I've signed people up to Labour (three at last count) and I've done stuff to help out (mainly by releasing my partner to do the masses of voluntary work he does for the party, or helping him to learn how to do vaguely technical online campaigning things). I'm a member of a union (SFWU) which is affiliated to Labour, so some people reckon this makes me a member, but it doesn't really unless I choose to be active, which I don't.
The other day I was getting my photo taken by the Central Leader outside the future site of a Warehouse store in my constituency, which I've been assisting locals to oppose (on the grounds that it's a stupid place to put any big box retail, but that's a whole other blog post). It was first thing in the morning and chilly with it, so I was wearing my black wool coat and a warm red scarf. The photographer and journalist asked me if the red scarf was "because it is the Warehouse or because of the Labour Party." I explained that I hadn't even thought of the Warehouse's colours, that I wasn't in the Labour party, and that actually it was because black next to my face makes me look really washed out in photos. We all laughed about it.
I've had this scarf since before I met my Labour partner, I think; it was a present from my Mum years and years ago.* Twice in the last fortnight other people have assumed I'm Labour** based on said scarf. On other occasions the nominal reason for the assumption is a red jumper or hand-bag or shoes.
- The colour red does not belong to the Labour party. In other contexts it might be assumed I'm in the Bloods, or supporting the Dragons. How come when I wear green no one assumes I'm Green?***
- Because really the assumption is not about the scarf, or the jumper or the shoes or the handbag. It's about who my partner is; i.e. a prominent Labour person.
I don't entirely mind the Labour assumption. I spend a lot of time with Labour people,**** and I have to say my local government electoral success was in large part a result of a lot of hard work from Labour supporters and members, who campaigned for me even though I wasn't one of their own.
But I do find the gender difference intriguing. As is the label that I'm a "politician's wife". I've been involved in politics since well before I met my partner. If you want to get technical, I was a politician before he was by some measures, and started at the same time by others. For several years now it's been clear that his political future, in terms of limelight, may be more significant than mine, but that doesn't reduce me to an appendage clutching my pearls on the sideline while my man does the real work. He definitely doesn't see me that way and neither do I.
* Thinking back I suspect she gave it to me to get me to stop wearing my North Harbour scarf incessantly.
** I'm not Labour but I am definitely in the labour movement. The difference is very clear in my mind.
*** Although someone did say I was "looking very National Party today" last week because I was wearing blue tights. And here I thought I was looking like a Blue Stocking.
**** Yes some of my best friends are in the Labour party.