Retiring MP Sue Kedgley admitted in her valedictory speech that she entered parliament by accident:
I am what you might call an accidental MP – someone who arrived in this House by accident, not by design. I casually agreed to put my name on a Green Party list for the ninety-nine election, at a time when the Green Party was polling at zero per cent. And the next thing I knew Jeanette Fitzsimons was on the phone, telling me I had just become an MP.
This isn’t the first time MPs who thought they had no hope of being MPs have found themselves with a seat in parliament.
In 2002 National bled votes to Act, United Future (or whatever it was called then) and New Zealand First candidates who stood with little if any hope of winning gained a list seat. Few of those accidental MPs did anything of note and most have now thankfully been forgotten.
MMP’s lists enable people who would never win an electorate to get into parliament. But we got accidental MPs with FPP too. In 1990 a high tide for National brought in candidates in seats previously thought unwinnable by the party, for example Gilbert Myles who won the seat of Roskill.
This reinforces the importance of parties having strong membership and quality candidates.
It’s all very well running people who haven’t got what it takes to be MPs in seats they’ll never win to wave their parties’ flags. But putting them on the list where they might be swept into parliament by an unexpected tail wind or selecting them in electorates they could win inflicts them on us all.
Being a good MP is a very demanding job, parties owe it to us to ensure the people they select have not just the skills and abilities to do it well but also have the will to do it at all.