|In the early 1950s I had my first introduction to politics and politicians. The image of my grandfather spitting at a poster of Syd Holland has stayed with me over the years and has probably been responsible for my ongoing interest in political issues. The spitting incident was done with a mixture of seriousness and humour - a very well balanced way to approach politics.
It also instilled in me the knowledge that politicians can be questioned, scrutinised, and judged by rank and file members of society, and that forelock tugging and kowtowing is not something that we have to subject ourselves to. So, in this election year it is up to us to select and chose the people who will be the most supportive to us as gays and lesbians - remember the power of the vote can be a very destructive weapon! Election year is giving us lots of material to analyse with a critical gay and lesbian eye. The perception that National is becoming more conservative under Bill English than it was under Jenny Shipley is alarming. A few months back they welcomed in their new president Michelle Boag who seemed to promise lots of glitz and razzmatazz, and gave the impression that National were moving ahead and going to become dynamic and progressive. But what has happened? Underneath the tinsel the spectre of conservatism is growing by stealth, as evidenced by the people that have been selected, or promoted, within their party as candidates. None of this augurs well for the gay and lesbian community. Two of their new candidates have long histories with the police force. Glenda Hughes, well-know policewoman and shot-putter, has been selected for Rongotai. Boag promotes her in glowing terms as 'a strong candidate with immense experience within New Zealand's criminal justice system'. (Yippee!) The other formerplod is Chester Borrows who has been selected for the Whanganui seat. Borrows is, according to National's media release, 'an ex-Policeman having served for 24 years and achieving the rank of Detective Sergeant'. The release also tells us that he 'is married with three children, and is an 'interim minister in the Hawera Presbyterian Parish' - just what the gay community needs!!! When a gay man did stand for selection he was not chosen. Stephen Rainbow was one of National's candidates who put his name forward for the Northcote electorate in Auckland and was turned down. So, if National wants to redeem itself in the eyes of some sections of the gay and lesbian community they will need to give gays high profile seats to campaign in, or else put them high on their party list. We shall be watching to see what they do with Stephen, and also with strong gay and lesbian community supporter List MP Belinda Vernon. But can we expect Rainbow and Vernon to get a good deal from their leader Bill English, father of six from Dipton? In a speech little Billy gave at the Ellerslie War Memorial Hall on 12 December 2001 to Auckland social and voluntary sector providers, he pushed the theme of families, and law and order. The speech can be read in full on the Nat Party's website. Although I was interested in the quote that National has, 'a strong belief in the family and community as the way people are connected' - did he mean my gay and lesbian family and community - I doubt it. Two other people English is promoting are already sitting MPs Simon Power and Lynda Scott - he seems to think they have a future. Recently the New Zealand Herald did articles on them and we learnt that Power, who is 32, is getting married this month. Goodness at his age and with an election coming up we would not want the good citizens of New Zealand to get the wrong impression about him now would we? And the other flag bearer is Lynda Scott, not to be confused with the singer from the early 1960s called Linda Scott. She was quoted in the Herald article as saying, 'National should be the party of choice for the elderly', and that, 'older people have conservative values, I don't think they like the social liberal agenda: decriminalisation of cannabis and prostitution, the same-sex marriage thing'. What a generalisation! Good grief on March 17th I will be 55 years old and heading rapidly into this elderly category - and when I get there I will still be lesbian (it does not switch off at a certain age) and still waving the rainbow flag for the community. National and its candidates are not the only party to be a bit of a worry, our old friends the Christian Heritage Party are still around. They have selected Merepeka Raukawa-Tait to stand in Wairarapa against the Queer community's Georgina Beyer. Raukawa-Tait seems to have exchanged going to strip clubs for going to church. And another worry is the rumour that some Labour members in Wiararapa are considering standing against Beyer for selection because they think she has been spending too much time on gay and lesbian issues! Beyer will need a lot of support from our community during the coming election, not only to face the challenge from without, but the even more destabilising one from within. We cannot afford to lose anybody who supports, belongs to, or strengthens the lives of gays and lesbians in New Zealand. 2002 is the year that the Pink Spotlight will be shone on all political candidates and parties - so candidates always wear policies and views that go with Pink! Doreen Agassiz-Suddens - 12th March 2002