Marama Davidson’s campaign launch

I was beyond excited to see Marama Davidson stand up to announce her bid for the co-leadership of the Greens.

I’ve been a Marama fan for an age, so I was very biased in her favour. But reading her speech from today’s launch in Ōtara just reinforced it.

Together, we can build a country that ensures everyone has what they need to live good lives, and that recognises that a healthy environment is crucial to that.

Together, we can change politics forever.

Together, we are many.

New Zealanders want their Government to reflect our values of care and compassion for communities and the environment.

Because progressive values, Green values, are New Zealand values.

It’s not just powerful, it’s incredibly effective.

There are three fundamentals for modern progressive communications (which I’ve shamelessly stolen from Anat Shenker-Osorio’s website):

  • Don’t take the temperature, change it
  • Stop feeding the opposition; show what you stand for
  • Engage the base to persuade the middle

As to the first: we aren’t thermometers. We can’t be content to reflect where people are. We have to be thermostats, pushing the political temperature in the right direction. And Marama Davidson is doing that just by being who she is: a Māori woman, a mother of six, launching a political campaign at the leisure centre in Ōtara where she learned to swim as a kid.

(Jacinda Ardern has also been doing this, by taking a drastically different approach to Waitangi and defying the standard frame of “one day of tension and shouting which doesn’t ~bring the country together~”.)

But it’s further reinforced in a speech which does not make a single mention of economic growth (she does cite the “steady economic development” of her grandparents’ day) or business but uses the word “communities” 20 times. This will be decried by the Kiwiblogs and Whaleoils of the world as demonstrating her inability to be part of a proper government.

Good.

The second point: we can’t just be a resistance. A resistance is defined by what it resists. There has to be more to progressive politics than hating everything National did for the past nine years. I really hate the word vision (thanks, David Shearer), but it kind of applies: you need something to aim for. To build a better world, you’ve got to know what that better world looks like, otherwise how do you know you’re going in the right direction?

This is Marama Davidson’s vison:

Aotearoa can again be a country of care and compassion and a world leader through the greatest challenges of our time.

A country where all children grow up in healthy, liveable cities, are able to play in their local stream and forest, and have the support and opportunities to realise their full potential.

And a country that recognises that upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi as our founding document is essential in achieving this.

The third point is something both Labour and the Greens have been … not brilliant at over recent years. Instead of getting the hardcore fans excited, appreciating their role as communicators and agitators in their own communities, parties have taken them for granted. They’ve assumed the way to bring in people from outside was, variously, “say what the mainstream media wants to hear”, “try to look like National”, “tell people who hate us that we’re not that scary” and per point 2: “reinforce the right’s framing and priorities”.

The result … well, 44% of the country still voted National last election.

While it’s easy to write off Davidson’s approach as pandering to the fans (which wouldn’t exactly be a bad idea since they’re the ones voting for her) it’s important to understand how staunchly declaring Green Party values and the need for a fundamental shift in New Zealand politics and society will energise those fans, and make them feel there’s a real result from donating, volunteering, spreading the Green message.

Besides those three key points – and getting those right would have been entirely sufficient for me – there’s a few other things. Stuff you may have noticed me go on and on and on about, which progressive politicians just have to stop doing if they really want to achieve change.

  • Parrotting “my values are New Zealand values” without explaining what those values are
  • Using passive language instead of naming the villains
  • Using language that reinforces rightwing ideology.

Marama Davidson nails every single one of these. Her values are “care and compassion for communities and the environment”, working together (a prominent theme). The villains are “our elected representatives” who “tore apart the social safety net”.

That last point, that’s where I turn into the eyes-for-hearts emoji. One of my most-read posts last year was about how we (should) talk about child poverty: not as a passive force, but a created injustice. Well:

We could have chosen to pull communities in to our growing financial prosperity. But instead we further alienated struggling families and pushed them to the margins of our society.

Instead our elected representatives tore apart the social safety net we had built up over generations, pushing hundreds of thousands of children and families into hardship and deprivation.

Not “young people from vulnerable communities fell through the cracks”: “we built barriers for youth who simply were not born in to wealth”. Not “families ended up on the streets”: “we took families out of State houses that we sold to rich developers.”

We did this. We can fix it. Political messaging doesn’t get much clearer or paradigm-shifting than that.

Tinkering and half-measures will not be enough. Now is the time to be bold and brave for those who need us most.

My top 5 politicians of the year

Duncan Garner announced his pick for the top 5 politicians of the year yesterday, and one thing really stood out.

family guy no girls allowed

That’s right, all of them, without exception, are from the North Island. I mean, you can quibble that Bill English is technically a Southland boy, he lives in Karori, people.

sebastian roche and

Oh. And they’re all men.

Duncan had a pretty straight-up explanation for that.

And he’s right. We shouldn’t let box-ticking or tokenism or silly quotas get between us and the stone cold political assessments. So here, based entirely on objective factors like talent, media profile, principled action and political impact, and certainly not biased by any inherent preferment or societal narratives of what success looks like, are my top 5 politicians of the year.

