‘On Monday night I was scratching my head about how to inspire Labour supporters. And then along came Jacinda. I’ve known her since I was a teenager, and we’re claiming her as an East Coaster’, writes Kiri Allan in the latest instalment of her candidate diary.
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They say a week in politics is a long time. BS! Everything can change in an instant and 24 hours is an eternity. As a first time-candidate living in the East Coast I am finding that politics is an emotional rollercoaster like no other.
I met Jacinda when I was 19. I was a second-year law student at Victoria University, Wellington and she called to asked if I wanted to intern in Helen Clark’s office. I thought it was a hoax call. Then Dot Kettle called me. She was Helen’s third in charge, I think, at that stage. I thought my all Christmases had come at once.
I was a rugged, idealistic 19-year-old with dreadlocks, living away from home, in the foreign environment that was law school, and I was being asked to intern in New Zealand’s most popular leader’s office. That was Jacinda Ardern’s doing. Now, 14 years later, she’s my new boss. Jacinda excites me. She excites lots of people I know that say they aren’t “political” and tend not to vote. Also, as a side note, we claim her here in the East Coast. She spent time growing up in Murupara and her boyfriend is from Gisborne. So, yup, I’ll call it: Jacinda is going to be our first home-grown prime minister – and we are proud.
On Monday night, I was scratching my head about how to inspire a gathering of Labour Party faithful at a film fundraiser they had organised for me at the Whakatane movie theatre. We had just had a number of polls released that put us at 23-24%, some of the lowest results Labour has had. I ended up talking frankly about how now was the time to put in the hard yards if we wanted to change the government. It was a tough speech to make as everyone in my team who are working so hard knew, as I did, that at 24% it would be tough to get me into parliament on 23 September.
Yesterday morning, at 4am, I found myself messaging a few of my fellow candidates and colleagues. At 5am, I was reading thoughtful responses from colleagues about where we, the Labour Party, were practically at and how the political scene was playing out in New Zealand. At 6am I was fielding calls from colleagues and was glued to the radio – a position that, by and large, lasted most of the day. By 7am, media had started making contact to see “whether the rumours are true”.
At 10am, I was emotional watching Andrew Little as he officially resigned as leader of the Labour Party. I have had the opportunity to get to know Andrew over the course of this campaign and I have the utmost admiration and respect for him. Andrew is genuine, he cares and he is driven by honest values. He’s not the kind of guy to let ego get in the way of doing what’s right. Andrew made his decision to resign today based on his values: the party was struggling, we weren’t looking like we could change the government, and he stepped aside. Ki a koe e te tangata rongonui, ka nui te mihi ki a koe.
At 12pm, at a roadside stall in Taneatua, together with a group of passionate volunteers, I hunted down a spot that had reception to watch Jacinda’s first speech as Labour leader. Jacinda Ardern and Kelvin Davis – what a team! Jacinda: young, passionate, smart, eloquent and inspirational. Kelvin: rural, rough, with a heart for people and not afraid of doing the hard yards to get the job done. This team is dynamic and I’m excited to be a part of the 2017 Labour team going into the election.
At 2pm, I was speaking alongside Green candidate Denise Roche at a First Union Stop Work Meeting in Whakatane and made the announcement that Jacinda and Kelvin were the party’s new leaders. The workers applauded. I had offers of volunteers and fences for more billboards to hang. I checked my phone after the meeting and had a handful of new people offer their voluntary services to the campaign – people want change.
But, the topic of the day aside, there are two matters that are glaringly obvious to me right now. The glue of our party are our members, our volunteers, our people that get up at the crack of dawn to put the signs up and sit at stalls; and second, our party faithful are out there because they genuinely want change for the good of our communities – and, right now, our communities are struggling immeasurably.
Five young people killed themselves in the past couple of weeks in the East Coast. It’s been termed by some, the “week of death”.
I witnessed what looked like an attempted methamphetamine deal occur the other day. An older male to a group of young kids. The kids didn’t fall for the deal and I told their uncles the fella’s name who seemed to be trying to peddle that deathly stuff to those kids. I’m sure that situation has been dealt to.
The neighbour of an 81-year-old nanny called me, upset because the Housing New Zealand home that the nanny lives in is really cold. She has been in hospital in the past for pneumonia. I visited the house last week and she’s right: it is very cold. There was no insulation under the carpet, there was condensation on the windows and visible mould patches. She’s fastidiously clean too. But the house is just cold. She’s 81.
I went into the house of a family. There were 10 adults living in the small three-bedroom flat plus kids. I’m not sure how many kids. The house was too full to cope with the number of people living there.
There aren’t enough jobs in the East Coast, small businesses are closing, Methamphetamine use is an epidemic and the social net that once caught kids like myself, is stretched too far and thin. Stuff like this – the unsexy stuff playing out in tonnes of families throughout the East Coast, doesn’t really get a lot of airtime. It’s yucky. It’s depressing. It’s killing our kids. Every day I’m on the campaign trail, this is what I’m seeing, hearing and feeling.
We have to be better, we must do more, and we must change this government. I’m afraid to see what will happen if communities like mine here in the East Coast have to endure another term of the status quo. The National government has shown over the past nine years that they are not prepared to do enough to deal with the growing gap between the haves and the have nots, and help communities like ours – ones where parts of it are struggling to survive.
Thank you Andrew for your leadership over the past few years, and for your humility in calling it a day when you thought it was time to step aside. Thank you Jacinda and Kelvin for stepping up to the challenge – you are both ready, and so are we, your team. We are behind you 100% and will do everything in our power over these next seven weeks to change this government – because our people need it.
READ MORE OF THE SPINOFF’S COVERAGE OF LITTLE’S RESIGNATION AND ARDERN’S ELEVATION
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