In 'da House | Issue 21

In 'da House | Issue 21

Parliamentary Piss Heads

Students and Members of Parliament have one thing in common: everyone knows they have a drinking problem.

It’s not uncommon to hear rumours of “legendary” escapades float along the corridors of power, involving past and present national figures, excessive alcohol consumption, extra-marital relations, the Speaker’s chair (don’t ask), fisticuffs, and other hijinks.

With the House sitting until 10pm two nights per week, many MPs entertain each other in their offices to pass the time until the bells ring and they can go home. Not, I hasten to add, that this happens in the Green Party, where we are more likely to chain ourselves to our desks and desperately try to clear the never-ending backlog of emails that beckons in our nightmares. The only time I’ve joined my colleagues in a tipple on a school night was to mark the chaotic final episode of Back Benches and the demise of TVNZ7 with a wee dram.

Nevertheless, the annual Press Gallery Christmas Party, at which the journalists put on the booze and the MPs show up and misbehave in a sort of concrete bunker out the back of the Beehive, has to be seen to be believed. It’s not, in all honesty, that different from what goes on in some of Dunedin’s seedier flats and drinking establishments. The irony is that these are the people who will soon make a decision about the alcohol purchase age, based on their strongly-held convictions about the damage that alcohol-related harm causes ordinary New Zealanders.

But I digress.

Thus far my Parliamentary career has involved very few alcohol-related hijinks, but I can see how a wee tipple at the end of a stressful day could quickly develop into a rather harmful habit.

So, after half a year in the job I’ve decided to “check” my relationship with alcohol by giving it up for the month of August, and blogging about it as part of the Hello Sunday Morning project. Two weeks in and I must say the effects have been pleasing — more energy, more exercise, better sleep, fewer headaches — even though I could murder an Emerson’s Pilsner right about now.

One or two of my Parliamentary colleagues could probably do with a similar challenge. And let’s be honest, so could one or two Dunedin students. I recommend it.
This article first appeared in Issue 21, 2012.
Posted 4:26pm Sunday 19th August 2012 by Holly Walker.