In his final speech to parliament, the MP for Hamilton East spent more time talking about sports than politics, casually suggested that New Zealand should consider becoming part of Australia and read the entire national anthem.
Valedictory speeches are a time for indulgence and emotion, the last time MPs are able to address the House and the public.
MPs recognise their family’s sacrifice, celebrate their proudest legislative achievements, and take parting shots at their opposition.
Some use their time as a rallying cry for the future, like Aupito William Sio, who this week stood shirtless wearing his pe’a – a traditional Samoan tatau – and urged Pacific people to be proud of their heritage.
But Labour MP Jamie Strange doesn’t follow tradition. In a shorter-than-usual 15 minutes, Strange used his time to talk cricket, rugby, football, cricket again, shout out his gym buddies and apologise for doing manus in the parliamentary pool. He also argued New Zealand should consider becoming part of Australia, then recited the full extended version of the national anthem.
This speech has not left my brain for a second. It will be with me forever. It is a masterpiece of New Zealand politics. Here is a blow-by-blow account of the many highlights.
“I remember phone calling the Labour Party stronghold of Cambridge. I made 30 calls and got 30 National Party voters on the end of the line.”
A self-deprecating campaign story. A great start. Very normal. There is no hint yet of what is to come.
Strange begins by acknowledging his family. But as he names his children one by one, a cheeky smile stretches over his face. “Also our three cats: Holly, Snowy, and Sparkles,” he adds. Jamie Strange is a silly billy and he’s here to break the rules. He gets big laughs from across the people’s chamber. “I may well be the first MP to put their cats on Hansard.”
FACT CHECK: Jamie Strange is not the first MP to put their cats on Hansard.
- In 2018, Liz Craig woke up with a litter of kittens in her bed because “my cat Tūī was making friends with the neighbour’s cat”.
- In 2010, Carol Beaumont gave a shout out to “my cat, Sage, who is 14 years old.”
- In 2010, Darien Fenton shared her deep remorse for having her cat Plum spayed not once, but twice. “I do not think it can be classified as cruelty,” she said, preemptively defending herself for something no one made her admit. “I have regretted that ever since”.
Strange apologises to his children for missing sports matches and thanks them “for putting up with an oversized photo of my face on our Toyota Estima for six years”.
That does sound like a highly embarrassing car for any young teen. But that’s less to do with the “oversized face” part and more to do with the “Toyota Estima”.
He shares an anecdote about two definitely real Hamilton business leaders.
“I recently heard a couple of local CEOs in Hamilton. They were talking about who would get the contract for a project. And one of them said to the other one ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter which one of us gets the project, the money’s all going back into the community anyway.’”
If there’s anything I know about CEOs, it’s that they don’t really care whether they make any money and you can always trust them to do right by the community.
“As an MP, you enter parliament, it’s like diving into a swimming pool. You’re in the pool for a while, you hop out, the water covers over, and it was like you were never there.”
A truly poignant analogy from Labour’s 40th ranked MP and someone I had definitely heard of before today.
“There have been more male All Blacks than MPs.”
Thanks for specifying the gender there. Just under four minutes in and we’re already moving on from politics to sports.
“My first option was All Black, but I’m far too small for that.”
This brave confession earns a consoling pat on the arm from Paul Eagle.
“I believe we need a four year term in parliament.”
Jamie Strange has been in parliament for six years but in his final speech he’s finally throwing out some huge overhauls to our entrenched democratic principles.
“Politicians are public figures, we know that…. Particularly around social media, people tend to turn politicians into an object rather than a person.”
OK, now things are taking a serious turn. Several female MPs have spoken publicly about horrendous online abuse – what traumatic experience is Strange about to share?
“There have been many times when people have shared their views on social media and I’ve commented and I’ve said, ‘Look. Book in a meeting…. But none of them book a meeting.”
Enough politics for now. Back to sports. Strange mentions his predilection for “80s cricket videos” and gives a shout out to a parliamentary staffer’s cricket blog “My Life in Cricket Scorecards”, which he “highly recommends”.
