Could a list MP lead?

In the unlikely event Shane Jones wins Labour’s leadership selection he won’t be the first list MP to lead a party.

The Green Party is led by two and NZ First is led by one.

He wouldn’t be the first to lead one of the bigger parties either – Don Brash was a list MP when he led National.

If it hadn’t been for Helen Clark’s desperate and expensive election bribes and the media focussing on the exclusive Brethren’s influence while ignoring the pledge card scandal he might have been Prime Minister.

There are advantages to leading as a list MP. It would enable greater concentration on the leadership without the distraction of an electorate.

But that is also a disadvantage – electorate helps keep MPs grounded and in touch with constituents in a way most list MPs aren’t.

That is one of the reasons that even after more than a decade and a half of MMP list MPs are still regarded as somehow not quite as legitimate as those who represent electorates.

There is no reason a list MP couldn’t become Prime Minister but not having a seat could make it a wee bit harder.

21 Responses to Could a list MP lead?

  1. Gravedodger says:

    Current polling suggests KRudd possibly agrees that being a “list” MP has merit!!!


  2. Dave Kennedy says:

    Jeanette Fitzsimons was an electorate MP at one time, but the Greens have found that for a smaller party the difficulty of having to be a spokesperson for a range of portfolio areas as well as serving an electorate means it is difficult to do all jobs well. Having only list MPs does have its advantages, our MPs are able to move around the country supporting their portfolio responsibilities and meeting with the people who are directly involved with their areas of responsibility.

    While many electorate MPs (from all parties) do a brilliant job of supporting their electorate constituents many people actually directly approach the MPs that would have the greatest empathy for their situation. Mojo Mathers, for example, has found herself becoming extremely busy supporting those from the disabilities community.

    In Invercargill we have had a steady stream of Green MPs engaging with issues involving the local business community, regional development and the environment. Many people have commented that although the Greens have only 14 MPs they seem to have personally engaged with them over important matters when other parties haven’t. I don’t think you have to be an electorate MP to be grounded, you just have to care.


  3. homepaddock says:

    Engaging only, or mostly, with those who support or are sympathetic to their cause doesn’t keep MPs grounded.

    It’s having to engage with people with a wide range of views and experiences which keeps electorate MPs grounded.


  4. Alwyn says:

    My, my, Mr Kennedy.
    What a lovely view of history you have. It almost sounds as if Jeanette Fitzsimons chose to sacrifice her electorate seat so that she could better serve the people of New Zealand.
    Why not tell it properly. She won the seat in 1999, was a very mediocre electorate MP, and then got thrown out in 2002, finishing only third in the election.


  5. Viv K says:

    It will probably be David Cunliffe who is the next PM and as he is the elected member for New Lynn, that should all be sweet with you Ele.


  6. TraceyS says:

    I agree Ele, it’s a minority party looking after minority interests. Isn’t that their role however? It’s just unfortunate that they often appear to assume minority views are more widely held than they actually are.

    It leads people like me (“regular” people according to your little test) to feel like they are being told what they should think, feel, and do.


  7. Dave Kennedy says:

    You are jumping to conclusions regarding who Green MPs engage with, Ele. When looking at the issue of an environmentally compromised wetland and lagoon for example our MPs have met with all stakeholders; local farmers, scientists, regional government and Iwi. As far as I know our MPs engaged with a wider cross-section of those involved with the issue than any other. Farmers were impressed with our pragmatic approach.

    When David Clendon visited during his national tour in support of SMEs he used local businesses to promote positive initiatives.

    Even as the local spokesperson for the Greens I attend Federated Farmers and Chamber of Commerce meetings, groups I know that you wouldn’t associate with the Greens. It is far more productive to work with people than against them.

    As a teacher I have been particularly disappointed how little engagement there is between National MPs and the profession. It is apparent that the last people that National wishes to engage with regarding education are those who are directly involved.

    Here is a link to the Green Party’s good farming stories site as an example of how closely we engage with different industries and communities:


  8. Dave Kennedy says:

    You are putting words in my mouth Alwyn. All I was saying was that it is very hard to do justice to a role when you have more than one responsibility, especially with smaller parties.

