Below is an article written by my fellow Alliance candidate Sarah Campbell. It’s a well written commentary on why she’s running. Well worth a read. Feel free to share it with everyone you know.
I am running on the Alliance list this election. In the past few weeks I have encountered a lot of wry smiles, some open laughter, a lot of confusion, and some angry contempt. It’s the last one that bothers me the most of course, although it does make me sad and frustrated when people don’t know what the Alliance is, or think that we’re still Jim Anderton (he’s a party all to himself, I say).
What annoys me is people who say they are lefties too, and that we should be ashamed for splitting the left vote. Some of them seem more annoyed at me than at John Key. So I would like to put my case for why I am standing for the Alliance, and why that’s a move I will be proud of, no matter who comes out on top on November 8.
First of all, I would not say Labour is a party of the left. We aren’t splitting the “left vote”, we are the left vote!
People look at me in horror as if, in these desperate times, we have to support Labour just to keep the Nats out. That we have moved back toward a two party view of things in this age of MMP is sad. The debate on TV is just Helen vs John, and very much personality based. Labour’s ads for things that are “only safe with Labour” seem a desperate cry of “We’re slightly better than them! It seems to suit Labour well though, like it did last election, when people in their fear voted Labour rather than for their first choice. Strategic voting means voting against what you might want the most, to keep out what you fear the most. And it means settling for second best, and no real change for the better.
The 5% threshold has a lot to answer for here – without it, Alliance MPs would have been in Parliament during the 2002-2005 term. There is a good case for lowering the threshold to the lowest percentage that yields a seat. A lot of people throw up their hands in horror and say things like – “that would mean the Destiny Party would have got a seat.” But really, that’s representation, that’s democracy.
If Labour is only in competition with National it’s a race to the centre. Labour has not seen real opposition from the Left in years, and it hasn’t produced any left-wing policy in years. If National are their only real competition, then Labour will emulate their policies: tax cuts, anyone? If Labour sees real, strong competition from the left, they will adopt leftwing policies. I want to send a message that there are still people who believe in leftwing values, and who want more than Labour has done in nine years of “Third Way” mediocrity. Helen Clark and company have moved the goalposts so much so that recently at Otago University we saw students cheering for a very gradual return to what is far less than they deserve.
To the people who question whether the Alliance will actually win any seats, and therefore why are we bothering, I say: we will, eventually. We are rebuilding. It’s about actually having the courage of your convictions. I’m not going to join a party just because it’s the winning team, I joined because it’s the team that I want to win. Here’s my plug: pragmatically, I say, if people believe in Alliance policy but can’t quite bring themselves to give us their party vote, they should give us their electorate vote. Firstly, to appease all the Labour lovers, that won’t change the makeup of Parliament in terms of Labour v National. Second, once we are polling 5% in electorate votes, everyone will know it is safe to give the Alliance their party vote. Or if everyone who believed in us voted for us now, we’d be back in two ticks.
I want to vote for what I really believe in. I want to vote for free education, free health care, public ownership, progressive taxation and social justice. Not gradually, now! We don’t have to compromise on these things. With MMP you can vote for what you believe.
As the other side would say, you just have to choose it.
Sarah Campbell is a political activist and candidate with the Alliance Party of Aotearoa/New Zealand and a graduate of the University of Otago.