Dr Liz Gordon: The long way around: a personal story



Bear with me, as I talk about some things I have never discussed publicly before…. The truth will set me free.

In a post a couple of months ago, Chris Trotter rethought the exodus of many of us from the Labour Party in 1988. He thought that we should have stayed and fought it out from the inside out.  Many of our group have since returned to the Labour Party, as members or even as MPs. I have not. I have not voted Labour since 1987.

My own view, in response was that staying at that time would have been intolerable.  The tensions between the various factions were nigh on intolerable.  I used to feel sick at every party meeting I went to. When the split was close, I was on the National Executive of the party, and was closely watched in terms of what I would do.  When Anderton declared he was going to start a new Party, I was under pressure to remain in Labour, but decided in all conscious to go with the new.

This was a policy driven decision. I came to hate the policies of the fourth Labour Government. I still hate them today as they have formed the basis of the growth of social and economic inequality we have seen over more than 30 years. Our society is much worse than it was because of those policies.

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The road we trod was hard.  It was full of conflicting ambitions, marginalisation and ultimately betrayal. I spent six years as an Alliance Member of Parliament. A long time ago now. I was a much better academic than I ever was a politician, but nevertheless enjoyed my time in Parliament and was proud of many of our achievements.  The split was a terrible thing, a disaster, and probably did not need to happen.

I had few friends in Parliament outside the Alliance (and only a few of them – the lovely Laila Harré, my dear friend, remains the best of them). My other friends there were the late Helen Duncan, teacher, unionist and Labour MP, and the late Brian Donnelly of New Zealand First, a lovely man. Both basically died of the smoking habit. When I did te reo Māori classes in Parliament I enjoyed the company of a range of MPs, and made a surprising friendship, mild as it was, with Wyatt Creech, who so enraged me as Minister of Education, but with whom I enjoyed practicing te reo.

At the time Labour MPs were mostly distrustful of their Alliance colleagues.  Relationships were arm’s length, to say the least. The Labour leadership treated the Alliance, except from Jim Anderton, as a necessary evil rather than a strong ally. It did not get much better in government, either, at least for me.

Since 2002 I have voted Māori Party, Mana and Greens.  I have voted for Megan Woods since she was first elected, and I have always liked her a lot. I have known Duncan Webb and have worked with him. He is a good bloke.  I have met Jacinda at many events and have always loved her passion. I always feel with her a pull of affection and caring. I have got to know Grant Robertson quite well and he is special to me as a child of a prisoner come good. In recent times, my liking and respect for Andrew Little, in particular, has grown up like a flower coming into bud, over his justice work.

In short, I suddenly have found that there is a group of senior Labour Party members for whom I have a significant degree of affection and liking.  I love their approach but have always been held back by their failure, yet, to tip the political balance beyond neo-liberalism.

Tonight I sat among a phalanx of sneering Nats, egging Judith on in her campaign to belittle Jacinda.  They were disgusting, frankly, and further firmed up my allegiances.

I have thought long and hard about my vote. While the courageous and principled Green MP, Catherine Delahunty (who also became my friend), was in Parliament, I voted Green, and did so also last time.

Strategically I still think I should vote to the left of Labour, but I don’t think there is any left left (this is not a typo). But my decision about this year’s vote is more than that.  I attended the leader’s debate last night in Christchurch, and I admired Jacinda’s approach and was proud of her.  I mixed with current MPs and former Labour colleagues, and I firmed up my decision made tentatively at the weekend.  It is not that I think Labour has yet shed all its neo-lib roots, but I do think it is trying to do so.

Electorate vote Megan Woods, Party vote Labour. I will get me to a polling place post haste.  I am putting my eggs in the Labour basket.  May they bear the fruit of a new tomorrow.

Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.


  1. Very relatable piece Liz,

    Labour sold their soul to Roger Douglas and many said….never again.

    We know what Ardern is about but how her progress in key areas had a handbrake forced and had multiple life changing catastrophic events to contend with, so we can cut her some slack. When we look at the toxic, highly dangerous, untrustworthy and extremely divisive alternative to Labour, it’s a massive wake up call for all New Zealand. National are in for an unprecedented and well earned drubbing on the 17th October. The wake up call is being heard.

    We don’t have to forgive Labour for Roger Douglas etc but we do need to see past it for now. If we carry that with us at this time, we risk a time that will make the Roger Douglas era look like a stroll in the park on a summer day. The 2020 version of the National Party is the worst version in it’s history by light years and being led by NZ’s most despicable party leader.

    Your choice.

    Mothers milk….or Atropa belladonna.

    National will have to reinvent it’s self during the next term. Collins will be quickly replaced and will call for a By-election in Papakura within weeks of her record election day loss and replacement as leader. Her early retirement will be her final fark you and revenge to those that had the audacity to replace her. She just couldn’t work under them and with her decades old ambition obliterated, retirement is her only option.

    If National come back with a credible alternative and Labour drop the ball over the next 3 years, they will deserve to be ousted in 2023. Won’t happen. This Government is on standby for a terrific 3 years and National will always be National.

  2. I would reminded you we are voting for the Party best equipped to put this countries economy back on an even keel not a bed mate. The personality of the leader should play a minor role but unfortunately for many it is front and centre . This is how Winston has survived for so long . I am sure he would be a great dinner guest blesse with great one liners but the country has gained little from his years as King Maker.

