Herald Editorial on MMP

The NZ Herald editorial is scathing of Judith Tizard, Labour and MMP.

The last thing the MMP electoral system needed this year was an episode to stir up discontent over list MPs. Yet that is exactly what is being provided by the posturing and prevaricating of Judith Tizard as she decides whether she will take the list seat vacated by Darren Hughes. The Labour Party hierarchy has made it clear it does not want the former minister back in Parliament.

But, as the unelected candidate highest on Labour’s 2008 party list, she is, by law, the first cab off the rank. With the retention of MMP the subject of a referendum at the time of the general election, this is far from a ringing endorsement of its merits.

Exactly, and bizarrely the vested interests of pro-MMP lobbyists seem tot hink that these same people rorting the list should also be the ones to reform MMP.

Labour has itself to blame for much of its embarrassment. Not only does it not want Judith Tizard back – and earlier went so far as to stop Phil Twyford standing in the Mt Albert byelection to prevent this – but it also does not want any of the next four candidates on its list, Mark Burton, Mahara Okeroa, Martin Gallagher and Dave Hereora. None are standing this year, so they would occupy the seat for just six months. Party president Andrew Little’s choice is Louisa Wall, who is next on the list after those fellow former MPs and has already been selected for the safe seat of Manurewa.

The editor is of course talking about the Tizard Effect or the Tizard Bomb. Labour are ardent supporters of MMP, yet they are quite willing to chuck the intent of the list system aside because it doesn’t suit them. That makes the MMP system highly suspect that it can be manipulated in such a manner.

It would be easy to say Labour should have seen this coming; that it erred badly in the drawing up of a list which saddled it with lacklustre choices in the event of incidents such as that allegedly involving Mr Hughes. But before the 2008 election, the party may have felt it would be wrong to demean and effectively disown sitting MPs by placing them far lower on its list. If the worst came to the worst, it could always appeal to them to stand aside for the good of the party.

Labour is not the first to seek to manipulate its party list this way. In mid-2008, the Greens tried to bring Russel Norman into Parliament by orchestrating the departure of MP Nandor Tanczos and asking Catherine Delahunty and Mike Ward, who were ahead of the co-leader on their party list, to stand aside. This came unstuck when Mr Ward stuck to his guns. Nonetheless, this blatant attempt at a rearrangement of convenience left a sickly taste, a state of affairs now rekindled by Labour.

Yes it does leave a sickly taste. We need to dump MMP, not reform it. If politicians can’t be trusted to stick to their lists then they can’t be trusted to reform MMP.

Issues surrounding list MPs, along with other aspects of MMP that have raised question-marks, will be examined by an Electoral Commission review if the public votes later this year to retain the electoral system. This would offer the chance to assess whether the situation in which Mr Little finds himself is reasonable.

On the one hand, the public votes for a party list, which, like policy, is announced before an election. It could be considered that a commitment has, therefore, been made to voters, and the list should be sacrosanct.

Yet is it fair that a party, and perhaps a new leader, should be shackled with unwanted people in what may be much-changed circumstances? Should, in fact, party lists be dispensed with after an election?

The common complaint about this would be that people could enter Parliament without any sort of public mandate. Party leaders would be free to exercise their whims. Equally, however, the present situation is unsatisfactory, and has blighted MMP at an inopportune time.

Louisa Wall is, clearly, the most suitable candidate to replace Mr Hughes. Something must change to ensure the country is spared a rerun of the current shenanigans.

That something is for us all to reject MMP.


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  • mickrodge

    What a selection quandry;

    One old lazy feminazi trougher vs one young lazy feminazi trougher.

    Labour really are spoilt for choice here!!

  • james1077

    I was trying to think of a MMP-like system that actually works and doesn’t give rise to unanswerable scum list MPs.

    One thought that I had was for the list to be decided not by party leadership but by party members. If party members hold the pen then it isn’t about sucking up to the leader above all else but generally being a good MP / good bloke that decides your position on the list. Piss off too many people and you are out of a job (as it is in the real world).

    A slightly preferable system (to me anyway) would be to scrap lists and have party seats made up through a “closest loser” system. So if Labour get 30 seats but should have got 35 under PR then the top 5 losers by percentage of the vote get in (i.e. in X seat Nats got 51% and Lab got 49% so X seat ends up getting 2 representatives). Yes these MPs have been thrown out / not elected by their electorate but they still represent the views of a significant minority of them so it is reasonably fair that they make up the numbers.

    • abjv

      The Greens pick their list this way. The party wasn’t bright enough to ensure Rod Donald had an heir-apparent high on the list, which is why they tried to manipulate it to try to get Russel Norman into parliament.

      The list approach makes it easy to get morons into parliament. If a party surrounds the leader with sycophants and morons (which list am I referring to here?) then change that leader, they get what they deserve, which is a talent pool shallower than a puddle in a kindergarten playground, and polling of under 25%. Its a ‘Darwin’ process.

      Don’t agree with your ‘best loser’ approach. We would have got Max Bradford back. Firing him was one of the greatest favours the Rotorua electorate ever did for the country – I remember him every time I get a power bill – although they ruined it by then giving us Steve.

      The problem is what to do with casual vacancies from list MPs. I think its easy. If a list MP dies, resigns or gets removed by the Court for being a dodgy bugger, they do not get replaced. If a list MP wins a by-election, they do not get replaced. If nothing else, this would ensure parties pay more attention to personal skills and reliability when putting the list together, and much better management of those MPs once elected.

    • reid

      Look at STV james, that’s my preferred solution, if we have to be proportional, which I’d prefer to avoid altogether. There is in fact only left or right, so we actually only need two parties, which are both big churches.

      That gives both the best result when you have a good govt of either side and the worst results when you have a bad from either side.

      It only fell apart because of the clever conservative end-game we achieved in 1984-7 whereby our long-time Liarbore-affiliated conservative deep-cover penetration agents surfaced and wrecked havoc on the working class. That just really pissed off the lefties because by making everyone poorer they couldn’t afford the Armani suits and jags like we could because their union dues etc just had to drop – sorry – and they just got really pissed. Normally we don’t discuss that but I thought you might like to know.

      • thor42

        Agreed – STV is the way to go. It lets **YOU** rank the candidates, not the party.
        Good article on Wikipedia about it –

        It’s actually bloody good. You get a list of candidates, and you can vote for as many or as few of them as you like.

  • giblet

    The solution is for each Party List to be compiled AFTER the election, with the highest polling unsuccessful candidates heading the list.

    This way they could at least claim some personal voter mandate, and they would have to work their arses during the campaign to get votes.

    I hate MMP but if it is to stay then surely this system more accurately reflects the will of the voters, not the party.

  • fatman43us

    MMP has always been, always will be a scam. It might work if we had mass member parties as in the 40’s and 50’s, but we do not. The list members are thyen elected by 30ish people in a back room somewhere.

    Louisa Wall is a prime example. My Manurewa Electorate have no say in this at all. The Labour monkeys select her, 10000 dumb working class bastards in the area vote for her and whoopee she has a job for life! She may also contribute mightily to the next Labour Government, God help us. But in the unlikely event, people here get a personality transplant, and she is defeated in the Seat, abracadabra she wins through the List. The only way this can be cured is to throw the current system out and then go looking. My choice for what it is worth is First Past the Post, with a Preferential system a very close second.