Up Front by Emma Hart


An Open Letter to the Labour Party from a People of Christchurch

So Lianne Dalziel has finally declared that yes, she is running for mayor. There'll be plenty of time to talk about the mayoral race later. The other thing this means is that there'll be a by-election in Christchurch East. What I want to do at this point is just have a quiet, general word with the Labour Party about Not Fucking This Up. 

It's been clear for a while that you'll need new candidates in East and also in Christchurch Central. I'm mostly going to pretend that I haven't heard any rumours about who those candidates might be, except for this one, because it was in the paper. Now, it may be that it's about as soundly based as that time The Press suggested that perhaps Bob Parker wasn't going to to run for mayor again, but just in case it's not, what the hell were you guys smoking? You're thinking about standing Clayton Cosgrove in Christchurch East, instead of him fighting to regain Waimakariri? I mean, I guess it would be an efficient way of showing both electorates exactly the same degree of respect, but really? This is Christchurch. Even moving someone in from North Canterbury is considered carpet-bagging here. 

Look, I don't know if you noticed (no, seriously, I don't know if you noticed) but we had an earthquake. Everything changed. That's the only issue there is here. We feel abandoned and betrayed. We feel like we're fighting a war, and Campbell Live are the only people who know it's happening. That might not be a fair appraisal, but it's how we feel. 

This is not the time to be taking us for granted. Yeah, we really hate those other fuckers, and yeah, those are traditionally safe Labour seats, but you know what happens if you don't engage us with your candidates? No, we don't vote National. We just don't vote at all. That's what happened in Christchurch Central. It didn't swing to National. Wagner won the seat with 1079 fewer votes than she got when she lost it the time before. In particular, if you want us to turn out for a by-election? You need us to be actively on your side. Or rather, you need to be actively on our side. 

You need to stand people we feel are down here in the trenches fighting with us. And when I say "us", I particularly mean women. All "shoulds" aside, it's the women in eastern and central Christchurch who are particularly carrying the emotional burdens of what's happened to us. Even if we work, we're more socially expected to look after our families, mentally and physically. We're the ones walking our children through the pissing rain for forty minutes to get to their "new" school, and trying to make them feel okay about it. A quarter of our teenage daughters exhibit symptoms of PTSD, and you know what? We kind of feel like that's our fault. We are tired and angry and sad. 

James Dann is right: this by-election is a chance for our issues to make the news night after night. We need you to stand someone who knows how we feel. Your candidates should be people who marched with us, who fought with us even when nobody else was paying any attention. I would love it if at least one of the candidates you chose, for Central or East, actually was one of us: the exhausted scary fucked-off mothers of Christchurch.

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