When I was 12, or thereabouts, my mother bought a house with vendor finance. It was the last death throes of the Muldoon government, so she got 2-year fixed term mortgages at 11.5 and 14.5 percent, the government-mandated maximum rates for the time. When the government changed, the regulation was removed, and interest rates shot up into the late teens and twenties.
Mum’s sole income was the Domestic Purposes Benefit. When the two years were up, and she needed to refinance, no bank would look at her (unless perhaps to point and laugh…). She went to the Housing Corporation, who were providing social lending at 6%. They considered her application and turned her down.
In desperation at the prospect of losing her home, my mother went to visit her local MP, also (conveniently) then Minister of Housing, Helen Clark. She told Helen how she had paid her mortgage religiously at 11.5 and 14.5% for two years but the Housing Corp didn’t think she’d pay it at 6% and how she and her two-year-old son would lose their home (I was living with my Dad by this time). She cried.
Helen Clark phoned the Housing Corporation and told them to give her a mortgage, and so they did.
That action was both a pivotal moment for my mother’s financial security (whatever she has now is based entirely on the capital she built up through paying her mortgage and property appreciation) and also for my political allegiance. Though I would probably have been a Labour Party voter anyway, given that my father was a staunch and active party supporter, I acquired an additional loyalty to Helen Clark. My first vote when I turned 18 was in her electorate, and I was delighted to be able to vote for her, and later for the Labour Party with her as leader.
Towards the end of the Fifth Labour Government, my support began to… well, not so much wane, as at least stop being quite so solid. Under MMP, I still gave Labour my party vote for the 2008 election, but I begrudged my vote for Annette King in Wellington South.
Since then… I suppose the love has died. The Labour Party now looks to me like a fascist organisation, quelling all dissent. Whenever their members speak they sound like they’re quoting from the Party handbook, rather than really considering what they personally think or believe. Further, what they think or believe appears to be based on focus group testing rahter than core values.
The exception to this behaviour comes from David Cunliffe, who I know from another area of my life – not well, but well enough to judge his core values. Unfortunately, the old party hacks continue to see Cunliffe as a threat, and treat him like dirt. I would like to continue to support him, but unfortunately to do so I would have to vote for them as well.
So I think I just became a Green voter. There are aspects of their policy that I consider a bit kooky, but I know two of their MPs personally and know them to also be trustworthy and hardworking. And most importantly, I feel confident that if one of them speaks, they’re saying what they actually believe, not what the party has told them they’re allowed to say.
I feel slightly heartbroken, perhaps like someone who’s been separated for a few years and finally admits to themselves that it’s over:
Bye bye Labour. I’d like to vote for you again, but you’re going to have to make some really fundamental changes to make that possible.