Guest Post: Beth Houston for Senior Vice President

Written By: - Date published: 2:30 pm, September 6th, 2016 - 29 comments
Categories: democratic participation, labour - Tags:

Beth Houston - Facebook

The Standard’s authors have offered candidates for the upcoming Labour Party internal elections the chance to guest post about why they’re running. Beth Houston has been nominated for the position of Senior Vice President.

lprent: Note that, like all campaign for party position posts, this post will be fully moderated to prevent excessive trolling. So expect delays before your comments appear.


Thank you to The Standard for the opportunity to write this post.

I am standing for Senior Vice President (SVP) of the Labour Party because I want to play a role in rebuilding our Party to win at the 2017 election and beyond.

We will win in 2017 if we lift our game

We owe it to New Zealanders who are suffering under this Government to build our Party so we can run inspiring campaigns and win. In the next election we will be going up against an incredibly well funded and very well organised National Party. We can beat them. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. But it will require us to lift our organisational game. I am totally committed to ensuring that Andrew Little is the next Prime Minister of New Zealand.

We will organise, fundraise, and campaign to win in 2017

If elected my focus will be on transforming our Party into a fine-tuned campaigning machine. This will require a sustained fundraising, campaigning and organising effort which I am committed to promoting and doing as Senior Vice President. I know Labour Party members and supporters are up for this too.

The SVP role is one without a formal job description so it’s up to whomever gets the job to make it their own. Together with the Senior Vice President – Māori, the SVP is deputy to the President, sits on the moderating committee and on the election campaign committee. The SVP supports the President to do their work; chairing meetings and sub committees, liaising with caucus and members, and fundraising.

The first thing I will do if I’m elected is sit down with our President Nigel Haworth and General Secretary Andrew Kirton to review the Fundraising Strategy. I’ll take ownership of as much of it as I can and work with them to deliver it like I have for a number of non-profits, including Wellington Zoo, where I drove the fundraising for five years and raised $2.5 million for the redevelopment plan.

I have spent my life fighting for social justice

I was born in Scotland and my family immigrated to South Africa when I was two. As I was growing up, I realised that my privilege as a white South African was at the expense of the vast majority of black South Africans. Living under 1980s Apartheid affected absolutely every facet of our life and those subjected to poverty and racial hatred. I knew it was a disgusting system even in my early years. Sometimes you can just sense injustice – even if you can’t describe it yet.

At University I became actively involved in the student union and multiple campaigns around the final dismantling of Apartheid. In 1994, in the year of South Africa’s first democratic election, I saw for myself the life-changing, transformative nature of progressive politics. My Honours classmates and I wrote our dissertation on the local general election campaign, interviewing every political party leader in our province and participating actively in that election. We marshalled in rallies, ran workshops on the electoral system and on Election Day worked as UN election monitors. I voted for the ANC in that election and later became an active member at the branch level.

One memory will stand out for me for as long as I live. I’ll never forget what it felt like to stand in a queue to vote on Election Day in South Africa in 1994. I won’t forget the blind lady who told me she was 84, who I helped to cast her first ballot. Who, when I apologised for the long queues said, “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this, dear, I can wait a few hours more”.

On the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s election, I spoke to Radio New Zealand

about my experiences. If you’re keen, you can listen here:

I moved to New Zealand with my husband Kyle in 2001 to a strong, Labour Government. We’d met in London when we were both on our OE. As a doctor, he was happy to be working under a Prime Minister who valued health care for all, and as an activist, I thought had arrived in a great progressive paradise!

My involvement in Labour started in 2008

I wanted to get actively involved in politics here because it felt like all of the progress Labour had made was at risk in the 2008 election. A friend took me to my first Labour Party Congress that year. I was inspired to action and impressed with the high levels of organisation and genuine commitment and optimism I saw in Labour Party members.

I lived in Wellington Central and got actively involved with the Wellington Central election campaign that year. It was a grass-roots campaign with a new candidate and a swing against the then-Labour Government. We worked hard door knocking, talking on street corners, leafletting, sign waving and in building relationships and connections between the Labour Party and the variety of communities in Wellington.

The campaign had so many young activists whose energy, fresh ideas and enthusiasm was motivating and inspiring. In Labour we are so lucky to have so many young people committed to our values with so much energy to campaign and win.

