MMP was supposed to improve representation and if you judge it by the greater diversity of parties, gender and ethnicity in parliament it has.
But that has come at the high cost of poorer representation for people, especially in the provinces. There are more Members of Parliament but fewer of them are constituency MPs and they represent far bigger areas.
Most people aren’t particularly interested in politics but they do want to know they have an MP who can listen to them in their electorates and speak for them in Wellington.
All electorate MPs represent parties but once elected they work for all the people in their electorates, they deal with local issues and they help local people.
The importance of this is rarely acknowldeged. Most political commentators are based in Wellington and only see what the MPs do in parliament so that is what gets reported.
I’m not blaming the media for that because a lot of the work MPs do locally is for individuals who’ve come up against burureacratic brick walls and it is confidential.
Not everyone understands the importance of this work and this was made very clear at a meet the candidates meeting in Alexandra yesterday.
It was addressed by Jacqui Dean, who is seeking the seat for National, David Parker who is seeking it for Labour, the Kiwi Party’s Dunedin South candidate, Phillip Wescombe and Pat Scott from the Green Party who was standing in for the candidate who was unable to be there.
It’s the party vote that counts so it was not surprising that they all stressed that but only Jacqui made it obvious she was also seeking the seat.
So at question time I asked them why they were seeking the seat, or why their parties weren’t.
David said he was seeking the seat. Phillip explained that the Kiwi Party was new and didn’t have the people to run in every seat, which was honest.
Pat started with the party vote message so I asked her to get back on track and explain why the party wasn’t seriously contesting the seat when a good electorate MP was important to the people who needed her/his assistance.
She replied that she didn’t think an MP should be a social worker and that if s/he got help for a constituent that was rorting the system.
This was greeted with some surprise by the audience and Jacqui who explained how rewarding it was to be able to help people who were at the end of their tethers She then comprehensively rejected the accusation of rorting the system.
It’s just as well we’ve still got a few MPs who understand that people are more important that party dogma but under MMP they are an endangered minority.