Hutt South candidate downplays his tobacco past

Hutt South hopeful Christopher Bishop says his time working for tobacco company Philip Morris "doesn't define me" as he becomes the second former tobacco lobbyist to be named as a National Party candidate.

The former Young Wellingtonian of the Year and champion debater, who is currently a senior adviser to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, was named yesterday by National as its candidate to take on nine-term Labour MP Trevor Mallard in Hutt South.

Bishop's nomination has attracted headlines and considerable social media comment, especially as 23-year-old Todd Barclay, another former Philip Morris lobbyist, was named recently as National's candidate for the safe National seat of Clutha-Southland.

"Two years at Philip Morris doesn't define me. I've done lots of other things in my life, both community development and working in a range of organisations and people should look at my whole CV," Bishop said.

He said he took the role after working in Cabinet minister Gerry Brownlee's office, seeing it as an interesting and challenging way to use the skills he had gained as he qualified as a lawyer.

"Tobacco is a legal industry. It's controversial, but . . . companies are entitled to legal and corporate representation and that's what I was doing."

As a tobacco lobbyist Bishop worked against the National Government's plans to increase excise on tobacco and plain-packaging of tobacco.

Yesterday he said he agreed with the Government's policy on both.

"That's my Chris Bishop view, that I agree with the prime minister."

Bishop said he planned to take unpaid leave from late June or early July to campaign. Having grown up in the Hutt Valley, he is moving to Petone next week.