Five days out from the election, Kiri Allan writes about being both a first-time candidate and first-time mum in the latest instalment of her campaign diary.
Read more candidate diaries for the Spinoff here
It’s been about 17 days since I’ve had a good night’s sleep. Well, actually, perhaps a little longer than that. But given I decided this year was the right time to mount a political campaign for the first time, I thought, why let all the ‘first-time’ fun end there? So, we decided to have a baby – at the same time.
On 29 August, I was supposed to host New Zealand’s next prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, in Gisborne. Instead, I had to text Jacinda at 5am saying that while I wanted to make a really good impression on my new boss, I was going to have to stand her up as my future ‘boss’ had decided to come into the world that day. Our wee bundle, Hiwa-i-te-rangi, emerged at 11pm that evening, commencing a journey of immense joy – and sleepless nights.
For a family that is relatively focused on planning, some might think this was ridiculously bad timing. They are probably right. No, actually, they are completely right. But, it seems to be in Labour’s water! Going into #labour4Labour must be a thing, because first time candidates Heather Warren and Sarb Johal have both recently had newborns in the past six weeks, and Northland candidate Willow-Jean and Kris Faafoi, MP for the Mana electorate, also recently welcomed new additions to their growing families during this election campaign.
I guess that’s one thing I’ve quickly discovered over the course of this campaign: all of us running are just ordinary folk, doing ordinary things, who care about where our country is headed immensely. That seems to be part and parcel of being in Labour.
Having a newborn changes the campaign game a bit. Well, a lot actually. In the first week after she was born, I had to go away for four nights. It was the toughest time I’ve had on the campaign. While Snapchat, Viber and Facetime are useful tools, there’s nothing like cuddles with that soft little face squished into yours, or undertaking your share of the parenting duties and relieving the other parent for nappy changes during the long nights. Being the family that we are, we try to do it all. At eight days old, baby attended her first political meeting, a First Union Rūnanga and Fono meeting (with cuddles from Uncles Robert Reid and Syd Keepa), followed by a day of meetings throughout Kawerau. She certainly got her fair share of attention, and I had a bigger spring in my step looking at her knowing that the New Zealand our team was standing up for was the one I wanted to bring my girl up in.
We named our taonga Hiwa-i-te-rangi, the youngest star of Matariki (the Māori new year constellation cluster that appears in July/August). It is the star people would look to and throw forth their dreams and aspirations for the year ahead. A star to hang your dreams on, some might say. Her name captures where our family is at perfectly – it is time for our generation to throw forth our aspirations for a better world for our families and communities, and that is by and large why I have put my hand up for Labour in this year’s election. The advent of Jacinda as our leader has made that aspiration more and more like a real chance of being a reality, and I am immensely proud of the team that is pushing for change; from our leaders and members of parliament to our grassroots volunteers. It feels like we are on the precipice of change.
The past few weeks have comprised of (alongside the sleepless nights) candidate debates from Kawerau to Gisborne. Only one debate actually had all of the six candidates vying for the honour of representing the East Coast. One aspect of New Zealand’s democracy that I really value is that fact that it is accessible – and politicians should be able to be held accountable to their constituents in person. So these debates, hosted by community groups throughout the electorate, are an important part of the campaign for candidates to hear our communities’ concerns, aspirations, and challenges. Regardless of whether we are in government, opposition, or not yet in parliament, I hope that all of us seeking the trust and confidence of our electorate continue the long-standing tradition of being transparent and accountable to our voters – and showing up to public debates is an important part of that.
This past week, early voting commenced and it was Te Wiki o Te Reo. With baby’s arrival comes transforming our house into a primarily te reo Māori environment and realising this is absolutely the learning environment we want for our little one at home. I heard Stacey Morrison say recently that Sir Tīmoti Karetū had once said to her and her husband, Scotty Morrison, that “te mauri o te reo, ki te kainga” (the life force of the Māori language is in the home). This was a lightning bolt for us – we both speak te reo to varying degrees, and yet we had not been good at all at speaking te reo in our home. So we reaffirmed our commitment to te reo Māori this week, and I acknowledge all of those language champions who have fought for our reo to remain a living language.
This last weekend of the campaign has been epic. The East Coast volunteer team has fired up all over the electorate from Kawerau to Te Teko, Whakatāne to Ōpotiki, Te Kaha to Gisborne. Our team have been out there knocking on doors, calling houses, taking people to polling booths, enrolling voters, attending public meetings on important issues like freshwater, and hosting front-bench members of parliament. The commitment from every single person involved in a political campaign is immeasurable – the one thing compelling all of these people to act is the very real hope of a genuinely different, and caring government. I have been awe inspired by my volunteers and I thank every single one of you for all that you have done, and continue to do, for change.
We now enter into the last week of the campaign for this general election 2017. What a journey it has been. I saw a post pop up on my Facebook timeline from one year ago on 10 September 2016 of the first video I made on the East Coast electorate. It has been a one year journey to this point and we are into the home stretch.
This election will come down to the wire, and it is a real contest in terms of vision for our country: prioritising the interests of the few wealthy at the expense of our communities and environment, or the opportunity to see change – real change – and return New Zealand to our original value proposition, a country where everyone has the chance to have someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work, and something to hope for.
We have five days to go. Will you put your hand up to help us change this government? Our folks need you now, more than ever.
Hoake Tātou. Let’s Do This.