Since 2008 I’ve continued campaigning for progressive change

In 2011, I had the honor of running the successful national campaign to Keep MMP. I worked across our movement with unions, community organisations and churches to ensure we protected a fair voting system for New Zealand.

When I commit to something I get involved boots and all. I have done almost every job there is to do in the Labour Party – I’ve fundraised, door knocked, made phone calls, delivered leaflets, held local office, run meetings, drafted remits and of course organised many raffles!

I have been the Chair of my LEC, am currently the Chair of the Regional Council and I’ve been on the List Moderating Committee. This involvement in the Party means I know how it works and I have built great relationships with members across the country.

My experience on the List Moderating Committee and through active involvement in the Party means I have met many of the great Labour members who will become our future MPs – we owe it to New Zealanders to make sure our caucus increases significantly at the next election to see these great people in Parliament.

My heart lies in supporting others to represent our Party

I’ve made a conscious effort to support women to stand for internal positions in the Party, on the list and with fundraising for their list and electorate campaigns. I believe there is much more to do if we are to reach our target of equal representation in Parliament.

I think there’s progress to be made on our Treaty commitments inside our Party. I’d like to see the Senior Vice President and the Senior Vice President – Māori work in real partnership with each other and I commit to working with whomever becomes SVP – Māori to do this.

I feel I should be clear – I have no aspirations to be a Member of Parliament myself.

I will bring my strengths in fundraising and campaigning

I am dedicated to using my technical fundraising expertise and my leadership skills for fundraising. The Party is currently recruiting a Head of Fundraising, but I know – as a fundraiser – we can’t expect this person to do it all. We all need to help unlock contacts, make more asks, coordinate our efforts and make sure we follow all the work through.

I know that Nigel, our President, and Ginny, our current Senior Vice President, have been working on creating good fundraising relationships and I commit to keep working on this with them.

There is no silver bullet. Anyone who has ever done fundraising knows – it is hard work. It needs to be done on a continual basis and sustained over long periods of time. There’s never an end. There’s always more to do.

Of course, I’m not pretending I can do this alone. As Senior Vice President my aim will be to do my best to support our Leader Andrew Little, our President Nigel and our General Secretary Andrew Kirton to turn our Party into the campaigning machine we must be to win in 2017.

The campaign to change the government has started already

With the right plan and people in place we can win. I hope to earn your vote over the coming weeks so that – together – we can change the Government. In the meantime, here are two things you can do right now:

Sign up to Victory for Labour

If you only have a small amount to give, this is the perfect way to make a difference. If we can get thousands of people to give even $5 a month every month it all adds up to more people on the ground for Labour; more advertising, more organizing. You can do sign up here.

Get involved with the local body and DHB election campaigns in your area

There is still plenty of leafleting, hoardings, street corner meeting and other behind the scenes work to be done. Good wins for Labour candidates in the local body elections can help to build momentum for a change of Government in 2017. If you need to be put in touch with a Labour Party campaign, in your area, please email me and I will make sure you have a chance to help.

I am very happy to discuss this further with anyone who is interested. I would really appreciate the support of members to become the Senior Vice President and look forward to working with you all in the future.

Please feel free to email me at beth.houston73 [at] gmail.com

Thank you.

29 comments on “Guest Post: Beth Houston for Senior Vice President”

  1. Siobhan 1

    “Since 2008 I’ve continued campaigning for progressive change”.

    Maybe I missed the conversation, maybe everyone else just ‘knows’ what sort of Progressive Change we are talking about, but I really wish Labour Party folk could start being a little more committed to actual defined actions and strongly held positions not just progressive catchphrases. And I do understand that this is very much a back room fundraising job..but still…
    A bit more J Corbyn and a bit less Owen Smith would be nice, and it might even get people out there fundraising and campaigning, hey, even voting.

    • Beth Houston 1.1

      Hi Siobhan – thanks for your comment. Some of the things I’ve worked on since 2008 (other than getting excellent candidates, in my view, elected to parliament) have included keeping our fair and proportional electoral system to keep MMP, and the campaign to increase paid parental leave “26 for Babies” to name just two. Outside of politics I’ve worked to keep a shared house for homeless women in Wellington thriving and have worked at the Zoo on environment education campaigns around sustainability.

