Darren Hughes

Darren Colyn Hughes (born 3 April 1978) is a New Zealand former Member of Parliament between 2002 and 2011, first elected at the age of 24. He represented the Labour Party and was a Minister outside Cabinet in the Fifth Labour Government of New Zealand.

Darren Hughes
25th Minister of Statistics
In office
5 November 2007  19 November 2008
Prime MinisterHelen Clark
Preceded byClayton Cosgrove
Succeeded byMaurice Williamson
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Ōtaki
In office
27 July 2002  8 November 2008
Preceded byJudy Keall
Succeeded byNathan Guy
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for New Zealand Labour Party list
In office
8 November 2008  1 April 2011
Succeeded byLouisa Wall
Personal details
Born (1978-04-03) 3 April 1978 (age 43)
NationalityNew Zealand
Political partyLabour
Alma materVictoria University of Wellington
London School of Economics

In 2011, Hughes resigned from Parliament and in 2012, he relocated to the United Kingdom to become the Campaigns and Research Director of the Electoral Reform Society.[1] In 2017, Hughes became Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, based in South London.[2]

Early life and education

Hughes attended Coley Street Primary School in Foxton, St Josephs and then Horowhenua College in Levin.[3] While at school Hughes was involved in the school and wider community including a three-year stint as Student Representative on the Board of Trustees.

In 1994, Hughes was a Youth MP. He was the first Youth MP to later be elected to Parliament. Hughes attended Victoria University of Wellington,[3] and was a member of Vic Labour, where he completed a Bachelor of Arts in public policy and social policy. In 2017, Hughes completed a master's degree at the London School of Economics.

In government (2002–2008)

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
20022005 47th Otaki 51 Labour
20052008 48th Otaki 34 Labour
20082011 49th List 19 Labour

Hughes was elected to parliament as member for Otaki in the 2002 general election, standing for the Labour Party. For the next six years he was New Zealand's youngest MP.[4] In 2005, he was re-elected with the country's smallest majority, 382.[5]

As a local MP, Hughes had a strong record of delivering for the communities in the Otaki constituency. One example was Horowhenua Health Centre in Levin which opened in 2007. The $16 million facility was one of Hughes' proudest achievements. He also organised a local campaign to save the centre when it was threatened by budget cuts in 2010.[6]

Voting record

Hughes voted in favour of a law allowing same sex civil unions and the decriminalisation of prostitution, but against a Death with Dignity law.

Party responsibilities and ministerial positions

Hughes was his party's junior whip and a Member of the Officers of Parliament Select Committee. In November 2007, as a part of the fifth Labour government's final reshuffle, Prime Minister Helen Clark made him a Minister outside Cabinet with the Statistics portfolio. He was also made the associate minister for Social Development and Employment. He also served as deputy Leader of the House. As a government minister and member of the Executive Council, Hughes is able to use the title "the Honourable" for life.[7]

In opposition (2008–2011)

In the 2008 general election the National Party defeated Labour. Hughes lost his Otaki seat to Nathan Guy but, being listed by Labour at 19, returned to Parliament as a list MP. Opposition Leader Phil Goff appointed him Transport Spokesperson. He was also made the opposition's senior whip.

On 15 June 2010, as part of a shadow-cabinet reshuffle, Hughes became the Spokesperson for Infrastructure.[8] Later, he was also given the Education portfolio and served as Shadow Leader of the House from 2009 to 2011.

In 2010, Darren Hughes submitted a private members' bill to lower the drink driving limit to 0.05 (its full name was the Land Transport (Safer Alcohol Limits for Driving) Amendment Bill). The bill was his response to an earlier government decision to not lower the limit.[9] It was placed on the ballot in June, August and November, but not drawn.[10][11][12] According to the New Zealand Herald at the time, Hughes "…drafted his legislation only after the Government decided not to lower the limit. But, commendably, he has been careful not to make it an exercise in points-scoring." Hughes was quoted as saying he wanted politicians to "put aside their party differences and work together on issues of road safety".[13]

Police investigation and resignation

Hughes's time as an MP ended abruptly in March 2011 after a young man laid a police complaint of a sexual nature against him. The complaint concerned events that occurred on 2 March. Shortly after the complaint became public, and while the police were still investigating, Hughes resigned from Parliament.[14] His resignation was announced on 25 March and effective from 5 April.[15][16] Louisa Wall replaced him as a Labour list MP.[17]

On 8 June the Police confirmed that they would not lay any charges against Hughes.[18]

Sequence of events

On 23 March 2011 Hughes confirmed that he was "being investigated by police after an alleged late night incident."[19] This announcement was designed to end speculation surrounding his Labour party colleagues.

Hughes denied any wrongdoing but later offered to resign from Parliament. Labour leader Phil Goff, who had known about the complaint for two weeks,[20] initially refused the resignation[21] but changed his mind a day later. Goff announced Hughes' resignation on 25 March 2011.[15]

On the same day Hughes released another statement which in part said:

"My position as an MP has become untenable. In order to be able to exercise my basic rights as a citizen, it is necessary for me to resign as a Member of Parliament. I have informed Phil Goff of my decision.

Although people are commonly thought to be innocent until proven guilty, it has become clear to me that this doesn't apply in the political arena.

