In the latest episode of Youth Wings, Young NZ First’s national chairman and Dunedin candidate Keegan Langeveld battles with ‘preconceived ideas’ about the party.
“I have candy and I have fruit,” says Keegan Langeveld to visitors of NZ First’s stall at Victoria University’s club day. He has previously explained that Labour and National are not the only parties and NZ First is “waiting in the wings to come back”; politely avoided answering questions from Nicola Willis, deputy leader of the National Party, about NZ First’s stance on borrowing and debt after she called the policies on his “Yay or Nay” board “really expensive”; and been accused of racism from members of other youth wings.
Langeveld dislikes many of the “preconceived ideas” associated with NZ First which people bring to him as he stands under the NZ First branded gazebo or by the pop-up banners featuring Winston Peter’s face. He tries to give light to NZ First policies, to show that “we’re balanced and common sense” through the “Yay or Nay” board where policies are lined up and people can vote on them with stickers. Most of the stickers fall in the “Yay” column, but still, “a lot of people assume that everyone involved with the party is racist”. Months later, during the election campaign, NZ First leader Winston Peters would be roundly condemned for claiming that Māori “are not indigenous” to New Zealand.
Luckily, the 22-year-old Langeveld has revealed himself as a “fighter”. It was his mum who first described him as a fighter, and now he says, “I like to think that’s kinda how I approach life, as a fighter and as a bit of an underdog.” He was born three months premature in Dunedin Hospital, and fought to survive, which “set the tone of what was to come”. When he was 15, the family moved to Invercargill, where he spent most of his teenage years reading, studying, playing Xbox and being head student at a small, low decile high school. He remembers that when politicians came to visit Aurora College, they would only ever talk about themselves and their parties, something which “annoyed me when I was younger”. He visits not as a politician but as a former head student, to encourage students to pursue further education.
The 22-year-old’s fighting style is more persistent and resilient than aggressive. He left law school because he realised that there, “you’ve got to be the loudest one in the room, the most blunt, the roughest – you’ve got to be a bit of a dick – that didn’t sit right with me. I wouldn’t want to operate in a system like that”. Instead, he listens and diplomatically nudges NZ First stand visitors away from racist rhetoric without outwardly disagreeing with them.
These interactions are likely to be good training for Langeveld’s new post – NZ First’s candidate for the Dunedin electorate seat. announcing the candidacy in July, party leader Winston Peters remarked: “We’ve all got to start somewhere.”