Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Another reason NZ's a pretty awesome place

This past weekend I was reminded again of one of the things I like best about New Zealand. But to tell you what (and why) that is, I have to do some name-dropping.

On Sunday I went to the Labour Party’s campaign launch, the fourth one I’ve been to. It was very upbeat and energising, as such things always have been, and the feeling of commitment to changing the government was noticeable.

Labour Leader David Cunliffe gave a good speech (photo above) laying out Labour’s positive vision for New Zealand, making it a better, fairer place for all New Zealanders [the text is available online and there's a video—with poor audio—on YouTube].

Events like that are kind of like a school reunion or something, diverse people who have one big thing in common (in this case, we support the same party). So there are a lot of hugs and handshakes and little chats.

Labour Party supporters before the Campaign Launch.
I got to see and speak with fellow party members (including some of our team in this electorate, including our candidate, Richard Hills), party leaders and candidates who I don’t see all that often. I got to meet Clare Curran, MP for Dunedin South, which was a treat: Over the years, we’ve communicated frequently over Twitter and Facebook, but never met in real life until Sunday. In that same category was Tamati Coffey, Labour’s candidate in Rotorua, Grant Robertson (Wellington Central), Jacinda Ardern (List, and candidate for Auckland Central), Trevor Mallard (Hutt South) and even Paddy Gower, the political editor for 3 News. I’ve communicated with all of them on Twitter and/or Facebook, but hadn’t met any of them.

I also had a nice chat with Willow-Jean Prime, Labour candidate for Northland, who I first met at the Labour List Conference (and who I follow on Facebook). Met her husband for the first time, too. I also chatted with others I met at the List Conference, including Jerome Mika (candidate for Papakura), and North Shore candidate, Claire Szab√≥. There were a few more that I saw, but didn’t get a chance to talk to.

After the event, we waved as the big red campaign bus headed out on its campaign tour. I was waiting for my ride, so I chatted with some of the others still there, including David Cunliffe, who I’ve always found to be very personable and nice the times I’ve met him personally. I also thanked David Parker, Labour’s Deputy Leader and the architect of Labour’s Economic Upgrade policies. Those policies are awesome, and made it possible for me to talk to people about Labour in completely new ways.

All this name-dropping gets to something that I love about politics in New Zealand: It’s possible to meet and talk with the most powerful people in the country in a way that would be impossible in the USA. It’s an imperfect comparison, but in American terms, it’s as if I had casual, relaxed chats with Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Leadership in the US House, plus senior members of the Democratic Caucus.

I previously attended Labour Campaign Launches in 1999, 2002 and 2005. I didn’t participate in politics in the years in between. But in those previous years, Labour was the party leading government (which changes the comparisons with the USA again, ramping it up a bit). 2005 was also the last time I spoke with a Labour Deputy Leader. At the time, that was Michael Cullen who was also Deputy Prime Minister. A good omen for David Parker becoming the next Deputy Prime Minister.

Below is my selfie before the start of the event. I’m a little too shy to ask the well known people if I can take a selfie with them (plus, I’m not very good at it…clearly). The photo up top is very meta, as the guy in the foreground is a blogger who worked on his post on his laptop (and it was me taking a cellphone photo as he took a cellphone photo).

And there you have it: Any New Zealander with an interest in politics, who wants to channel that interest through a political party, can meet and have casual conversations with leaders of the country. Frequently. This is mostly because of New Zealand’s small size, relative to the USA, and our MPs represent far fewer people than does a US Representative.

There’s another reason beside population size that explains why NZ politics are so different: NZ society is less formal, less deferential toward those in power and, so, our politics is more personal than US federal politics can be. And that’s one of my favourite things about the way this country works.

Name-dropping is optional, though.

Me at the Labour Party Campaign Launch, Sunday, August 10, 2014.

Labour Leader David Cunliffe chats with Party supporters after the campaign launch.

1 comment:

rogerogreen said...

Must say, I generally HATE selfies - they look weird - but this one's actually not bad.