      I agree that we have a lot to learn from the campaigns that Jeremy Corbyn has led in the UK – specifically how we can get broad-based support for the Labour Party and how we can get people excited and activated on issues.

    • Thinkerr 1.2

      Siobhan,

      Kind of what I’m thinking, too.

      More campaigning will help, obviously, but the key will be what the party is campaigning about.

      Labour has a history of being innovative in the issues it stands for – things like our nuclear-free stand, equal pay/rights for women, etc. And it generally has a knack of knowing good policy when it sees it. But these kind of policies tend to press the buttons of a section of society only.

      In my opinion, when times are good, and everyone is employed and with a full belly, they will be prepared to vote for policies that, while they are not directly affected, help to make this country a fairer and better place. Like men voting for policies to help womens’ equality, for example.

      But, again my opinion, when times are harder, and mainstream NZ is hurting, it will look for leadership that primarily has answers to the problems it is personally facing, and only when those are dealt with will it get out of bed to vote for sectional policies (for want of a better word).

      As ‘proof’, much ground has recently been gained by Labour from highlighting the homeless/housing issues affecting us. I guess, if you aren’t suffering personally, there’s an ever-increasing chance you know someone who is. And even if you don’t, you can feel the hot breath of the housing affordability crisis on your collar. I believe it’s the fact that this is an issue that everyone feels akin to, in some way, that has caused Labour to get more attention from what it’s been saying about housing/affordability.

      There needs to be a rolling list of similar issues, that Labour has noticed and has policy for, that deal with mainstream problems. From housing, bring up issues like pay inequality between managerial & workers, the dumbing-down of education, imbalance in the tax structure, worsening work/life balance, as employers use technology to make employees ‘on call’ 24/7, access to affordable health-care, etc.

      One reads in the media, from time to time, left-wing commentators who say things like the present government only stands for the top 10% of NZers. Surely, that is an opportunity for the left (including Labour) to demonstrate its representation of and policies to address the problems facing ‘the bottom 90%’. But, to do so, it needs to promote some policies that are common to 90% and that’s not as easy as it sounds, but it needs to be done.

      All of the above is opinion-based.

  2. lprent 2

    Umm – no comments? I can see a lot of people reading this post. So I guess that there isn’t a lot of indignation on the post (even Siobhan sounded (umm) muted). 😈

    Anyway, I’m about to stop working and having comments auto refreshing on a browser tab – because I need to go and cook dinner. So any comments may get held up in moderation for a hour or so.

    • Beth Houston 2.1

      Thanks Lynn – thanks. I can see the comments now. Thanks very much. Enjoy your dinner!

  3. Anne 3

    Thank-you Beth Houston. I’m impressed with your knowledge, enthusiasm and obvious talent. I hope you are successful because Labour is in need of a professional fund- raiser and you seem to have the qualifications for the job.

    • Beth Houston 3.1

      Thanks Anne – that’s very kind. It’s certainly a very humbling and positive experience to be spending time talking to our members all over the country. What I am hearing is a huge willingness to do the work to take back the treasury benches.

  4. Whateva next? 4

    hi Beth, I like your passion and commitment to action, turning the tide back against the machine that is National needs plenty of that!
    Reading about what you have already been doing and why you are doing it is reassuring that you have n authentic drive that is beyond personal ambition.
    Labour has so many thoughtful and intelligent people to vote for, you seem like a team player to compliment that.
    Go well Beth

    • Beth Houston 4.1

      Thanks for your comment – that’s very kind. I like to think that I am a doer and can get things done. I love our party and its people and I think I know the structures well. I think that’s important at the top table – if you’re going to make strategy, you actually need to know how the operations work too.

  5. Chris 5

    Hi Beth,

    It’s great that you see commitment to social justices issues as a priority. The old adage about judging a government by how it treats its vulnerable is just as relevant today and provides a pretty good litmus test for how we’re doing.

    I put versions of these same questions to the two previous candidates so thought I’d put them on here, too (especially when there hasn’t been too many so far!)

    Labour voted with National to help the government pass its most recent legislative attack on the poor into law, that being the Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment Act 2014. And while it’s not clear yet Labour also looks set to support the government again in the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill which will bring a further bunch of nasty things like throw entitlement and other decision-making tools into regulations so that if people don’t fit the tightly prescribed criteria there’s nothing the law can do regardless of need – a change that’s consistent with how ACC currently works but which is a silly change for social welfare because social welfare requires flexibility to ensure a safety net is maintained. Labour also abolished the special benefit in 2004, and did other horrible things in its 2007 amendment Act. It’s not a pretty history.

