Lost way lost support

Invercargill MP Eric Roy has a shearing handpiece on the book shelf in his Wellington office. It’s to remind him where he comes from, why he’s in parliament and who put him there.

MPs who forget those things lose their way and that’s when they lose their supporters.

The Ex-expat  expresses this in a letter which would be instructional reader for all politicians. I don’t agree with all her points, but I am copying it below without comment because it’s a message from the heart which crosses political boundaries – give us something to vote for, not just something to vote against.

A Letter from a Labour Voter

Dear Labour,

I have confession to make, I don’t want to vote this election. You have no idea how much it pains me to make that admission not only because I have a number of friends who will contest this election under the Labour banner and I want them to do well, but because I genuinely believe that the best chance New Zealand has to succeed as a nation is through the re-election of a centre-left government. It’s just right now there doesn’t seem to be a party out there articulating a centre-left vision for the country.

And that’s what is missing from your constant bluster about ‘slippery’ John Key and his band of evil Hollow men with no policy, a vision for me and other left wing voters to vote for rather than a dystopia to vote against. Because the attacks, while fun and politically necessary on occasion, are hardly rousing stuff when that’s all you talk about and I must confess that I don’t bother reading your blog, The Standard, much because of it. It’s a shame because the Standard has interesting analysis on there from time to time but any lucid points are diluted by the sheer number of posts that attack John Key and National in even the most ridiculous of circumstances.

I suppose this negativity is likely a reflection of MPs and Ministers in Wellington who are probably scratching their head wondering why, after nine years of hard-fought funding increases and liberal reforms to New Zealand society, people aren’t dancing in the streets about all that you’ve achieved.

And to be fair to your administration, the New Zealand I returned to last year is a very different country to the one I left in 2002. The place seems so much wealthier than when I left. Not the kind of wealthy where millionaires live in secluded compounds just a few kilometers away from the kind of poverty and hopelessness that made me cry in so many parts of Asia. But a wealth that sees most of our population well fed, mostly healthy and highly educated, and most importantly working in real jobs rather than pretend work in order to receive an unemployment benefit. What I found the most amazing was how many large public infrastructure projects, like spaghetti junction in Auckland, which had been started in the 1970s and left to stagnate in the 1980s and 1990s have been slowly been completed in the past few years thanks to your administration. Likewise you get a thumbs up from ex-expat for concluding a huge number of significant treaty settlements and Free Trade Agreements.

But thing is, I and other voters still want more. The reason we want more is because we didn’t elect you to maintain the status quo, we elected you to build a better society and we know that there is still so much work to be done. I want to know why I’ve spent 18 months being dicked around by the health system for elective surgery I can’t afford to pay for privately and my health insurance policy won’t pay for either. I want to know why broadband in this country is so hideously slow, expensive and in many places non-existent. While we are at it, how come you haven’t gotten around to reforming our heinous abortion laws despite having a supposedly all-powerful women’s caucus?

Most importantly you started your tenure in office with a vision to use a politically incorrect term, ‘close the gaps’ between various sectors of New Zealand society. Sometime during your term in office you stopped talking about the vision even though you and the people who voted for you still believe in it. And while it has taken you nine years in power for that rich poor gap to close for the first time in twenty years, there are still huge gaps that need to be closed. Perhaps the most gaping is in education where we have a system that fails half of the Maori Boys that go through it. I don’t need to lecture on what happens to those boys later in life. But the thing is, the people who are voting for you need to know that reason we need to put money and new ideas into fixing this problem is not because it is ‘politically correct’ but because it is the correct political principle.

At the moment the other side seems to have large numbers of your voters convinced that tax cuts are the way to go to make their lives better. So much so you that you performed a political harikiri, a tax cut of your own, in order to do so. But as you rightly point out to National, you can’t cut tax without also cutting the government services that will hurt your voters the most. What happened to that vision and connection that filled us with such hope in 1999? I’m not sure about the others, but you lost me when the principle of ‘sustainability’ became the political issue that we were willing to burn so much of our political capital in order to achieve.

I hope that I’m wrong about all this and there’s a grand plan in Heather’s top drawer for the next three years that will inspire me and other people to vote you because we want to. Because right now I feel like I am casting my vote on the basis of loyalty rather than inspiration and that’s not really much of reason to drag myself to the polling booth at all.

Regards,

Ex-expat.

PS. You overuse of the ‘slippery’ tag is right up there with the right’sLiarbour‘ for sheer irritation value.

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