In quite a different context, I have blogged before about how National and its supporters need to stop blowing women off. This could start to be quite important. According to the latest Roy Morgan poll, support for National is starting to slip, and support for Labour is climbing again. Of course, National is still well ahead, but it is short of the 50% mark, and it’s not all that clear that it is going to have any friends to play with in the big house.
Going on vague memories (if anyone can help me out here, I’d be grateful), the group of people that National has yet to win over is women with children. Of course, many women with children support National, but as a group, they are less likely to support National than other groups. It seems that this is the one group where Don Brash and National did not enjoy good support back in 2005, and not to put too fine a point on it, and not withstanding the Exclusive Brethren fiasco, and with all reasonable caveats, National needs to get women voters.
They’re going the wrong way about it. Today, Katherine Rich has announced that she is leaving Parliament at the next election. And that makes it all the less likely that I will be ticking the National box come polling day (or in my case, come the day when I need to sort out my special vote and get it back to the old country).
I wouldn’t vote for National just because they had Katherine Rich on their list. It takes more than one person to make a party worth voting for. She is however, very very good at her job. In my former job, I saw her in operation at select committees. Informed, insightful, committed, far more so than some committee members who were clearly there only to fill the seats, and took no part in the proceedings at all. From both major parties, by the way. She also had courage and integrity, standing up to the entire National caucus over the section 59 bill.
And why is she going? For the reasons that confront all parents, and especially mothers, sooner or later. She has young children, and they need her.
I do not doubt about my ability to fill such a role. It’s just that with two young children I have other responsibilities that I have to balance alongside my work.
That speaks to me, about the sheer difficulty of balancing family work, something I have grappled with too, and failed miserably at coming up with a viable solution. If I pour my energy into a demanding job, my beloved children lose out. If I stay at home with my beloved children, I go quietly mad. (Actually, my husband says it isn’t so quiet.)
What this tells me is that the homogeneous National party caucus simply doesn’t understand what it is like, trying to balance the demands of jobs and children. Infamously, as reported in The Hollow Men, Bill English said:
The star strategy is crap … and the Leader’s office ought to drop it. Katherine’s difficulties are a product of the same process. She has two young children and a tough job and she has been oversold instead of supported. Now you are getting the backlash. … I hope by now you can see the tragedy of losing Roger [Sowry] and Lynda [Scott]. They were trashed by people who are now showing they cannot fill the gap. Their resignations were both avoidable, and I hope Katherine does not head in the same direction.
The Hollow Men, by Nicky Hager, pp. 146 – 147.
She has headed in the same direction.
And there’s the rub. As a former working mother, as a mother who would like to work again, I just can not see that the National caucus understands my difficulties. There is no one there who can tell them what it’s like, no one who can tell them just why access to good quality, affordable childcare is important, no one who can point out that being able to work flexible hours, and to get employers to acknowledge that sometimes, mothers simply have to drop everything and run, run as fast as they can, to succor an injured or ill or simply upset child, is a real and pressing need, not just a luxury. Not only do they not have anyone left who can tell them about that, from the inside, but by their actions, by their failure to support a talented, high-performing mother within their midst, they tell me that they just don’t care.
National needs to wake up, and put some hard work into thinking about why they scare the hell out of women. Or come election time, they will find that they still can’t get the votes up.
A picture of
diversity the National caucus:
Stef has a nice take on Katherine Rich’s resignation too.