This latest election has been a first for me in a couple of ways.
I caught a bit of Jacindamania. I didn't break with a lifetime tradition of for never voting either Labour or National. As the prime stakeholders and beneficiaries in the two-part system, they're to blame for the current system. Before MMP I used to vote for McGillicudy - or Social Credit. Not being in a marginal seat it made no difference - but I believed I should still vote. With the arrival of MMP, voting for a party was a question of who might ameliorate the excesses of the likely winner.
2017 saw me heading on the same track - but decided it was time to stop being so cynical. That's something I've been working on the last few years, and why I appreciated Jacinda's positivity - and the affect it had on Bill. But it left me with a dilemma. I suddenly had to evaluate what parties stand for - or at least what they say they stand for.
The first thing that surprised me me was that I agreed with roughly 1/2 to 3/4 of most of the policies. I've been learning to appreciate the positives of every person, rather than writing off everything they say because they once (or often) said clearly stupid things. There were two outliers. One was lower, and one was higher. I thought I might vote for the one that was higher even though they would obviously not get in. As I read their policies, I discovered they failed to recognise that we are one nation but two peoples, so they were out. Not everyone accepts the Treaty is still legitimate. It also has a sad history of abuse and neglect, but it has not been rescinded.
My father was from the north of England, and my mother's father from the south of England. You don't get much whiter than me (except when I used to get sunburned ????). Unlike other colonies, we had the benefit of a treaty. It has been subject to many abysmal abuses to this day - mainly against Maori. It's only in later years I've realised that we still have a living treaty. Much of what I saw as trouble-makers stirring is a natural (if not helpful) course when natural and legal justice is denied. Having a "Maori" voice subservient to one of the major parties and losing their independent voice seems tragic. This is worse still given the balance of power is held by a Maori who wants to eliminate Maori representation.
Since I agree with a large part of what most parties propose, how am I to vote? My life is my responsibility. The state's main is to let us get on with living peacefully as we choose. This includes things like watching out for the weak and poor, and protecting them from some of the "successful" abusing their success. Defining what things like watching out for the poor and abuse means is the role of political parties.
My first protest march wasn't during my student days. I was finally provoked enough when National slashed benefits. At the time I was a budget adviser with CAB, and I felt this keenly. That's not to say I support all low-income lifestyles. Most of those who came to see me weren't prepared to cut their cloth according to their situation. And I certainly was perturbed by the assumption by some in the latest election that it's fine to lie if you want.
In the end I voted for TOP - even though they weren't going to get in. I don't agree with all their policies, but they haven't been corrupted yet by power and politics, so their credibility hasn't been damaged. They might even listen to me (or at least people who made the effort to speak out) - and when I say listen. At this stage they seem to be most aligned with my views on a non-issue, if judged by the other parties. That is social inclusion.
By that I don't mean as defined by WINZ and others (shades of Yes Minister?). I think more of the way the Portuguese government refocussed their approach, including people on the fringes of society while legalising personal use of drugs. That's a whole separate subject - but would probably have more impact on relatively minor things like voting rates than anything else.
Second I feel really sad for us Kiwis. Predictions of one person being the decider are now reality. We've got almost half the people on either side, so one half will be losers, and one half winners. We've seen the tragedy of the winner / loser debacle in the UK (Brexit and the election) and the US where ordinary people were never going to win given the candidates, whichever party won. Now we're facing the sad reality that half of us are losers. Really?
We can only maximise total performance when we all work together. Imagine issues being debated and decided on the merits for the all people of Aotearoa, and not just vested interests. We saw an example of how tragic they were with tobacco.
Can you imagine a situation where politicians agree on common ground, and negotiate and bargain for the rest. It is possible - although unknown in our culture. I'd say let's do it - but that might suggest bias. Plus sadly I don't really see it happening.