The debate about whether Bill English calls himself a feminist or not looks even more ridiculous this week than it did when he was sworn in as Prime Minister.
Certainly the 55,000 rest home workers and other carers who will receive an extra $2.048 billion over five years in the Government’s first pay equity settlement won’t give a fig what label is attached to him.
Action counts more than words, promises, platitudes or labels.
The extra money in their pay packets, about $100 a week for most full-timers, will transform the lives of these workers who have established that they were low paid because they were women.
It is transforming National’s traditional image as well.
The settlement is the most recent in a series of measures and policy evolution that is seriously challenging Labour’s branding. Yes Labour is still the party that “cares”. But National is the party that “does”.
Not a bad distinction.
Labour claims it will build 100,000 more houses. But the reality is they constantly oppose actual housing developments, have opposed all the RMA changes to make house consenting easier etc etc.
Both of Bill English’s parents ended up in rest homes. His mother was a formidable community activist who helped to form the Farm Works’ Association. Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett raised a daughter as a sole parent and worked in a rest home as nurse aid and dishwasher. Health Minister Jonathan Coleman was raised by his widowed mother. He worked as a GP in Otara and regularly attended patients in rest homes and Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse’s mother was a nurse in Dunedin.
Some people think National today is the same National of the 1970s when almost all MPs came from privileged backgrounds.