    • Trevor maybe you do not remember some of the positive legacy of Winny.
      He put the last coalition into power, got us the gold card and free doctors visits for kids. He also fought the corrupt bankers systematically ripping off NZ.
      Unfortunately Winny flirts with the corporate for funds so has to mind their interests. Labour has also followed this track often.

  3. …” I love their approach but have always been held back by their failure, yet, to tip the political balance beyond neo-liberalism ”…

    They’ve had almost 4 decades to work on it, repudiate it and form new policy’s. They haven’t. The will wasn’t there and they were always afraid to admit they made a terrible mistake and to frighten all those corporate donater’s. Adern , it seems, is the only one who seems to have a veiled will to change it … slightly. I believe she is more or less a ‘third way’ politician. But you cannot change much using the Blairite formula. You only mask the core problems.

    However , NZ has been blessed to have PM Adern.

    Despite her ‘sneering’ detractors form the National party, there is no one in the Nats that can even come close. Not even within a bulls roar in the late evening hours in a flat valleyed silent countryside. What Adern as PM has had to contend with in her 3 year term as leader would grey the hairs of many older seasoned leaders, yet here she is, still positive, cheerful , uplifting to so many, a voice of calm and empathy,…she is indeed an extraordinary politician and an extraordinary person.

    She is our Winston Churchill without the crustiness or the scheming craftiness. Although to be fair to Churchill, – at that time fighting a horrific war did not include necessarily the politics of kindness. However all that said I will party vote Green because I have a sneaking suspicion Labour will need them. I also am more aligned with the Greens social policy’s.

    And yes , Labour will be returned to power, and I believe also the Greens. And National will be beaten soundly and Act will be easily corralled onto the ropes. Give them a rope and they will hang themselves as soon as they roll out more and more of their odious far right and extremist dinosaur policy’s.

    National trying to take on Adern and Labour is like some young wannabe trying to take on Billy the Kid in a gunfight atm,.. it just aint gonna happen…

    Marty Robbins. The Fastest Gun Around

    • Admire much of what Adern has accomplished thus far. Hasn’t been able to commence destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society as yet but if She gets a resounding Mandate this Election there’s a glimmer of hope She may make a start.
      Lived through the Thatcher and Blair years in the UK (in the Nth)
      Collins greatly admires Thatcher. That’s about all one needs to know…..
      Blair actually started off quite well IMHO but became an Elites Toady. He sold out and is now a toxic caricature….
      Let’s hope Jacinda took note of that during Her time working for Him and in his later years…
      The Ordinary People in Aotearoa need a Government for Them. The “Trickle (Flood) Up” of Wealth in this Country to the point that the 50% below the centre point now collectively possess 2% of the Wealth is beyond Obscene.
      Remember reading back in the day that what Douglas did, Thatcher would never have dared to contemplate, cause the British People wouldn’t have stood for it… To Labour’s eternal shame.
      If Labour, and whoever they Coalition with this time, get in and form a Govt. they better start undoing the Master / Serf dynamic that has come about in Aotearoa.
      Take the Yoke of Poverty from around the necks of so many Kiwis.
      Having said that those who can do a good days work when it’s available near where they live, but can’t be bothered, or those who are slaves to the Pipe or the Bottle don’t deserve being molycoddled.
      Welfare in a Compassionate Society should be designed as a Safety Net and a Hand Up. Including for those thrown out of Work through no fault of their own. Not a Hand Out to the Feckless…
      For those unfortunate to be mentally or physically compromised or disabled, not necessarily through bad choices, that is also what Welfare is for. And enough of it to allow them to live with Dignity.
      Let’s hope the next Govt. Does Work on a Reset for our Society. It is very long Overdue and hasn’t really got very far as yet with the Current Govt. despite Covid coming in from Left Field to disrupt the norm.
      If Labour do get a resounding Mandate to work with this time and don’t commence to push back the Neo Lib travesty then they will not Deserve future Power.

  4. I have followed the political path of Dr Gordon with identical concerns and have voted Green since the break up of Alliance.
    We must now accept that it is very unlikely that a Government can be formed without some form of alliance with another party. The two natural options are Maori and Greens and they will be needed to balance the automatic alliance of National with ACT. It is still possible, if you look at the undecided, that if they do not obtain any seats that we could have a National/Act Alliance in power.
    Not only are they essentials for ensuring the reelection of Labour but they will also bring strength in environmental policies (surprised no mention of this, have we forgotten the urgency for action and this was also part of the cause for the Covid disaster?) as well as a focussed attention to the unique problems being suffered by Maoridom. No brainer that we must look further than one party to cope with the enormous challenges faced by ourselves and our children. Incidentally I am a great fan of Jacinda who has been a wonderful leader and the best Prime Minister since Norman Kirk.

  5. The long way round is my name for casual sex. The long way round to avoiding pregnancy. Urban Dictionary didn’t accept it.

    The Greens have the right policies but if I was a Maori I’d vote for the Maori Party.

    I despise the ’84 Labour Party. Just for the fact that they are still defined by that year.

  6. The long way round is my name for casual sex. The long way round to avoiding pregnancy. Urban Dictionary didn’t accept it.

    The Greens have the right policies but if I was a Maori I’d vote for the Maori Party.

    I despise the ’84 Labour Party. Just for the fact that they are still defined by that year. DON’T vote for them, there’s no need.

    Yep, the Green leader James whatshisname thinks everything can be be done CV ideal but their policies are right.


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