Lindsay Tisch is one of those unsung heroes of politics; an MP who in his nearly 20 years in the House never made Cabinet.

Yet now as he contemplates retirement at the next election after 18 years in Parliament he can look back with pride at his greatest achievement which was simply to serve the people who elected him.

And he did.

They responded by giving him one of the largest majorities in the country  and giving him consistently a higher personal vote than the list vote in his Waikato electorate.

The figures are staggering. The last election he got 65% of all the votes cast.

Of course, the Waikato seat which now stretches from the Hinuera Valley up to the outskirts of Auckland has always been National.

This is blue ribbon Waikato farmland, and Tisch is from a Waikato, farming family. He had joined the National Party before he had even graduated from  Lincoln with a degree in Rural Valuing.

Since then he’s set up a cropping unit and then both led the National Party as President and then working for it as campaign director in the first MMP election in 1996 and then winning the seat in 1999.

But when he looks back on it all the thing he is most proud of is being the MP for Waikato.

“I’ve represented the people who put me there,” he says.

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“I can hang my hat and say I was part of the progress that has taken place in the Waikato.”

He says that it was all about reflecting, representing and helping those people who put him into Parliament.

And that’s how he approaches the big issues.

“Because of their electorates backbench MPs understand the policies that we develop and the bills we have to debate in the House,” he says.

Alongside other politicians, this may seem to have been a modest ambition.

But Tisch is exactly the kind of electorate MP who makes up the foundation of both the main political parties.

Tisch is a conservative. He voted against same-sex marriage.

 His major achievement has been to be First Assistant Speaker.

Again, this is a low-key role but vital role. While David Carter gets all the attention presiding over Question Time Tisch is there through the evening session presiding over the Committee stages of Bills with maybe half a dozen MPs in the Chamber.

“I do well over thirty percent of the presiding in the House so I get to see the debates, I get to see the personalities, and I get to see the contributions that they make.

“I think the standard of debate, generally, is pretty good.”

That comment might surprise some MPs, and at least one senior National MP would reject it altogether.

And he defends Question Time.

“It’s a very important part of the democratic process for opposition parties to be able to challenge the executive.

“While it may seem in some cases to be a waste of time or they’re not really answering the question, my view is that Question Time takes around about an hour, and it’s an opportunity for opposition parties if they’ve phrased their questions right to get information.

“If they can’t get information then it’s a powerful tool for them to go public and say the Government is refusing to answer the questions.”

Tisch also had a key role in his own party, first as President then, perhaps more importantly, as the Campaign Manager for the first MMP election in 1996.

Looking back at that he believes it was as much an education programme as an election campaign — persuading people that the electorate vote was no longer as important as the party vote.

He’s far too diplomatic to be drawn into any discussion about the relative merits of electorate and list MPs though he remains a consummate electorate MP.

In some ways, he’s an old-fashioned figure in the National Party; a farmer representing a rural electorate.

But he enjoys pointing out that one of the mainstays of Matamata’s economy these days is the Hobbiton site, where Sir Peter Jackson filmed significant parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As part of that sort of change, his own cropping farm has been sold to become an equine establishment.

But he believes it is MMP which has changed things more than anything.

“Under first past the post, you could say that most of our MPs had a rural background, and we were really a farmers’ party.

“But we are no longer.

“The big numbers now live in urban areas so there’s not many rural MPs.”

He’s been in Parliament 18 years and his wife is about to take a high position in Rotary and he plans to support her.

He hasn’t been a star, but Parliament loses something everytime a long-serving electorate MP like him leaves.

It is a House of Representatives and he most certainly has been one.

 

 

 

 

 

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