    I won’t comment on your perception of Jeanette as an electorate MP, because if you are from the Coromandel you will be basing your judgement on personal experience.

    My own knowledge of Jeanette was that as a party leader, spokesperson on many major portfolios and also an electorate MP she carried a huge load. Jeanette was widely regarded by all parties to be well informed and hard working.

    This view of her seems to be a widely held one as Colin James of the Herald nominated her as New Zealand politician of the year in 2007 and a 2008 TV1 Colmar Brunton poll regarded Jeanette as the most trustworthy political leader.

    Hard work and honesty don’t seem to be rated so highly now when 76.5% of a recent poll don’t believe John Key tells the truth yet 50% feel comfortable with him as Prime Minister. New Zealand seems to have adopted a different kind of morality under National as we have dropped dramatically from the least corrupt country to around 30th (beside Spain).


  9. homepaddock says:

    That still isn’t the same as having to deal with any of your constituents on any issue whether or not it interests you.


  10. Dave Kennedy says:

    That’s a good point, Ele, there would be a broader range of issues coming to electorate MPs, but I wouldn’t want you to think that Green MPs only meet with those who agree with them.

    I believe that you don’t have to be an electorate MP to be grounded in local issues. Most Green MPs I know are still well connected with their local communities where they live. I do agree, however, that being an electorate MP would help in developing an understanding of local issues.


  11. Viv K says:

    Any actual examples of being told what to do by the Greens Tracey? And why do you assume you are a ‘regular’ person and the Greens are not?


  12. TraceyS says:

    It’s how it feels Viv. The Green’s Agriculture and rural Affairs Policy engenders these feelings (

    I am a regular person. But that comment was in reference to the post Such tests are fun but not to be taken too seriously.


  13. Viv K says:

    Ok, you have explained why you said ‘regular’ people, but the link you put up in no way explains why you say people ‘feel like they are being told what they should think, feel and do’. What people? Where do the Greens tell people what they should think, feel or do? It’s probably just you and your personal dislike of the Greens. You often accuse the Greens of being judgemental, but can’t justify such claims other than it being what you feel. A couple of weeks ago you even said that if the Greens were in power you didn’t think you’d be able to leave lights on or go the long way home. That was really paranoid.


  14. TraceyS says:

    Your memory has faded Viv. I said sometimes I’ll leave the lights on or take unnecessary car trips to remind myself that, although some would frown upon the practice of using energy when you don’t need to, I am still free to do so if I can pay for the energy used.

    Freedom and choice is what I like the feel of. The Greens Agricultural and Rural Affairs Policy doesn’t engage these feelings – in me anyway. When I have more time later on, I will clarify with specific examples if you like.


  15. Viv K says:

    My memory is good, as I confirmed when I went back and read the rest of your comment on Aug 12, ‘It’s still a free choice. It may not always be. And if the Greens had the choice, I don’t think it would be’. You said that you think the Greens would choose to not allow you free choice.


  16. TraceyS says:

    Yes, I do think the Greens would seek to limit people’s choices.


  17. TraceyS says:

    Here are my examples, Viv, as promised:

    “Local food production for local use must be supported”

    What a person is allowed to produce their land could be restricted by local demand. It could also limit consumer choices. We have land suitable for local food production, but do not wish to be in that business. We have a right to make that choice, at the moment anyway. Essentially this statement means that the Green Party will decide the buyer and the seller rather than leaving it purely up to the individuals.

    “Prohibiting the growth, development and field-testing of genetically modified and transgenic organisms that are intended for release into the environment or food chain”
    As previously discussed, this would prevent the release of a GE bacterial strain which could prevent tooth decay in children and adults. To deny such treatments, where safety has been established, is inhumane.

    “Develop legislation to encourage farm ownership to be held by the farm resident operator.”

    Under this statement I will have to move and so would many farmers with separate run blocks. Why should the Green Party tell me where I should live if that is not my choice? Does this mean that a worker as “farm resident operator” living on the farm is going to become the new owner? Will we be forced to sell to him? The phrase “legislation to encourage” is strange. Legislation is authoritarian rather than encouraging.

