challenge. You’ve got to be quick.

“My worse fear is forgetting people’s names. I’ve never been good at remembering them.”

It was a strange sensation that expressions she had previously heard “every day” from other speakers were now being used by her.

There was a lighter moment when she had to indicate the outline of a woman’s body with her hands to economic development minister David Parker, who was continually referring to her as Mr Speaker rather than Madam Speaker.

She is the first female deputy speaker since Anne Hartley in 2005.

Mrs Tolley said there had been one controversy with Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard introducing a new prayer.

“I have had a lot of feedback.

“There is a lot of unhappiness that the Queen has been taken out of it.”

The absence of any reference to Jesus — to acknowledge other faiths — was less contentious.

There had also been complaints about the prayer being in Maori only and about the process not being inclusive.

The National caucus had determined an official position on the matter, but it had not yet been made public.

Mrs Tolley describes her role as keeping order and giving everyone a chance.

The left wing Standard has praised both Mr Mallard and Mrs Tolley for setting a tone that “transcends partisanship”.

“Trevor and I have a bit of history,’’ said Mrs Tolley.

“He was my opposition when I was Education Minister. He put me through my paces. And I was senior whip when Trevor and Tau Henare had their fisticuffs, and I literally pulled them apart.

“You build a relationship. I’m delighted he has confidence in me.”

FIFTEEN years in the House and a love for the strategy and thrust of parliamentary life, led East Coast MP Anne Tolley to accept the role of deputy speaker.

But for one moment it looked like she might have become Speaker of the House — if only temporarily.

On the day Parliament opened, the Labour-led Government appeared uncertain of their numbers in the House.

It was briefly possible that Mrs Tolley, who had already started her training as deputy speaker the previous day, could instead have been sworn in as Speaker of the House.

“For a moment it looked like that,’’ said Mrs Tolley.

“That was the threat (from National). But I would only be the Speaker until they got the numbers.

“It was exciting for a minute.”

Mrs Tolley said National Party leader Bill English approached her a week before, asking if she was interested in the role of deputy speaker.

“I said, yes, I would be.”

Mrs Tolley has been an MP for 15 years — 1999-2002 and from 2005 onwards including nine years as a Cabinet minister — and said she loved the House.

“I enjoy the strategy of the House because there is a strategy.”

Mrs Tolley has previously been deputy leader of the House.

But in terms of learning how the House operates, Mrs Tolley said she learned more from when she was senior whip.

“At the time, National was in opposition and you learn more.

“The job is to stymie the Government.”

Mr English has said that was still the aim of the Opposition.

Mrs Tolley said the National caucus had tried “a couple of things’’, which the clerks of the House had described as unique or which they had not seen before.

“The clerks have been very good.

“After sessions where there has been an incident, the clerks and myself have gone over it.”

Mrs Tolley still caucuses with the National MPs.

“But you are not involved in the day-to-day strategy.

“When they discuss questions to be raised in the House, in fairness, I leave.

‘‘The role separates you but it’s a wonderful opportunity.

“I enjoy the cut and thrust of the House, always have.

“I’m really enjoying it. It’s a challenge. You’ve got to be quick.

“My worse fear is forgetting people’s names. I’ve never been good at remembering them.”

It was a strange sensation that expressions she had previously heard “every day” from other speakers were now being used by her.

There was a lighter moment when she had to indicate the outline of a woman’s body with her hands to economic development minister David Parker, who was continually referring to her as Mr Speaker rather than Madam Speaker.

She is the first female deputy speaker since Anne Hartley in 2005.

Mrs Tolley said there had been one controversy with Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard introducing a new prayer.

“I have had a lot of feedback.

“There is a lot of unhappiness that the Queen has been taken out of it.”

The absence of any reference to Jesus — to acknowledge other faiths — was less contentious.

There had also been complaints about the prayer being in Maori only and about the process not being inclusive.

The National caucus had determined an official position on the matter, but it had not yet been made public.

Mrs Tolley describes her role as keeping order and giving everyone a chance.

The left wing Standard has praised both Mr Mallard and Mrs Tolley for setting a tone that “transcends partisanship”.

“Trevor and I have a bit of history,’’ said Mrs Tolley.

“He was my opposition when I was Education Minister. He put me through my paces. And I was senior whip when Trevor and Tau Henare had their fisticuffs, and I literally pulled them apart.

“You build a relationship. I’m delighted he has confidence in me.”

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