MMP gives parties a lot of power in some ways but leaves them impotent in others.
They rank the lists which determines the order candidates get into parliament giving them a lot of control over candidates.
Once a minor party has a seat it has power far beyond its support base even, as both Jim Anderton and Peter Dunne prove, it is no longer effectively a party.
However, the system which gives parties a lot of power also leaves them powerless.
Labour doesn’t want Judith Tizard, Mark Burton, Mahara Okeroa, Martin Gallagher or Dave Hereora back in parliament but under the rules, they are the first five in line to get the seat vacated by Darren Hughes. Only if each in turn does not accept the offer can it be offered to Louisa Wall.
If any of those five returns to parliament we’ll be paying them 11 months salary and allowances which comes to a total of $162,020 to do what?
She or he will go to parliament, sit in the house and have select committee duties until parliament rises for the election in early October. S/he might be asked to be a buddy MP in an electorate but how hard s/he applies her/himself to the task will be entirely up to her/him.
Knowing s/he is only there as a stop-gap gives her/him nothing to lose as Judith Tizard has already made clear:
Goff’s other problem is Hughes’ vacant party list spot – it’s due to go to Judith Tizard.
He views her as a figure from the past and doesn’t want her back.
“It’s for seven months, for some that might be regarded as disruptive,” he says.
But Tizard is undecided – she’s got unfinished business.
“I’d love to make a valedictory speech,” she says.
And if she does – she really will be disruptive.
“The question is whether Phil Goff is the person to lead New Zealand and he’s got to capture New Zealand’s imagination and for New Zealand to see him as an alternative,” she says.
Labour is already unstable. Allowing a former MP to return when she makes it quite clear she isn’t loyal to the leader will only make that worse but the rules of MMP allow that to happen and there’s nothing the party can do about it.