5. Metiria Turei

You may not see it, but you have to assume she’s had her work cut out for her getting the Greens from Male Co-leader A to Male Co-leader B this year. And where other parties can’t so much as blink without cries of internal disunity and caucus ructions, the Greens have just got on and got the job done.

4. Jacinda Ardern

A strangely polarising figure in the Labour Party, half see her as the Second Coming and half despise her, not despite but because she has tremendous public profile in so-called “soft” media. Yet “soft” media is one of the keys (pardon the pun) to the PM’s success – as much as we pols nerds may rail against the perfidy of accepting interview requests from Radio Sport and ignoring Morning Report’s calls, it works. Unfortunately most NZers don’t get their news from Morning Report.

It sounds cynical if you assume that “soft” media is the be-all and end-all of politics these days. But Labour can be a both/and party, and that means doing Checkpoint and 7 Days.

3. Annette King

Just so you’ll forgive me for #4, Labour’s deputy leader has spent all year embarrassing Jonathan Coleman with inconvenient facts about his failure to properly resource our health system. If you took a drink every time he whined “no you’re wrong and Labour was worse” you’d have spent most of 2015 very happily inebriated.

2. Judith Collins

Boo, hiss, et cetera. But even though I totally called this, pretty much the day she resigned in utter disgrace, it’s impressive how delicately, yet determinedly, she’s rebuilding her profile and her credibility. We’re talking about a Minister of the Crown who threw senior public servants under the bus when members of her party were caught rorting the taxpayer, who brazenly coordinated attack bloggers and gossip mavens to do her bidding, and who was plagued with story after sordid story of the shady use of ministerial trips to help her husband’s business … and now she’s back with a weekly newspaper column and regularly going head-to-head with the deputy leader of the Labour Party on the telly.

Next stop: an inevitable return to Cabinet, and after that, a thunderous (but probably/hopefully unsuccessful) charge at the National leadership.

1. Mojo Mathers, Jan Logie, Clare Curran, Poto Williams, Denise Roche, Louisa Wall, Nanaia Mahuta, Catherine Delahunty, Marama Davidson, Jenny Salesa, Eugenie Sage, and Julie-Anne Genter

For making the voices of survivors of sexual violence heard in our House of Parliament and staging a beautiful collective act of resistance when they were shut down, making international headlines in the process. Doing the right thing and winning the media battle at the same time: that’s good politics.

Good news, everyone!

It’s not great news to see Russel Norman leaving Parliament, though he’s going to a pretty awesome new gig:

Former Green Party co-leader Russel Norman will resign as an MP and from the Green Party to head Greenpeace New Zealand.

Dr Norman, who stepped down from the co-leader position in May and was replaced by James Shaw, will leave Parliament next month.

In November he will become Greenpeace New Zealand’s executive director, taking over from Bunny McDiarmid, who has been in the role for 10 years.

But the great news is he’ll be replaced by the next candidate on the Greens list, the amazing, staunch, lovely Marama Davidson.

I can only express my feelings via meme.

marama the rock

Food for thought on Shane Jones’ retirement

As a Pākehā feminist I don’t think I have a lot that’s new to add to the discussion around Shane Jones. My feelings on the topic are pretty predictable.

But fortunately there’s a big ol’ world of Kiwi bloggers out there who bring different – and importantly, Māori – perspectives to the table.Perspectives that don’t tend to get a lot of play in the mainstream discourse.

Morgan Godfery (@MorganGodfery) has posted a political obituary for Shane Jones at Maui Street:

I disagreed with much of what he said, sure, but I recognised a commanding Maori leader.

Here was a man – and I’m deliberately using gendered language, but more on that later – who understood the Maori experience and the Maori condition: our idiosyncrasies, language, literature, history, philosophies, spiritualism and our politics.

And that’s what set Jones apart. In that respect, he was above the Maori leaders of his generation.

He goes on to talk about Jones’ strengths and weaknesses, especially in the context of specifically-Māori political history and aspirations. He asks,

… I’m mourning what he represented and what appears to be, for now, a loss of meaning in Maori politics. Who carries the tohu of the likes of Carroll now? Is that political line broken? After all, Parekura has gone. Tariana is leaving. But who is coming through?

Marama Davidson (@MaramaDavidson) happily responds in a post at the Daily Blog about the prospects of new Māori political leadership:

Jones’ announcement brings us to the end of Parliament time for five high profile Māori politicians over the past year. On 29 April it will be one year since the passing of Parekura Horomia, Labour MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti. Last year Māori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples signalled they would retire from Parliament after the 2014 elections. Two weeks ago Tau Henare National MP also declared he will be stepping down come September.

Whatever our political colours this combined exit represents nearly 70 years of Māori Parliamentary experience. There is no denying that they are political icons in the Māori world. Some commentators have noted their departure as an alarming exodus. I think it is merely a reminder for us all to support more Māori to step up.

There’s certainly a gap to fill – from this Pākehā’s perspective, Shane Jones has always been, possibly unfortunately at times, the face of the Labour Party on all things Māori. (The way our media treat Māori or any other minority group as a monolith is another huge topic to think about.) Who’s going to be the media go-to now? (If Kelvin Davis is going to carry on in this vein I definitely want to hear more from him!)

If you’ve seen any other good writing on the topic, drop a link in the comments!