Congratulations to David Cunliffe, a convincing performance to take the leadership of the Labour Party into the next election with renewed confidence. His mandate is clear and the voices of the rank and file members have clearly spoken, and been listened to. The media coverage of the whole race however was abysmal, outrageously biased and misguided and illustrates how ill served the public is when it comes to matters of politics that actually effect the lives of the average person. It is a shame that politics in general is treated as a low rent soap opera by most commentators and this make life doubly difficult for those of us trying to get things done and make a difference. This doesn’t diminish however the delight and enthusiasm of those of us who cheer on a new chapter for Labour.
As the Auckland local body election plods on, the Labour leadership race reminds me that as a politician I absolutely need to keep close to the community I serve. In the absence of quality media coverage of the real issues relating to local councils it is easy to simply reduce our work to sound bites and sensation. It is no suprise that the community is still totally unaware that there is a local body election on, voting papers only days away!
The coverage of the Unitary plan was a case in point. Who on earth believes that a ten story apartment will “spring up” in your neighbourhood !” Worse still people from “outside”will move into your area….who are these outsiders? About 1% of Aucklanders, at the most still live in the house they were born in! Sadly the commentary on the Unitary plan has played into the hands of those, who for their own reasons want to preserve the world they live in and keep everyone out. No wonder we lose our best and brightest overseas, no wonder our young people doubt our commitment to their future and no wonder our city is suffering the huge hikes in house prices that scare those of us trying to buy a house. I am going through this process at the moment and it is pretty tough going, as a middle aged well resourced person it is a challenge, for my children and their families it is a battle. Our drive to deliver affordable housing choices for our community continues and this is one of those cases where just listening to the loudest voices is not the right thing to do.
At candidates meetings I have been to out west, I am reminded that it is the day to day battles are top of mind for our people, it isn’t the big ticket items and our huge plans.
Whilst I am at meetings on the 30 year Unitary plan, economic strategy planning, setting environmental policies, my community are hoping their bus arrives, their kids can walk to school safely and who on earth in this huge council they ring about their water bill!
I have been clearly reminded, the balance between strategy setting and vision and working at grassroots level is an increasing tension the further up the leadership ladder you go. That is why,getting back to the Labour leadership race, it was so good to see that in the end the Labour caucus backed the voice of their members. The balance between leading and listening is a fine line and needs to be trodden carefully.