When I was 16 I worked in a take-away store that sold fried chicken, and on Saturdays things were invariably slow and quiet during the day. The manager would usually get stuff done in the office, while the main cook and the cashier (me) would mainly do prep for the evening shift when things were busier.* For a while the main cook was a guy called Peter and we used to have quite interesting discussions about politics. I remember the specifics of none of what we talked about, except for the time when Peter told me I should be a Cabinet Minister's wife someday. I asked why I couldn't be a Cabinet Minister myself.
That discussion, nearly two decades ago, has come back to me in the
last few days. On Thursday I rang back a journalist at the Herald on Sunday
who had left a message saying he wanted to discuss my take on the
marginal seats. To put this in context, I generally do a couple of
media interviews a month since I was elected to the Puketapapa Local
Board, mostly about local issues, but sometimes about feministy
political things as a result of work on this very blog you're reading.
I've been asked to be on TV panels for political shows (invitations I
haven't been able to take up) to add a feminist perspective. All of
these media contacts, and ones I've experienced in the past for other
hats I've worn, have been to me, as a person in my own right, a
politician or a blogger or a spokesperson on an issue.
Back to my conversation with the HoS journo. To start
with I thought we were just talking about my take on the marginals. I
thought this was a bit strange, as I don't profess to have any
particular expertise on the marginals, and had only made some loose
predictions a couple of weeks back to aid my calculations for the
projected Labour and National caucuses (and the gender analysis of the parties I've been doing for two elections now).
Indeed I declined to comment on the Hamilton seats at all because I
just don't know enough about them. I would have done the same for most
of the other seats on my marginal list, but he really only asked me
about Auckland Central and Maungakiekie, which I do know a little
about. I said I thought the door-knocking Nikki Kaye had done for six
months before election day in 2008 had been key for her victory and that
I had heard Jacinda Ardern's team had been canvassing there for ages
already, making it difficult to predict. I talked at length about what a
good job Carol Beaumont was doing as a local MP in Maungakiekie, and how impressed I had been when we worked on the Pah Rd Warehouse issue together.
Then the penny dropped, when I was asked if I thought it
would be demoralising to Labour to have the wife of a candidate saying
they would lose some marginals.
Was it naive to think that a reporter might actually want to talk to me about some political analysis I'd written?
chatted some more about Labour's morale; I told him I've been around
Labour activists for more than 12 years, since before I met my partner,
and I have not seen them as energised and motivated as this since 1999.
I said they were clear about their vision and strongly wanted to get
National out of government. I talked about the commitment and energy I
saw put into the Botany by-election, and not just by the candidate. I
mentioned the difficulty of overcoming the "John Key factor"; that this
Prime Minister is immensely popular for reasons I don't understand and
it's very difficult in true marginals when the incumbent has John Key in
And I talked about myself as a separate political entity from my husband.
I pointed out that I am not in the Labour party. The journo queried
that, I reconfirmed it. I talked about some of the evidence that we are
not a political hivemind, referencing the fact we stood for different
parties in two elections (and he indicated he was aware of that already
by saying he knew I had been in the Alliance), that I don't receive the
emails about what the lines are and we don't discuss it either. I also
said that Jane Clifton's political commentary was not considered to be
influenced by her relationship with Murray McCully.
There have been several days of apprehension waiting to see if an
article would come out, including conversations with a couple of Labour
MPs, and my partner, about what I'd said and what they'd said and blah
When the article came out today I couldn't believe how sexist
it was. "Labour wife"? I'm not even in the Labour party, and I made
that clear. It's like a master class in how to annoy a feminist
politician. The whole concept of the article assumes that I am but a
political appendage of my partner.
Even David Farrar has labelled it a non-story.
Of the three Labour MPs quoted, Goff refused to comment, Ardern pointed
out lots of blogs are making comments and predictions for the general
election, and Beaumont wisely stated "In the end the decision won't be made by independent commentators. It will be made by the people of Maungakiekie."
There are many layers of irony in this experience. Not least
that the reason I made an assessment on the marginals in the first place
was to work out the political representation of women in National and
Labour. A measurement I've done now across various political parties 12
times. There's been a lot of discussion and debate on blogs, and also
in the mainstream media, about the problem National seems to have with
getting women into Parliament, but apparently it's only worth talking to
me about the analysis I've done because of who I'm married to, based on
the assumption he shares my views.
One last irony. Inherent in labelling those seats as "marginal"
is a conclusion by this blogger that Labour's excellent candidates in
Hamilton West, Auckland Central and Maungakiekie could win those seats.
Last election I was sure Judith Tizard would hold Auckland Central and I
was so wrong. Every election I hope that Peter Dunne will lose
Ohariu-Belmont and I'm yet to be correct.
My partner's views? You'll have to ask him; I only blog and do interviews on mine.
* Not busier enough - place went under
and I ended up with no job and no holiday pay because I didn't quit as I
believed the boss when he said he was re-opening elsewhere and I'd work there instead. Every job I've had since then I have joined the union.