'Getting match-fit for 2020': Political party leaders on Christmas, whānau and switching off

Our political party leaders don't always see eye to eye when it comes to policy, but they do have some things in common: they appreciate Christmas, whānau, and grapple with switching off from work. 

Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern is spending the summer holiday this year in Gisborne, the hometown of her fiancée, Fish of the Day host Clarke Gayford.

"I don't really switch off, but that's okay," Ardern told Newshub. "Part of my job is making sure that even through that summer period I'm available and at the ready... I'll just be doing that from a different location."

Ardern said she's the "first to acknowledge" it's not easy to switch off for Christmas and the holidays. But that doesn't stop her from looking forward to it, especially if it means spending time with her whānau.

"I love Christmas. Love it. If I had my way it would be 100 percent Christmas carols, novelty jumpers and decorations for weeks - and New Zealand will not thank me for it.

"The job or responsibility doesn't end, ever really. But so long as I'm lucky to be spending time with family, you'll hear no complaints from me."

Ardern became the second world leader to give birth while in office in June 2018. This year marks her 18-month-old daughter Neve's second Christmas.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with her fiancee Clarke Gayford and their daughter Neve.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with her fiancee Clarke Gayford and their daughter Neve. Photo credit: Getty

Opposition leader Simon Bridges has also been looking forward to spending Christmas and the summer holiday with whānau in his home city of Tauranga, before heading off for a cruise. 

"My wife Natalie, the three kids and I will go to church, have a traditional dinner, and then I'll no doubt spend the rest of the day assembling the toys that Santa has delivered to the kids," he told Newshub. 

"My little ones are still at an age where Christmas is the most exciting day of the year. After Christmas we'll be heading away as a family for just over a week."

The National Party leader said he spends a lot of time away from home during the year so family time is "really important" to him - especially Christmas.

"With three kids aged between two and seven it's hard not to give them most of my attention because they certainly demand it."

Bridges said it's a "privilege" to be leader of the Opposition and that it's not something he takes for granted. But he said he looks forward to taking a break from his busy schedule.

"There's nothing quite like a Kiwi summer and I love spending time at home in Tauranga. I'll spend a bit of time here over the holidays - but it will also be nice to get away for a bit and relax."

National leader Simon Bridges with his three children.
National leader Simon Bridges with his three children. Photo credit: Facebook / Simon Bridges

Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will be spending the summer holiday in his native Northland.

"The temperatures in Northland are the very best, and it'll be a great chance to rest, improve one's health, eat a lot of seafood, and get match fit for 2020," he told Newshub. 

The 74-year-old MP said politics "never stops", but that doesn't stop him from switching his focus to household chores, including boat painting, mowing the lawns, walking the dog, horse riding and house maintenance. 

"The good fortune is that where I will be for Christmas people have known me since I was a kid. They don't think I'm special, and I like it that way. Rather, too many think they know how to do my job much better than me!"

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters walking his dog Beau.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters walking his dog Beau. Photo credit: Facebook / Winston Peters

Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson will be spending the summer holiday in the Bay of Plenty and Northland's Hokianga, respectively.

"I am fortunate to be getting some time off over the Christmas period and I am most looking forward to getting some rest and recuperation ahead of what will be a big year next year," Shaw told Newshub.

"My wife and I will be spending Christmas and Boxing Day with our families. And then, like a lot of other Kiwi families, we will be heading to the beach."

Shaw said the Bay of Plenty has meaning to him because his ancestors farmed the land. He said he's looking forward to "a great opportunity to reconnect with my roots".

Shaw said he has no issue with being recognised in public.

"People often stop me in the street to tell me what they think about the work we're doing and what the most important issues are for them and their families. It's a really important part of our democracy that we are so accessible."

Davidson, on the other hand, said she's often felt pressure to "look perfectly made-up in terms of clothing, hair and makeup" when out in public.

She said she's hoping people will "be forgiving if I'm not always looking like I've just stepped out of the House of Representatives over Christmas".

The Green MP said her whānau's tradition over the past decade has been to exchange second-hand, hand-made or ethical gifts.

"Since becoming a busy MP, this has meant a panic buy at our local hospice and op shops. This is always lots of fun and throws up some good imaginative gifts for the family," she told Newshub.

"We are lucky to still have my parents' house where they raised my little brother - a batch in the middle of the bush that has no TV, no phone, and no internet, surrounded by bush on our homeland harbour."

Greens co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson flanked by Green MPs Chloe Swarbrick and Golriz Ghahraman.
Greens co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson flanked by Green MPs Chloe Swarbrick and Golriz Ghahraman. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

ACT Party leader David Seymour is also heading north for the summer period.

He will spend time at the beach with extended family, before going to another beach to spend New Year's Eve with former school friends.

"In January I'm going to an economics conference in the US - tragic I know - and then it's time to start thinking about another election year book," he told Newshub.

Seymour is another party leader who often finds it difficult to switch-off from the job.

"I don't really. Leading a party is a bit like owning a small business, it is all-consuming."

Seymour, MP for Epsom, said it doesn't bother him when he's approached by members of the public.

"I still regularly knock on doors to ask people their opinions, so it's a bonus if you just come up to me. Despite all the bile in the online world, we are lucky that New Zealanders are incredibly polite to politicians in the real world."

He said he welcomes hearing from "as many people as possible".

ACT Party leader David Seymour.
ACT Party leader David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty
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