Written By: - Date published: 7:30 am, July 31st, 2017 - 14 comments
Categories: community democracy, democratic participation, election 2017, Left, poverty - Tags: , ,

This is a Guest Post from Mary St George, a distance education teacher, who tweets about work, gardens, church, the environment and politics.

As I approached the age of eighteen, my uncle gave me a rare piece of advice. It was about voting. He advised me never to vote for the same party twice, unless I felt there was no other ethical choice. If you choose your vote with that thought in mind, he told me, you will do your homework each time. If policy changes for the worse, you will know. If policy you believed in doesn’t actually work, you will see that. These things will make it easy to look for a better party each election season, and to vote for that better party, if there is one. On the other hand, party loyalty is blind, and brings in governments which do not serve the people. This is advice I have grown to appreciate more and more, in contrast to the other advice he gave me that visit. Hey, nobody’s perfect, right?

So what do you do, if you are quite passionate about political issues, but you don’t become loyal to a party? In my case, I have become loyal to ideals, and one of these is the ideal of participatory democracy: of having a say, and helping others to become part of the conversation. I have begun wondering about the “missing million,” how they would vote if they chose to, and what would encourage them to do so. I have become passionate about putting policy before personality, and angry when mainstream media report on style at the expense of substance.

At the moment, I believe the biggest issue facing us all is care of the environment. No viable planet means no viable parties, even if they are cosy with big business. Sorry Nats. This affects your grandkids, too, and your policy in this area is exceptionally weak. The second biggest issue is poverty. I’ve been poor, and I can do empathy. I care about the demoralising hardship the poor are going through. I am human, and I can do selfishness. Some of the homeless people I meet are scary. So my good self and my bad self both want to fix this poverty and homelessness shite. I’d like to comfort the afflicted, but also to stop the homeless from hanging around my bus stop, afflicting me in my comfort zone. That places me unequivocally on the left for this year’s election. The left may not want me, of course, but I am there.

However, there is a style before substance narrative about the left. The 4-party right wing coalition says that a 3-party left wing coalition can’t work. Too many parties. These are the people who gave us numeracy standards, whanau.

Can the left pull together? You can’t go to a broad “left” meeting to see for yourself, but I am curious to find out. As someone who acts on curiosity, I have started a Twitter chat called #LeftWithEnough. On Monday evenings, we have a rambling conversation about issues and policies affecting the left. On Tuesdays, we follow a question and answer format to explore these issues further. The impression I have gained is that most New Zealanders who lean left share a strong alignment of values, no matter which party is most likely to get their vote.

Top tweets include the words of politicians, researchers, beneficiaries, and people who advocate for a range of causes.

The conversation is energising and encouraging. We are connecting with others who support similar policies, and we are finding parties we want to vote for. But where are the missing million? The rumours of cyberspace tell me they do not tweet. #LeftWithEnough may help to prove or disprove that theory. My belief in participatory democracy suggests that if we don’t find them at #LeftWithEnough, then we (the ordinary voters) should try something else.

What can you do to encourage a non-voter to have their say in 2017?


#LeftWithEnough Mondays and Tuesdays from 8.30pm on twitter.

Moderator note: let’s welcome our Guest Poster and be on our best behaviour. 

14 comments on “#LeftwithEnough”

  1. Carolyn_nth 1

    I like a lot of the conversations on #leftwithenough.

    I tend to read them the next day. The 8.30pm start is a bit late for me – about the time I shut down my computer.

    However, it seems to me the discussions get a lot of passionate and well-reasoned discussion and 8.30pm may be a good time to avoid a lot of the RW tr*lls.

    • weka 1.1

      I took part in the one last Tues and it was remarkably free of both RWers and trolls.

  2. r0b 2

    Hi Mary – thanks for the post, and good luck with #LeftwithEnough

    What can you do to encourage a non-voter to have their say in 2017?

    Ask them who wins from the idea that “voting makes no difference”…

  3. greywarshark 3

    Really good post Mary and fits what I have been thinking.

    1 That all my life there has never been much political discussion in NZ and that must change – Now. Politics was dealt with and the politicians were there to keep it healthy and apportion out resources fairly, and getting involved with politics was a hobby, an interest for those with that inclination..
    (We thought we had done the spadework and it was lovely flowers and vegs from now on, coping with the occasional blight, frost, flood etc. Then the minimalist gardeners came along and the landscape changed.)

    2 Following on from that we decided we didn’t need participatory politics. We had our representatives in government, we agonised about improving this and adopted MMP so that those who voted could have more power and effect. Thy had their electorate vote but now could back and encourage other parties.

    3 Saying what about the children, whenever there is a problem has become a sarcasm aimed at apparently emotional people who cannot make an informed decision on reason. But needing to refer to the most vulnerable – children – to spark any feelings of empathy to fellow human beings is an indication of how callous and blinkered our society has become. We have always liked to gift money to the poor people overseas and condemn our own poor or struggling people, and this has intensified to disgust for the poor in NZ by their RW go-getting fellow citizens. We need to think about the whole community and be assured that our policies serve all, but not necessarily deliver the same.

