The struggle of an early life that included hunger and homelessness is a critical part of what led Shelley Pilkington to put her hand up for the National Party. This election, she’s ranked 75th on the National list.
Read more from The Spinoff’s Last on the List series here.
“Disappointed with last on the list?” someone asked me.
No! Far from it, I replied. It’s an honour to represent the National Party and I’m keenly aware there are dozens of other extremely capable, ambitious, hardworking Party members who would also have loved the opportunity.
I’ve made no secret of my political ambitions and, living in a fairly average house in an average suburb, people have often been curious: “Why National?”
Growing up, life was hard. I’d experienced hunger and homelessness and for a time been a ward of the state. When I left school I felt the pressure to work and support my family.
But one day, as a young adult, I realised that handing out money wasn’t achieving anything; I needed to leave home and take responsibility for my own future.
I went to live with my grandfather. Grandad had faced a rough childhood too but had worked hard and done well, even receiving an MBE for his significant contribution to social work. He helped me to catch a vision for my future by teaching me about goal-setting, how to budget and save money, and encouraged me to further my education.
When it came time to vote, I asked my grandfather, “Who should I vote for?”
He said, “The National Party. They’ll back you.”
And that’s been my experience.
With a strong economy that provides access to a quality education, worthwhile job opportunities, the ability to build a career, and in my case, the confidence to start a successful small business in marketing communication, I know that the values of personal responsibility, hard work and reward for effort are not just political ideology; they actually work.
But to achieve these things well, we also need strong families and caring communities – another key National Party value. We need to be surrounded by people who believe in us – like my grandad – who invest their time and attention to lift and encourage others to be everything they were meant to be; and to be supported by a government that gives people a hand up, not just a hand out.
National Party policies, like investing in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, reflect our commitment to these values. It’s well known that a child’s experiences during these formative years are critical to setting them up for future success. To do this, National wants to make sure all new mums and dads are equipped with the right skills, relationships and access to support services which will see their child grow up in a healthy, secure and nurturing family environment.
Then there’s jobs. Keeping Kiwis in work is the biggest issue facing our country right now. There are currently about 400,000 people on the wage subsidy; when that ends what happens to them?
National recognises it is small business owners who will create the jobs to get us through this economic crisis. To demonstrate that we back them, National’s JobStart policy will provide a $10,000 cash payment to businesses that hire extra staff, giving them the confidence to create jobs. This means thousands more families will have the dignity of putting food on their own table as well as reducing the burden on taxpayers.
Despite the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, under a National-led government businesses will be inspired to grow, invest and employ more people. National’s plan is to generate more tax revenue by sharing in business growth instead of punishing success with additional tax. A growing economy will provide more money to payback debt, to spend on infrastructure, healthcare, education and a cleaner, greener environment – the things New Zealanders really want.
I’m incredibly grateful for the life I now live with my husband and three teenaged children on Auckland’s North Shore. This motivates me to pay it forward. For the past several years I have volunteered as leader of a community development project and as board member and chairperson of a successful not-for-profit in the community sector, as well as being an active member of the National Party (aka “policy geek”).
Realistically, short of a cataclysmic disaster (God forbid!), “last on the list” is unlikely to make it to parliament next term. But I’m confident that the National Party, led by Judith Collins, has the best people and the best policies to form the next government and create opportunities for every New Zealander to achieve their goals and dreams.
I’m proud to be campaigning for a National-led government and asking everyone to vote “two ticks blue” on October 17.