The under-reported story about the Christchurch elections has been the rise of the Labour-linked People’s Choice ticket. The People’s Choice now has 6 Councillors out of 13, outright majorities on two of the six metropolitan community boards, and the chance to build working majorities on three more.
There’s two aspects to this: firstly, how did it happen, and secondly, what should the new People’s Choice dominated council do?
The People’s Choice ran a campaign based around hard work, clever strategy, and Labour values. It wasn’t a campaign driven by money or media profile. From memory, only one People’s Choice candidate appeared on the front page of the Press, and that memory’s not a happy one. The spending figures aren’t available yet, but I’d be surprised if any People’s Choice candidate spent anywhere like as much as Erin Jackson, Raf Manji, or Aaron Keown, let alone the representatives of Merivale money, Jamie Gough and Paul Lonsdale.
Instead, the People’s Choice worked hard in the community, getting out there, doorknocking and meeting voters. They focussed their efforts on those communities where progressive values are important, and made sure that those communities were able to turn out and vote. And they talked about Labour and Labour values.
Not every People’s Choice candidate is Labour, but many are, and the People’s Choice’s values are very much Labour values. Voters know what values are important to them, and we need to communicate that we share those values. Being clear about our political position is good strategy. Hiding behind “independence” or, worse, “non-political groupings” isn’t just kinda weird and creepy, it doesn’t work. Being honest and upfront does work.
Now the People’s Choice has won elections, what should they be aiming for?
The People’s Choice should be expecting to have a say in how the council works. They have several senior figures, people like Yani Johanson, Phil Clearwater, and Glenn Livingstone, who are capable of taking on leadership roles within the council. They should be pushing for their key policies, especially around healthy homes, openness and good government, a living wage, better public transport, and more. And Lianne will need solid support to make sure her mayoralty’s the success it should be.
They’ll also need to stand up against proposals that go against the values of equality and justice the People’s Choice represent. With six councillors, they can expect to have a say in every key decision, and should make sure they use that power. Voters will be unimpressed if the People’s Choice doesn’t deliver.