Sunday, 9 November 2008

Overhangs and hangovers

Waking up to a National government is a grim matter. Here's how I'm trying to console myself this morning.

New Zealand is a better place than it was ten years ago, and certainly better than it was fifteen years ago. One reason is that women's issues have made it, ever so tentatively, back onto the political agenda.

At some stage during the nineties, an ACT MP - Richard Prebble, I'm reasonably sure - said 'You breed 'em, you feed 'em'. It was a sign of the times, and the message couldn't have been clearer: your kids are your responsibility, so don't go expecting the support of society, ladies.

Now we have Working for Families and Paid Parental Leave. Neither of these have revolutionised life in New Zealand or banished poverty or inequality; but they do signal a change of thinking about the importance of supporting families and kids, and the value of women's unpaid work to our society. Moreover, this change of thinking seems to have been broadly accepted. As far as I can see, NZ has voted for new faces, not new policies.

Of course, the electorate could change it's mind about supporting women-friendly policies, or the Nats could dismantle them regardless of whether there is popular support to do so. If they do, they'll likely face resistance from voters who remember the horror that was the nineties and don't fancy an encore.

Losing an election isn't necessarily the same as being sent to the sin bin. In this case, I don't think it signals a rejection of Labour's general policy direction. With Labour and the Greens taking approximately 40% of the vote, there is a large amount of support which the left can build on.

And build we must. An election loss is a bitter pill to swallow; but it's also a catalyst for rejuvenation for the left. For a few weeks, we'll lick our wounds. And then, slowly but surely, the new ideas will begin to flow, promising new leaders will start to emerge, the left will chat to one another cordially across party lines, the Opposition will sharpen, the fund raising sausage sizzles will begin and the camaraderie will grow.

I'm kind of looking forward to it.

1 comment:

Nikki said...

Ahhh Anna. Thank you for giving me hope on a morning where I was feeling more than sorry for myself/ourselves.

While it has made my job and sector and awful lot harder to work in, it also presents a challenge. One that I am not happy to take up after reading this. :)