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  • Sat, 24, Oct, 2020 - 5:00:AM

Does Chlöe represent a new political era?

Swarbrick campaigns in Auckland Central / Facebook

A week ago today, the nation watched as a giant red wave swept the country. It was stunning and unprecedented, and while most of the credit should be given to Jacinda Ardern, it also spoke to the power of the NZ Labour Party in 2020. Labour in 2020 is a team with many impressive ministers and a good code of conduct – ironically, they can most aptly be described as a ‘strong team’.

Electorates that had been held by National for up to 24 years flipped red – indicating a seismic shift in power between our two major parties. Under Ardern’s unwavering guidance, Labour has hastily grown from a party in active collapse (falling to 24 per cent in 2017) to a juggernaut. It helps, too, that the NZ National party was in historic disarray.

So you can forgive the Labour candidate for Auckland Central assuming she had it in the bag.

In my view of it, the Labour candidate for AC didn’t really run much of a campaign. The National candidate, thrown into the race at the eleventh hour due to Nikki Kaye’s resignation, tried her best, but Chlöe Swarbrick was simply inescapable.

And that’s not because, as an opponent described her, she’s a ‘celebrity’. That’s because she ran a strong, boots-on-the-ground movement. She connected with folks in the electorate, as well as folks – like myself – who don’t live in the electorate (and therefore can’t vote in it) but move in and out of it plenty. The last person to do something similar in Auckland Central? Nikki Kaye.

Good candidates inspire people to vote for them. Great candidates inspire people to campaign for them. Excellent candidates inspire people outside their electorate to campaign for them.

Chloe Swarbrick is excellent. While she swallowed up the excitement of everyone between the age of 15 to 30, she also won endorsements from Simon Wilson and Steve Braunias. Her vision and belief that things can be better were unparalleled. And her ability to communicate with her people? Well, they put in mind a certain popular Prime Minister.

I suspect that a few of the people who voted for Labour’s AC candidate did so to play it safe, i.e. wishing they could vote for Swarbrick, but fearing ‘splitting the left’. I certainly would have considered it. And Swarbrick still won anyway.

I think it’s time to forego such arguments – to vote for the person who will do the most good, not the person who is most strategic. And while I understand this can’t apply to every electorate (here’s looking at you, Epsom) I think it’s a great life lesson.

In 2017, Labour winning an outright majority was impossible. Three years later, it happened easily. And just over a week ago, a Green candidate winning the seat held by National for three terms still felt like a pipe dream.

In 1892, votes for women must have felt impossible.

Everything’s impossible until it isn’t. So, here’s to Chlöe Swarbrick. May many more follow in her footsteps.  

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Abigail
Johnson

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