Jane Clifton is feeling sympathy for Peter Dunne over the Electoral Commission’s insistence on signed applications for membership and treating United Future’s application for registration as if it was a new party.
. . . That the party must now be treated as an entirely new entity for the purposes of the system, and wait a couple of months for restoration, is little short of a joke. Again, this may be legally in order. But it’s still inane.
The Opposition, and doubtless members of the public, will see the financial penalties Dunne has incurred as perfectly righteous – but that’s a different argument. It is rather grandiose for a one- or even three-person caucus in Parliament to have the mighty infrastructure of a Leader’s Office and a Research Budget. A bit of judicious recalibration of parties’ entitlements is probably overdue.
MMP allows single-MP parties into parliament but there should be a higher hurdel than a very few members to justify a leaders’ office and the budget that goes with it.
But that Dunne should lose these entitlements because a) his party was the only party foolish enough to be honest with the commission, and b) because the law is an ass and it was unclear how to process such a novel situation through the red tape and c) because in all likelihood officials were spooked by the histrionics of Winston and Labour in Parliament about Dunne’s entitlements, is very unfair.
The Commission must obey the law, even if in this case, it appears the law is at the very lest in need of an update.
However, if the law must be applied it must be applied evenly.
Dunne is facing a tricky climb-back to redeem his career. But the commission needs to redeem itself too, by instigating equal treatment for all registered parties. Having taken such a flinty line with United Future, it should now actively check the numbers for all the parties, and keep a running monitor. That would, of course, be to look for more trouble, so it will probably handily find it lacks the resources for such rigour. . .
I don’t know where the figure of 500 came from in the requirement for a party to have at least that many members.
It is a very low hurdle for an organisation to jump and it ought to be monitored properly.
Givent he low number of members required, it shouldn’t require too much for the Commission to satisfy itself and the public that all registered parties, or at least all those in parliament, do have 500 real, living, human members.