I’ve never intended to be political on this blog. That’s probably an excellent policy and one I should adhere to, but… in September, New Zealand is holding a General Election and, until yesterday, I had no idea how I was going to vote. That indecision has come as a bit of a shock to me. This is the first time I’ve had to really deliberate on my vote.
Many years ago I played a suffragette in a play in Liverpool. She was Emily Davison, the woman who threw herself in front of the King’s Horse at Epsom and thus lost her life for the cause. Since then, abstaining from voting has not been an option for me. Women died for the vote, ergo all women MUST vote. I remember striking the final pose for my character: arms out, head lolling to the side, suspended on a hill in the background as the rest of the play continued under the shadow of the event. Remind you of something?
I was raised to vote Conservative, Maggie’s party, by my capitalist father. At age eighteen, I asked him: ‘So what do I do when I go into the booth?’
‘You run your finger down the side of the list of candidates, and the one that’s blue and says Conservative, you put a big X in that box,’ he said.
I laughed and voted Labour. I’ve voted Labour ever since.
It wasn’t just rebellion, it was moving to Liverpool to attend university there. It was my first experience of the homeless, it was the dockers on strike for basic working rights, it was the people who struggled to pay for higher education around me, it was the violence I saw on the streets at night, it was the realisation that my parents had paid a fortune for my education and a perfectly good one could have been gained for free. It was the realisation that Maggie had turned my country to shit.
My lefty leanings were aided, I admit, by my first boyfriend at university, a staunch socialist, and what he said just made so much sense compared to the rubbish spouted by my parents. That may be the normal way of rebellious teenage girls, but it’s stayed with me over the years.
I remember being at a party in Leicester during the 1997 election, when the Conservative government was finally voted out and the ‘New’ Labour Blair government took control. You could hear the cheers across the city through open windows as the results came in. It was a heady night. Unfortunately time told a different story to the one we were expecting that year.
But I’m not in the UK anymore, and politics in New Zealand is a completely different animal. And what a weird, scratchy little fucker it is.
It’s true to say I’ve been put off following politics since I’ve lived here. I’m deeply ashamed to say I simply haven’t bothered. I’ve gone from devouring the Guardian and attending protests in London to, well, reading as much fiction and lovely walks on the beach as I can get.
But is it surprising? Key and his National government appear to be as corrupt as the lawyer in Breaking Bad. The Labour leader says nearly as many stupid things as George W used to, and there’s a hard-done-by but highly dubious German who has hijacked the Left, my natural leaning, using huge sums of questionable money to make a mockery of the whole system. Ouch! – so who gets my X?
I was bemoaning this dilemma amongst some friends during the week, and was directed to a website called ‘OntheFence.co.nz’. You answer some very simple questions about your views on key election issues and they tell you how you should vote in the election. I took the quiz, which is basically what it is, with a big chunk of my tongue firmly in cheek.
It was a valuable exercise. It’s only until you are confronted with the questions that you truly consider your answers; that is, you really consider how you feel about the way the country in which you live operates.
For example, they are currently building a massive new road where I live that should cut the travel time into Wellington via car by ten minutes. Whoopy-do! Ten minutes! Completely worth the millions of dollars, damage to the environment etc etc, then. The people didn’t want the road, and the people were ignored. Businesses seem to quite like it though; the ones making money out of it. In this age of understanding about global warming and the importance of conservation, why are we still building roads? Why aren’t we spending that same amount of money on public transport? Just… why? I had no idea I felt so strongly about this until I was questioned.
I was also asked how I felt about excellent free healthcare for everyone, and excellent free education for everyone. I think you know my answer to that.
Anyway, cut a long story short, the number one party I should apparently vote for is the Green Party, then the Maori Party at number two, then Labour at three.
Yesterday, I went to a huge annual book fair held in Wellington for charity. It’s a charity that provides for the homeless, and I had no problem buying plenty of books for that cause. The only candidate there? Russell Norman, leader of the Greens. I wanted to meet him, but I missed him somehow. I liked the fact he’d turned up though and I’ve been stalking their website ever since, wondering how I’ve missed this party in the past. I’m impressed by their people and what they stand for. I guess the overhang of British Conservative ‘v’ Labour party politics has blinkered me from looking at alternatives.
I’m not sure that I’ve made my final decision about who gets my vote, but I’ve made some decisions: not be so complacent nor ignorant anymore. I should be searching out information, and making concrete decisions and even contributing somehow to the causes I feel strongly about.
I’ve decided that whichever way I vote in September, it should be the beginning of a political relationship for me, and not the end.