Mixed member proportional representation

The Key to defeat

Luke Malpass at The Spectator has an interesting article on how it is that John Key will be defeated…and ironically John Key’s decision to only provide a lacklustre opposition to MMP may bite him.

John Key is the most popular leader in the western world. Not by a little, but a lot. His net approval rating (approvals minus disapprovals) has consistently been around 50+ per cent. That compares with Tony Abbott at 10+ per cent and Bill Shorten at 8+ per cent. Julia Gillard was somewhere down in the -20 territory. Barack Obama and David Cameron are both around -10 per cent. So why on earth will Mr Key and his government struggle to get re-elected on 20 September? The answer is simple: Mixed Member Proportional.

This electoral system, reconfirmed at the 2011 general election, is a blight on New Zealand politics. In the same way the Hare-Clark system in Tasmania delivered the recent Mickey-mouse, tail-wagging-dog government, so MMP does in New Zealand. It entrenches minority government at the expense of stability and introduces obfuscation where accountability should reside.

The left wing is an assortment of average to failing parties of little support, but group them together and the most popular government and PM in modern history may well lose…beaten by a coalition of losers.

In theory, according to its advocates, MMP is great. As it is extremely difficult to get a majority of the primary vote (1950 was the last time it happened) there can be no ‘elective dictatorships’. Because you vote for an electorate and a party, you can split your vote and elect a local candidate you like, without necessarily voting for their party. Party lists allow highly competent people with little political appeal to be elected. Parties have to constructively get along, and no government can get too far ahead of the people.   Read more »

Herald Digipoll

The last Herald Digipoll before the election is released this morning. Again it shows Labour continues to slide rather than close the gap. Phil Goff told us to wait and see.

National: 50.9 (up 1 point in a week)
Labour 28 (down 1.1)
Greens 11.8 (down 0.8)
NZ First 5.2 (up 0.3)
Act 1.8 (up 0.1)
Conservatives 1.3 (up 0.7)
Maori Party 0.4 (down 0.3)
Mana 0.3 (down 0.1)
United Future 0 (down 0.1)

On this poll it shows again why National needs John Banks to win Epsom. Winston Peters is also looming there but int he range that sets up my dream scenario that would see his party fall below the threshold on special votes.

Today’s poll also throws up a bizarre possible outcome – National winning more than 50 per cent of the party vote but still needing Act, the Maori Party or United Future to give it a majority in Parliament.

This could happen if today’s poll results were translated to votes.

The revival of New Zealand First – which National won’t deal with – could make the survival of Act crucial.

The Maori Party could be in the box seat to negotiate a confidence and supply agreement to give National a cushion of comfort if Act and United Future don’t make it.

The reason National could get a majority of party votes tomorrow but not a majority of seats in Parliament is the overhang factor.

If today’s poll figures were translated to votes, United Future, the Maori Party and Mana would get more electorate seats than their party vote entitlement.

When that happens, the size of Parliament expands beyond 120 seats, and the parties are allowed to keep the extra seats.

In this case, the “overhang” seats would take Parliament to 126 seats.

In that scenario, a Government would need 64 seats for a majority and in today’s poll, National would have 63 seats – based on the assumption that Act, Mana, United Future and the Maori Party will keep their electorate seats.

Once again we see another bizarre feature of MMP and another reason why we need to kick it in the guts. Overhang distorts the “perfect” system supporters say it is and in this case distorts it by 6 seats the largest distortion ever. Vote for Change in the referendum and Vote for Sm to get rid of the silly excesses of MMP.

Can you all now see why Labour, NZ First, Greens and 9 trade unions support MMP? The system benefits them. They look set to control parliament despite not one of them securing anything more than 30% of the vote and in some case far less.

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.