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.
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.