MMP has been given some of the blame for the inability to kick Aaron Gilmore out of parliament.
Is that fair?
Both list and electorate MPs can be sacked from their caucus and party but if they don’t resign they stay in parliament until the next election when voters give their verdict.
However, while a voters can ensure an MP doesn’t win an electorate they have no influence on where a candidate is on their party’s list. That means they can vote for someone else in the electorate but still find the person they rejected has got into parliament.
This is an aspect of the system on which many people submitted to the review of MMP, arguing that if an MP loses a seat, or contests it and fails to win it, s/he should not be able to enter parliament on the list.
I disagree with that.
Standing in an electorate ensures candidates face the voters and get to know the people whose support they are soliciting and learn about their concerns.
If they take it seriously, and given it’s the party vote which really counts they’d be stupid not to, they gain an understanding of the individuals, groups and communities on whom their policies will impact.
The goods ones don’t just stand in an electorate they stay in touch with it, working with and for the people in it. And failing once or twice doesn’t prevent later success.
Eric Roy* and Nicky Wagner, for example, failed to win electorates but got in on the list, worked hard, earned the support of the people and won Invercargill and Christchurch Central respectively.
Others like Chris Finlayson and Michael Woodhouse have stood in dark red seats they have little hope of winning, but even those who don’t share their political views would be hard pressed to criticise their performance as MPs and Ministers.
I have no doubt that standing in electorates has helped them in their work.
That not all list MPs who stand in seats perform well in parliament is not a reason to change the rules to prevent dual candidacy.
MMP is not my preferred electoral system but the advantages of dual candidacies outweigh the disadvantages.
One valid criticism of the system is that list MPs aren’t directly answerable to constituents. Dual candidacy at least means they have to front up to voters.
Good MPs will ensure they don’t squander the goodwill they earn by doing so by continuing to work in electorates whether or not they have any chance of winning them.
But to return to the original question of whether it’s MMP’s fault that Gilmore could have stayed in parliament had he not chosen to resign.
It’s not. But it is the system which enabled him to be there in the first place and that system has given less power to people in electorates and more to parties.
If parties get an electorate selection wrong, voters can ensure the candidate doesn’t get into parliament. They can’t do that with an individual list MP.
* Eric first entered parliament in 1993 by winning the seat of Ararua which disappeared when MMP was introduced. He stood unsuccessfully for Invercargill twice but stayed in parliament as a list MP. He missed out on the electorate and list in 2002 but won the seat in 2005.