How Simon Bridges and Jacinda Ardern's 2008 maiden speeches compare

Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges became MPs in 2008, and looking back on their maiden speeches, both paid tributes to politicians in the spotlight today, including Helen Clark, John Key, Winston Peters and Phil Goff. 

Fast-forward more than 10 years, Ardern, 39, and Bridges, 43, are the leaders of their respective parties - about to go head-to-head at the upcoming September 19 general election. 

Ardern, not knowing she would one day lead the nation, began her maiden speech in 2008 by thanking former Prime Minister Helen Clark who had lost the election to Sir John Key, after almost 10 years in power.  

"There are many reasons why I joined the Labour Party, but it was Helen who made me proud to be a member," Ardern, a Labour list MP at the time, said in her speech. 

"My generation grew up under Helen's leadership and many do not know how good they had it. I have no doubt that her leadership will leave a legacy well beyond my own generation."

Bridges, who in 2008 had just won the Tauranga electorate off Winston Peters, used his maiden speech to tell the New Zealand First leader how much he respected him. 

"Can I at this point acknowledge Winston Peters, whom I stood against in Tauranga. As I said on the evening of the election, Winston Peters, I respect you, and I acknowledge that I learnt a lot from you while we jousted on the campaign."

More than 10 years later, the pair often trade jabs in Parliament, and Bridges recently ruled out working with Peters after the upcoming election - taking a leaf out of former Prime Minister John Key's book. 

Ardern also paid tribute to Phil Goff in her maiden speech, the current Mayor of Auckland, who was once leader of the Labour Party until he stepped down in 2011 following another National Party victory. 

Helen Clark in 2008 seated next to Trevor Mallard, watching Jacinda Ardern's maiden speech in Parliament.
Helen Clark in 2008 seated next to Trevor Mallard, watching Jacinda Ardern's maiden speech in Parliament. Photo credit: Screenshot / Parliament TV

"One of my first opportunities to see all sides of a Member of Parliament's role was when I took a job in Phil Goff's office," Ardern said. "It was an honour to work for Phil."

Bridges hailed Sir John Key in his speech for his "fresh approach to our nation's challenges". 

New Zealand was facing down the global financial crisis in 2008. Bridges said Sir John was voted in because, "in economic times like these, rigid adherence to orthodoxies may not solve things for ordinary Kiwis".

He said New Zealanders "voted to move away from a slavish adherence to ideology, towards a new style of politics that is inclusive, dignified, and decent".

What sparked their political appetites?

Ardern and Bridges both used their maiden speeches to reflect on what inspired them to become politicians, looking back on the experiences that shaped their respective world views. 

"I cannot pinpoint exactly when my interest in politics began, but I know it began when I was young," Ardern, who was 28 at the time, said. 

Ardern reflected on her up brining in the Waikato. She was born in Hamilton, but in the 1980s her family relocated to Murupara, where her father took up the role of the local police sergeant.

"I knew that a lot of people had lost their jobs, but I did not understand that it was due to the privatisation of the forestry industry and to a complete lack of central government support.

"I knew that there were suicides and that the girl who used to babysit my sister and me one day turned yellow from hepatitis and could not visit us anymore. But I did not understand the linkages between these things and the poverty of the community I was living in."

Ardern said her "passion for social justice" came from what she had seen and the realisation that politics was "the key to changing what I saw". 

The fresh-faced Labour MP said her family relocated to Morrinsville where she had "very good memories of growing up in this small rural Waikato town". 

Jacinda Ardern delivering her maiden speech as a Labour MP in Parliament in 2008.
Jacinda Ardern delivering her maiden speech as a Labour MP in Parliament in 2008. Photo credit: Screenshot / Parliament TV

"Morrinsville College was also the place where I experienced my first election, campaigning on the weighty electoral issue that girls should be allowed to wear trousers to school."

The town is where Ardern got her first job at a fish and chip shop, and then at a grocery store. It was the 1990s, and Ardern said she earned roughly $5 an hour. 

Ardern also looked back on her time struggling to make ends meet in New York as a campaign manager, studying abroad in Arizona, being president of the International Union of Socialist Youth, and spending three years in the UK working as a public servant.  

She wrapped up her speech by expressing how proud she was to the youngest MP at the time and reflecting on the lessons she had learned in life. 

"It is the things I have seen, the lessons I have learnt, and the people of New Zealand whom I wish to serve that have brought me to this place. These are the very things that I wish to haunt me for as long as I have the privilege of serving here."

Simon Bridges delivering his maiden speech as a National MP in Parliament in 2008.
Simon Bridges delivering his maiden speech as a National MP in Parliament in 2008. Photo credit: Screenshot / Parliament TV

Simon Bridges, 32 at the time, also looked back on where it all began. 

"All my childhood and teenage years were in Te Atatū North. Just as my father has lived a life of service, so has my mother - bringing up six children of whom I am the youngest by some way.

"All six of us children, despite a lack of material wealth, have gone on to higher education, the surest path from poverty to prosperity that I know of."

Bridges described himself as the "product of the wonderful family and world-class health and education systems with which I grew up". 

He reflected on his mixed heritage - his mother from Waihī dairy-farming stock and his father from Frankton in Hamilton.

"Like so many in this nation, my mother's ancestors came from England, while my father's mother, Naku Joseph, was Ngāti Maniapoto and came from rural Ōpārure, near Te Kūiti.

"She remained in an unhappy relationship with her hard-living husband, Alf Bridges, because in those days early last century she thought that marriage to a Pākehā man was bettering herself and her children's prospects."

In his speech, Bridges paid tribute to his wife Natalie, the daughter of a Welshman and a Polish woman, whom he met in England while they were both studying at Oxford University. 

"She is here in New Zealand because she married a Kiwi. New Zealand must develop a fuller policy for stemming the brain drain than intermarriage; a John Key-led Government will."

Bridges also looked back on his work as a litigation lawyer and a Crown prosecutor in Tauranga, which included trials for the "city's worst murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and violent offenders".

Cracking down on gangs and crime appears to be one of the National Party leader's main campaign agendas leading up to the election. 

Bridges finished his speech in 2008 by quoting former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who once said while Parliament "can be the place of low skulduggery, it is more often the place for the pursuit of noble causes".

Both Ardern and Bridges have promised "positive" political campaigns in 2020.