I have done nothing wrong, and I remain confident that the legal process will have the right outcome.

My immediate focus is on clearing my name. I will continue to co-operate fully with the police inquiry ..."[22]

Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith confirmed Hughes's resignation on 1 April and it took effect on 5 April 2011.[16]

Over three months after the original incident, on 8 June, the Police announced that they did not have enough evidence to press charges against Hughes. They also revealed that an anonymous letter containing allegations against Hughes had been sent to "some media outlets". They had investigated these allegations but "there were no matters which arose that required police attention".[18]

Reallocation of portfolios

The roles that Hughes had filled for the Labour opposition went to Sue Moroney, David Shearer and Rick Barker. Moroney took over the education portfolio, with specific responsibility for primary and secondary schooling, and joined the party's front bench. Shearer took over the tertiary education portfolio and Barker became the new senior whip.[23]

Replacement by Louisa Wall (as MP) and Peter Foster (as Otaki candidate)

Because he had been elected through the party list rather than by an electorate, Hughes' seat passed down Labour's party list to Louisa Wall without a by-election.[24] There were five people listed before Wall who could have taken the seat, but they all stood aside. (Wall, unlike the others, was due to stand for Labour in the general election later that year.)[25] The five were all former MPs, listed at numbers 38-42: Judith Tizard (number 38),[26] Mark Burton,[27] Mahara Okeroa, Martin Gallagher and Dave Hereora (42).[28]

With Hughes not running for re-election, Labour named Raumati lawyer Peter Foster as their Otaki electorate candidate for 2011.[29]

Current role

As of 2020, Hughes is Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS). The ERS is a civil society organisation striving to make British democracy fit for the 21st century. Since joining the ERS in 2012, Hughes has been responsible for driving the Society's campaigns and research priorities.

Under the leadership of Hughes and former Chief Executive Katie Ghose, the Electoral Reform Society has broadened its remit beyond its traditional focus on voting systems, to promote other issues that are vital to the health of British democracy. These priorities fall within the campaign and research fields of "A Fair Franchise", "Who Runs Britain?", and "Democratic Futures".


  1. "UK electoral reform job for Hughes". nzherald.co.nz. 16 March 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 July 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. "Darren Hughes biography". Stuff. 23 March 2011.
  4. Trevett, Claire (24 March 2011). "Hughes sought career in politics from early age". The New Zealand Herald.
  5. Electorate results, 2005 elections. Archived 25 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  6. http://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/news/3407681/Community-rallies-to-save-health-centre
  7. https://www.dpmc.govt.nz/our-programmes/new-zealand-royal-honours/new-zealand-royal-honours-system/types-new-zealand-royal-honours/the-honourable/roll-of-the-honourables
  8. "Goff reshuffles Labour deck". TVNZ. 15 June 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
  9. Vass, Beck (10 August 2010). "Big majority for lower alcohol limit". The New Zealand Herald.
  10. New Zealand Parliament Members' bills ballot - 5 August 2010
  11. New Zealand Parliament Members' bills ballot - 9 September 2010
  12. New Zealand Parliament Members' bills ballot - 11 November 2010
  13. "Editorial: Drink-drive bill chance to act decisively - Opinion - NZ Herald News". nzherald.co.nz. New Zealand. 11 August 2010. Archived from the original on 11 August 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  14. "Hughes resigns from Parliament". The New Zealand Herald. 1 April 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  15. Trevett, Claire (25 March 2011). "MP Darren Hughes to resign". The New Zealand Herald.
  16. "Darren Hughes' resignation official". stuff.co.nz (Fairfax Media). 1 April 2011.
  17. "Louisa Wall back in Parliament". The New Zealand Herald. 6 April 2011.
  18. "No charges against former Labour MP Darren Hughes". stuff.co.nz. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
  19. "Darren Hughes confirms he is MP in alleged late-night incident". TVNZ. 23 March 2011.
  20. "Goff facing more questions over Hughes affair". Radio New Zealand. 30 March 2011.
  21. "Darren Hughes resignation declined by Goff". 3 News. 25 March 2011.
  22. "Full text for Hughes' statement". NewstalkZB. 25 March 2011. Archived from the original on 23 August 2011.
  23. Trevett, Claire (5 April 2011). "Moroney, Shearer and Barker take on Darren Hughes roles". The New Zealand Herald.
  24. "Promising political career in tatters". TVNZ. 25 March 2011.
  25. "Louisa Wall becomes new Labour MP". TVNZ. 5 April 2011.
  26. "Judith Tizard not returning to Parliament". stuff.co.nz (Fairfax Media). 3 April 2011.
  27. "List vacancy in Parliament - Mark Burton (press release)". scoop.co.nz. 3 April 1011.
  28. "Labour Party list for 2008 election announced (Labour Party press release, includes full list)". scoop.co.nz. 31 August 2011.
  29. "Labour selects Otaki candidate". The New Zealand Herald. 7 May 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Judy Keall
Member of Parliament for Ōtaki
Succeeded by
Nathan Guy
Political offices
Preceded by
Clayton Cosgrove
Minister of Statistics
Succeeded by
Maurice Williamson
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tim Barnett
Senior Whip of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Steve Chadwick