    1. Do you agree with Labour’s approach to benefits over recent years?

    2. Has, in your view, Labour changed in any way in its approach to social welfare benefits and is sorry for doing these things? If not, do you think Labour should be sorry?

    3. Or do you think we should expect pretty much the same approach if Labour makes it into government?

    • Beth Houston 5.1

      Hi Chris
      I think that benefits are too low for people to live dignified lives on and to meet basic costs of life.

      I don’t know the details of Labour’s position on benefits in the past but I think Andrew Little’s commitment to addressing homelessness is very important and shows that Labour takes poverty and homelessness seriously.

      If you want to have more of a say, you should think about getting involved in our policy process if you aren’t already. There is so much work to do in this area and we always do with more involvement from people.

    • Colonial Viper 5.2

      Hi Beth if you could reply to these questions from Chris on Labour’s apparent support of anti-beneficiary measures when you have time.

      Also were you or were you not aware of Labour’s ongoing track record with regards to harshening NZ’s social welfare system, as described by Chris.

      I would add to Chris’ statements Labour restoring the $20/wk Ruth Richardson cut from NZ Super – but not restoring it to beneficiaries.

  6. mickysavage 6

    Thanks for the post Beth.

    A hypothetical question. In the UK would you be a Corbyn or a Smith supporter?

    And in the US Clinton or Sanders?

    And a more serious question what role if any do you see NZ Council having in maintaining/improving relationships with the Greens?

    • Beth Houston 6.1

      Hi micky

      In the UK – neither to be honest. I know that sounds like a cop out. Corbyn has done amazing things in terms of bringing people along and getting people outside of the party to support him. There’s heaps to learn from his campaigning style and the way he has been able to engage people. I’m really interested in that. His politics are quite close to my own. But by all accounts he’s unelectable and I don’t love the fact he has voted against the whip so much. Also, I can’t work out why he is so unpopular amongst so many in his caucus. I don’t buy that its just a Blairite thing – that’s too simplistic. Smith leaves me absolutely cold though too.

      In the US, no contest – I’m with Hilary. Time for a woman in the White House.

      If I was elected as SVP, the thing I would do first would be to seek out my counterpart in the Greens and build an excellent relationship with them to find points of common interest and work out things we can do together.

      Thanks for your questions.

      • Siobhan 6.1.1

        “His politics are quite close to my own. But by all accounts he’s unelectable and I don’t love the fact he has voted against the whip so much. Also, I can’t work out why he is so unpopular amongst so many in his caucus. I don’t buy that its just a Blairite thing – that’s too simplistic. Smith leaves me absolutely cold though too.”..Thanks for that, now I know where you stand. Actually, no I don’t, but anyway…

        Voting for Hilary…’cos she’s a woman. Like Thatcher I guess. That is just extraordinary in this day and age.

        • Beth Houston 6.1.1.1

          Hillary is also the most qualified person for the job. And I think the fact that she is a woman has huge merit. In this day and age feminism and what it does for woman is as crucial as it has ever been.

          • Adrian Thornton 6.1.1.1.1

            So do you mean if an experienced National woman politician ran for PM you would support her because she is a woman?

            I say this because you must realize Hillary Clinton is an unapologetic American exceptionalist and super war hawk, as her own words, actions and history make plainly clear…

            http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-clinton-idUSKCN11615V

            http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/07/27/hillary-the-hawk-a-history-clinton-2016-military-intervention-libya-iraq-syria/

            While there is a strong female progressive in US politics today, Jill Stein, she has no ties to Goldman Sachs and Wall St, she isn’t endorsed and funded by some of the most radical American right wing Republicans, she against fracking, she is against TPP, wouldn’t she be worthy of your endorsement as a strong independent feminist rather than Hillary who is most clearly not.

            • Leftie 6.1.1.1.1.1

              Yeah, but Jill Stein isn’t going head to head against Trump in the presidential election, Hillary Clinton is though.