Now he’s listing his greatest achievements in parliament. “Mr Speaker, In 2019, the Parliamentary Cricket XI took a trip to the UK. And while we were there, we contested the Inter-Parliamentary Cricket World Cup.” Legacy.
“I remember attending the 2019 World Cup Final at Lord’s”, he continues. Then, mustering the gravitas of a statesman preparing his nation for war: “Which we did NOT lose! I just wanted to put that on Hansard too.”
Jamie Strange is a national hero. If it’s on Hansard, it’s officially true. Cricket is coming home.
“In April 2021, I remember playing for the Parliamentary XI at Seddon Park in Hamilton.”
Strange proceeds to spend a full one minute and 10 seconds telling the story of the time he got MediaWorks CEO Cam Wallace out first ball. “I distinctly remember our co-captain, Chris Bishop, looking at me going ‘Jamie, he was the sponsor of this event’….He’d actually paid $5,000 for that event and I suitably felt pretty bad.”
“In 2023, our Parliamentary Football XI visited Brisbane and we played Australia…” Another thrilling story of Strange’s sporting prowess. This time it’s about holding on to a tight 1-0 lead against a late Australian counter-attack.
“All of a sudden from nowhere, [National MP] David Bennett came flying in and just wiped out an Australian MP… And we held on and we won the game.”
“Will we ever become one country, Australia and New Zealand?” he suddenly ponders. Another legislative bombshell. Should we dissolve the government and secede sovereignty? “New Zealanders shouldn’t rule that out.”
He notes (correctly) that the Australian constitution gives New Zealand the option to join at any time if we wish.
“The main problem I foresee, though, is: how do we integrate the Australian cricket team?” We have returned, once again, to sport.
Strange reveals that he shared an office with Nanaia Mahuta for six years but they only spent one day in the office together. “But she helped me share the cost, which is helpful.”
Time for a music break. Please pause reading this article and take the next three minutes and eleven seconds to watch Jamie Strange’s early 2000s music video, ‘Rockstar Clone’.
After a few minutes thanking various staffers and other MPs, Strange has more jock things to say.
“I’d like to acknowledge my MP gym buddies; you know who you are.”
An awkward silence fills the chamber. Strange lets out an awkward “heh-heh”.
No one wants to admit going toe-to-toe in the gym with Parliament’s Greatest Athlete. Surely Stuart Nash will put his hand up?
“Not me,” an unseen MP calls out.
“I’m looking around the room,” says Strange.
Rawiri Waititi finally rescues him. “I’ll miss you,” he calls out.
“I’d like to take this moment to apologise for all the manus performed in the parliamentary pool… and also those performed by my children too.”
Strange once again pivots, taking a moment to thank his parliamentary prayer group (he’s a former minister of Elim Church). “I’d like to close with a prayer,” he says.
After hyping up his praying credentials, I’m expecting a banger. And boy does he deliver.
“God of Nations at Thy feet, in the bonds of love we meet, hear our voices, we entreat, God defend our free land.”
Paul Eagle cocks his head…. Is he reading the national anthem?
“Guard Pacific’s triple star from the shafts of strife and war, make her praises heard afar, God defend New Zealand.”
I guess it is technically a prayer.
“Men of every creed and race, gather here before Thy face, asking Thee to bless this place, God defend our free land,”
Oh shit, he’s doing the extended version.
“Lord of battles in Thy might, put our enemies to flight, let our cause be just and right, God defend New Zealand.”
I know getting to 15 minutes is hard, but is he just padding for time here?
“Guide her in the nations’ van, preaching love and truth to man.”
I didn’t know the nation had a van. At least it’s better than a Toyota Estima.
“Working out Thy glorious plan, God defend New Zealand.”
With that final line, it’s over. Jamie Strange stops doing manus in the parliamentary pool, the water covers over, and it’s like he was never there.