A guest post from Rachel Jones, who is number 25 of Labour’s list as well as the Labour candidate for the Tauranga seat.
Last Monday was a bit surreal. I was in a shop when I heard Duncan Garner asking on the radio “Who is Rachel Jones?” It’s a question many on the left were probably asking that day after my name appeared at number 25 on Labour’s list.
I am not a long-term party activist. I am not a political junkie. I am not a career politician.
I am an ordinary New Zealander who noticed that this country is changing alarmingly quickly for the worse. I used to sit on the couch and complain about things. Then a good friend (Cliff Allen, now Labour’s candidate for Hamilton East) challenged me to stop moaning and get involved with changing the government. So I did.
Always a left voter, I joined the Labour Party just over two years ago. It was the time when the draft policy platform was circulating and I saw my own values reflected in this document – freedom, opportunity, solidarity, equality and sustainability.
I never imagined I would become a candidate. I thought I would help behind the scenes, using my expertise from two PhDs and small business to help the party improve its structure and communications. But I had joined when the party was at a low ebb, when it needed people to step up and organize.
Between commutes to my research job in Finland, I started learning about how the Labour Party and campaigning worked. I went to every meeting and function I could, including campaign college. There, I was in the campaign managers’ stream when a woman came out of the candidates’ room, muttering about how typical it was that there were few women candidates. She said she thought it was because men look at a job and think “I can do 20% of that really well and I’ll learn the rest when I get the position,” whereas women look at a job and think “I can do 80% of that really well but not the rest so I won’t apply.” That really resonated with me.
So, after speaking to party members in my region, I put my hand up to be a candidate.
I had two goals. My first goal was to change the government. To do that I believed I had to make a difference to the Labour Party in the regions. I won a contested selection in Tauranga, a city that has not had a Labour list MP for over 10 years. My job was to revive the organization in Tauranga and the wider region and give those party stalwarts who had struggled along in isolation a sense of being part of a movement again. We are in the process of rebuilding the Bay of Plenty region; I hope we have done enough to significantly contribute to a change of government.
My second goal was to become an MP and use the skills acquired with my taxpayer-funded education to make positive changes in this country. It was a long-term goal, and I am humbled that it might happen much more quickly than I thought possible. I know I have leap-frogged over other talented people who have served their dues.
I hope I can earn their respect. I am a team player, I am not here for the edification of my own ego, I am not someone who seeks the limelight. I simply want to give back to our country and do it with integrity.
I want to be part of a government that restores to ordinary people the rights that have been eroded under the present government and recreate the kind of New Zealand that we all envisage – a New Zealand that values and ensures the right to work, the right to safe housing, the right to universal health care, and the right to a comprehensive social security net when needed. I want to make sure that our government is looking after the interests of the 90% of New Zealanders who earn below $72,000.
And I especially want to do that in Tauranga, where the voices of the left have gone unrepresented for too long.