              • Beth Houston

                Couldn’t say it better myself, Leftie. Sorry Adrian, I didn’t see your comment until now! I agree that such huge amounts of money in politics is sickening. I think Bernie’s campaign has helped American political parties see that there’s a different way than having so much money in politics. My hope is that in the future we’ll see a different way of operating. I believe progress has been made.

                • Chris

                  “I think Bernie’s campaign has helped American political parties see that there’s a different way than having so much money in politics.”

                  Do you see your politics aligned more with Jill Stein or Hillary Clinton?

                  • Beth Houston

                    I don’t think you can ever be 100% with any candidate. There are some things you’ll agree on and some things you’ll differ on. That’s what I like about the Labour Party in NZ, we can actually disagree and still still have the same fundamental values. So my politics don’t align with either of these candidates entirely – I’m more Elizabeth Warren.

          • Whateva next? 6.1.1.1.2

            Had too many scary women bosses to support a woman for PM based on her gender at all, but if a woman happens to have qualities to unite/ inspire enough people to vote on the left, all good.
            I believe Saunders had far better values than Clinton who I believe owes too much to the corporations to listen to the masses now.

            • Whateva next? 6.1.1.1.2.1

              And that was me agreeing to to disagree, but still supporting you, as we do in Labour!

  7. Brian 7

    Hi Beth – you certainly seem to have a good background in fundraising! Labour has been advertising for a fundraiser. If you don’t get SVP would you consider taking that job instead?

  8. Beth Houston 8

    Hi Brian
    I have actually worked as the Fundraiser at Fraser House – although it was only a six month contract in 2012. My answer is no. The main reason is that I still have two small children and although I know the SVP role will require a lot of hours, I’m assured it isn’t a 40 hour a week role (and a lot of it can be done outside of ‘business hours’). The Fundraiser role needs to be full time and needs to guide all of the rest of us in what we do. It’s exciting that this role is now full time. I hope we get someone great.

  9. Scott 9

    Hi Beth.

    I’m not a Labour party member, but have voted for them in the past and might again at some point in the future. I do think we are better off politically when Labour is doing well – indeed when both main parties are doing well. It keeps everyone honest, and the fringes on both ends at bay.

    With that in mind, I’d compliment you on your fundraising focus. It seems very important, but I’d say that the party needs to be careful it is not putting the cart before the horse. It needs to be a party that people want to donate to, and I fear that they currently are not. If that doesn’t change then as good an effort as is made in fundraising may be like trying to sweep water uphill.

    I think the main problem is that Labour seem intent on convincing the middle voters that they should see issues in the way that Labour currently does, rather that trying to modify the way Labour currently sees issues to encompass the way that middle voters do. If you’ll excuse the phrase, sort of Mohammed and the mountain stuff. I don’t think the current strategy has worked, it has failed for many years now, and sticking with it seems self-destructive. To take an specific example, instead of exiling the likes of Nick Leggett, I think they need to be embraced (not even just tolerated).

    Good luck, you sound like an excellent candidate for the job.

    • Beth Houston 9.1

      Hi Scott
      Thanks for your comments, very kind.

      I don’t disagree with many of your points.

      When Labour wins, a million people vote for us. My view has always been that we need to convince those voters that their values are our values and that our policy settings are about supporting New Zealanders to thrive. When we do that people vote for us.

      I think that Andrew Little and the caucus are doing a great job currently of focussing on the issues that really matter to New Zealanders – housing, education, health. I also believe that is resonating with voters.

      My understanding is that Nick Leggett resigned from the Labour Party because he wanted to stand as Mayor in Wellington against our Labour Party-endorsed candidate Justin Lester.

      Our Party absolutely needs to be a broad church and I have recently been traveling all over New Zealand and have talked to hundreds of Party members, and we absolutely are.

  10. Leftie 10

    The point that has impressed me the most about these posts on the candidates for Labour’s internal elections is the impressively high caliber of people within the NZ Labour Party and Beth Houston is no exception, what an exceptional person she is. Labour is on a winner here. All the best Beth Houston, my hopes are that you get this position, you are perfect for it.

    • Beth Houston 10.1

      Thank you, that’s very generous of you to say. We do have amazing talent in the Party and I’m always humbled as a member that such people of character are willing to put their hands up to represent us both for internal positions and as MPs, councillors and DHB reps. It’s a daunting thing putting yourself out there so I have such huge respect for people that do.

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