The mainstream media are good at letting us know their politics, because their preferences and positions haven’t shifted in decades. The media support big business, racist, stereotypical ideas that successfully helped disengage 800,000 eligible voters last time around. At present, they’re doing a mighty fine job of setting and massaging the current political discourse with their “we’ll just ring middle-class, wealthy voter” polls which show National governing alone. In the meantime thousands of children are living in poverty; numerous families are facing the prospect of another freezing winter unable to meet power bills; our children will still go to school hungry and yet many more will stress and struggle with the choice of either paying rent or getting an extra bag of rice to feed the family.
The strategy for the Left seems pretty simple to me: Share a flat white or apple juice – privately or publicly, say at Fresh Café in Otara – and work out a plan to win this election, together. I repeat. Win this election together. Coming out with broad statements agreeing on general policy platforms is desperately needed to at least challenge the narrative being set by the media. Have some robust discussions on electorate seats that need to be won by one of the Parties and not split – Auckland Central, Ohariu, Te Tai Tokerau are a few that come to mind. And for the life of me, stop slagging people off in public… just a small perception of Left-Party unity will go some distance to offering a real alternative to voters, especially the 800,000 who didn’t feel their vote would make a difference last election.
Over the past few of months I’ve spoken with many young people in west and south Auckland asking me why I’m involved in politics. Over the past days these conversations have become more intense with the election date being announced. Many of the youth I speak with are Pasifika and will be voting for the first, second or third time in the upcoming election. In almost all my discussions with them, they’ve decided who to give their candidate vote to and are weighing up whether to go Labour, Green or Mana with the Party vote. I should note that a few are toying with the idea of voting NZ First. In any case, the most fascinating part of the discussion for me is when they ask nearly every time in the context of the Left winning the election: is the strategy to win? My sense from speaking to these voters is that they understand MMP really well. Their world is built around collaboration, compromise and negotiation. And I’m pretty sure that when they ask me about whether the Left is seriously trying to win the election, it’s within the context of how prepared they are, in their worlds to collaborate, compromise and negotiate.
The media’s metanarrative is that National will govern alone. The hope is that our voters will stay home on Election Day and relinquish their hopes to a market-driven government that has no regard for them whatsoever. The sub-narrative is a deliberate attempt to keep people thinking in terms of first past the post when we are well and truly living in MMP times. We must zealously deconstruct the metanarrative being set by the media and pull together people, policies and Parties, that will win the next election. That will mean terms such as refrain, trust, collaboration and accommodation will need to enter the dialogue… and on current performance, that will be our greatest challenge.