    So a backing off from this path to the Styx and a turnaround in our ideas to enable people to have a reasonable life that they have the ability to improve should be the avowed aim. So ensuring that there are avenues of employment, plenty of education that is available to get work, and then more education to improve skills and rise to higher levels, opportunities for local work and local money be explored and implemented so that people were inclined to purchase locally and spend half local money, half national currency etc. Innovative ways of building heart into a hollowed out society are needed.

  4. Bill 5

    What can you do to encourage a non-voter to have their say in 2017?

    The missing million aren’t on twitter (though some may be).
    The missing million don’t read political blogs (though some may).
    The missing million may or may not pick stuff up from TV programmes.

    And I don’t think the Green Party has the presence on the ground do do all the running as UK Labour was able to do, or as the SNP were able to do, given the huge swell in membership that both parties got (post and pre 2015 UK General election respectively).

    I also see no sign of any public meetings by politicians or political parties in NZ as has happened in the past. I recall NZ Labour and The Greens and NZF and Act all coming through University campuses and drawing large crowds in the past. Like I say, I think that’s all in the past.

    So pass a remark or voice an opinion in the queue at supermarket checkout if the opportunity arises. Or at the bus stop. Or absolutely anywhere. (And no, don’t be a raving swivel eyed loon about it!) Often enough, remarks made or opinions offered can kick start an exchange of views or a conversation…or just shift a perception, or throw up a moment of shared understanding. And in a country where enough people are hungry for change, it’s very much worthwhile to vocalise that hunger in environments considered mundane and commonplace – to normalise it.

    None of us are the only ones shoving things along. 😉

    • Carolyn_nth 5.1

      Apparently the Green Party are on the ground campaigning furiously, according Chloe Swarbrick’s article on spinoff.

      Saturdays and Sundays no longer serve as bookends to the week, but become valuable campaign time. You think and plan in terms of where people congregate. Mornings are for transport hubs, lunchtimes for suburban and town centres, nights for community events.

      The past few weeks have soared by. I’ve been popping up and down all over Aotearoa, mainly visiting universities and high schools, and talking to masses of young people, many of whom had been feeling disillusioned or excluded by politics.

      I’m aware, however, that frequently these places, especially campuses, are a bit of an echo chamber for political discourse. I’m really keen to find a way to reach outside that, to somehow talk to the 91,000 young people who aren’t currently in work or training. The best punt my campaign team and I have had so far is to seek invitation into the places and spaces of people who’d typically declare themselves non-voters. We’ve had a massive response, and I’ll be visiting a lot of flats over the next few weeks for potlucks and politics.

      • Bill 5.1.1

        Wouldn’t be wonderful to see the burgeoning public meetings that the likes of Corbyn or Sanders or Sturgeon had though?

        I truly think the broader Green Party message (at least as I understand it) could pull that type of large crowd. But all the above protagonists rode off the back of a huge upsurge in party members who had had the time to ‘infect’ the public discourse at the street level with their energy and enthusiasm.

        Sadly, those are things missing or unavailable to the Greens.

        • weka

          I’m not sure that NZ necessarily has to follow the Corbyn or Sanders blueprint, although I agree it would be great to see those numbers going to meetings. I also think that changing the government in 9 weeks is more important than building a Momentum type movement right now. I hope the Greens have more to show us in the coming weeks. I suspect that more is needed than their effort though, and wonder what the general left is doing.

          • Bill

            Sure. So go back to my original comment on this sub-thread and (if by ‘general left’ you just mean people who aren’t members of any party) if people – ie, you and me or whoever – treat appropriate casual and/or brief social encounters as a “door knock” that might reveal somebody home, then general sentiment spreads.

  5. – ” In my case, I have become loyal to ideals, and one of these is the ideal of participatory democracy: of having a say, and helping others to become part of the conversation ” –

    I like that , … and there’s nothing wrong with starting the search off being armed with a set of ideals. Policy is simply the attempt at outworking of those ideals. And if you are a positive person with a positive outlook for yourself and others, you will have ideals that mirror that and seek policy’s to follow suit.

    And not have poverty , homelessness, unreachable housing , an exploited low waged working class , tax havens , a punitive welfare system , a taxation system that only favors the wealthy , illegal acts of spying on a govts own citizenry , or collusion and / or conflicts of interest in a government with big business.

    That is the exact opposite of being a positive person with a positive outlook for yourself and others.

  6. Participatory democracy is something of a different animal from our version of representative democracy, and a very attractive idea. Currently I am trying to start a campaign for a trial of participatory budgeting in Auckland, as a taster of participation, and representation has been made to the Governing Body of Auckland Council, and also to my local board. Now I am trying to drum up support for the idea through various local ratepayers and residents associations. The campaign page is hosted by Action Station, but lacks the ability to accept feedback (https://our.actionstation.org.nz/p/ppb). It would be great to have some feedback on whether that page is useful, particularly from Auckland’s, and feedback could go to http://www.moredemocracyplease.nz. This of course is nothing to do with the coming general election, but is a long-term attempt at getting going with participatory democracy.

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