    “Maximisation of conversion to organic production by encouraging best organic practice.”

    What if a farmer doesn’t want to convert to organic, or organic farming will not work on their property?

    “Only permitting aerial spraying when it is the safest, least toxic, effective, feasible method of achieving the desired outcome”

    Aerial spraying will never be the “safest, least toxic” option, so you might as well say that aerial spraying won’t be allowed. This will result in some farmers not being able to manage weeds such as gorse on their properties. That would have dire outcomes, not only for individual farmers, but for their neighbours as well as the environment.

    “Rapidly phase out chemicals of concern where safer practicable alternatives exist.”

    This removes choice. Some chemicals are toxic but are also highly effective and are therefore only needed in very small quantities. There will always be “safer” alternatives but these may not be effective or economic. This statement will force choices which are not in the best interests of people or the environment.

    “Encouraging people to move to rural towns and areas to work, especially in activities that contribute to sustainable land use, and to establish businesses, especially those involved in adding value to primary products. This is predicated on appropriate infrastructure and services being in place to meet the needs of larger populations.”

    But also…

    “Limiting urban sprawl to prevent loss of prime agricultural land to housing, lifestyle blocks and commercial developments.”

    Limits scope for rural developments so that these will necessarily be small-scale or of a cottage industry type. What if this is not the sort of employment or investment that people want for an area?


  18. Viv K says:

    “Local food production for local use must be supported”, This might be through tax relief for those setting up horticulture or similar (I’m not sure about actual policy there), but there is nothing in that statement to say that the Greens would dictate what you can use your land for.
    “Prohibiting the growth, development and field-testing of genetically modified and transgenic organisms that are intended for release into the environment or food chain”
    Yes the Greens are definitely against GE. It is a clear point of difference with all the other parties.
    “ As previously discussed, this would prevent the release of a GE bacterial strain which could prevent tooth decay in children and adults. To deny such treatments, where safety has been established, is inhumane.”Your use of the word “inhumane” is pure hyperbole. Safety has not been demonstrated. These GE organisms are new, they have only been used/trialed for a short time. Many human diseases take years, even decades, to develop, cancers being an example of this. There are many other ways to prevent tooth decay, I would never expose my children to a GE bacterial strain to prevent tooth decay, a disease which can be safely prevented by good oral hygiene, a good diet and the use of fluoride and preventive sealants.
    The word “encourage” is used a few times, but you have decided that encourage means “force” and “remove choice” as you demonstrate with your statement “ Legislation is authoritarian rather than encouraging.” You have made it clear that whatever the Green policy is, you are going to interpret it as being authoritarian and thus show your personal prejudice against the Greens. At 8.08 you said “Yes, I do think the Greens would seek to limit people’s choices.” Thank you for making that clear, I think you are wrong and will continue to call you out when you demonstrate that prejudice.


  19. TraceyS says:

    I wonder, Viv, if everyone who has a different opinion to yours is “prejudiced”?


  20. Viv K says:

    No. Different opinions are to be expected. Prejudice = preconceived opinion. The Greens use the word ‘encourage’ and you announce that means they will force people to do things and limit choices. That is a very odd interpretation of the word ‘encourage’. It appears you have chosen, based on your preconceived opinions, to interpret whatever the Greens say in the most negative way and so you accuse them of limiting choices when they use the word ‘encourage’. I hope you will be more objective and take a little more care in reading and interpreting the written and spoken word in your new role in local body politics.


  21. Viv K says:

    Another example of lack of objectivity. The Greens say ‘Develop legislation to encourage farm ownership to be held by the farm resident operator’ (probably to encourage more self employed owner operators and discourage “Queen st” owners who just use managers) and you say ‘I will have to move’ and ‘why should the Green party tell me where I should live’. You even speculate that a farm worker will become the new owner. For goodness sake, you are an intelligent woman, but when it comes to commenting on the Greens you seem to become quite irrational.


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