Not everyone expected Lockwood Smith to excel when in 2008 he was elected the 28th Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives. But most agree that he’s done very well. Firm, but fair, with a face that can do gravitas with a grin.
Tellingingly, his impact has been most keenly felt when he’s not been there – and things rather fall apart.
On his own (slightly pompous, perhaps) website, it’s explained:
Dr Smith takes his role as Speaker very seriously. He is particularly committed to ensuring all parties are treated fairly and that order is maintained in the House. He has required Ministers and that Ministers provide satisfactory answers to oral questions, an important aspect of ensuring the House can hold the Executive to account.
He could be naggingly, headmasterly smug at times, and not without mishap, but Smith has improved the level of debate in the house enormously – as recognised by the Trans-Tasman newsletter in 2009, when it named him parliamentarian of the year.
Today is his last in the speaker’s seat, and as an MP, as he prepares to head for London and the NZ high commissioner job.
Here are five top Lockwood speaker moments. And one from a former life.
1. Last August, Smith refused to let Gerry Brownlee stomp his way out of answering the question over whether he had received advice over Christchurch City Council selling assets to cover the rebuild.
2. From February 2012, Smith questions the intelligibility of a Winston Peters question, sparks a mini-storm, and ends up instructing the house to “take a deep breath and stop being so childish”. This is an edited clip – and edited/captioned by Whaleoil, who is hardly a neutral observer – but worth watching for the look on Smith’s face.
3. Here, in June 2009, Smith boots an irate Trevor Mallard out of the house, and embarks on a lengthy dissertation (as its described by Darren Hughes – remember him? – on decorum).
4. Here’s Lockwood Smith back in 2008, in his first days in the speaker’s seat, grappling with a knotty point of order from Michael Cullen. He gets it right, as far as I can tell, but if that doesn’t squeal your wheels, it’s worth watching to see Lockwood in frankly comical full regalia. (He ditched the wig not too long after.)
5. The prime minister, says Lockwood, is a very naughty boy (from 2010).
6. And, but of course, here’s Lockwood Smith in his former glory as a TV man. This is a clip of him introducing an evening’s television on TVNZ, probably from 1982 or thereabouts.