Tweaking MMP won’t be easy


Proponents of MMP say the system needs tweaking to make it better fit New Zealand.

That won’t be easy.

A spokesperson for the Keep MMP campaign, Sandra Grey, says one of the main issues that should be looked at is the ability for candidates to stand for both a party list and an electorate.

One of the biggest issues people have with the system is the ability for someone who has been rejected by an electorate to remain in parliament on the list.

Changing that would have very little impact on the wee parties when few of them win electorates but it would have a major impact on National and Labour and would worsen the perception we have two classes of MP.

Kate Wilkinson and Nicky Wagner didn’t need to win seats, they would have been in parliament on the list. But they are justifiably delighted at winning their electorates, Waimakariri and Christchurch Central for several reasons, one of which is that they have a mandate from the people rather than just being in parliament at the pleasure of the party.

They were already hard working and effective MPs, they wouldn’t have won their seats had they not been. That won’t change but the perception of their role will because even after 15 years with MMP, being an electorate MP is still regarded as being better than a list MP.

That perception would worsen if there were no dual candidacies.

If candidates could stand in only an electorate or for the list the wee parties wouldn’t have candidates in any seats unless they came to an arrangement with one or other of the bigger ones, as has happened in Epsom and Ohariu.

The bigger parties would find it much harder to get candidates to stand in marginal or unwinnable seats if it meant there was no possibility of entering, or staying in, parliament on the list.

It could also make list MPs more removed from a wide cross section of people. Electorate MPs and those who hope to win electorates can’t pick and choose who they serve. List MPs, knowing they weren’t ever going to have to contest an electorate, could work only with those who were likely to support their parties.

The two seats I’ve mentioned were won by National list MPs, Waitakere has been won by  a Labour list MP.  The people in these seats have had two advocates rather than one. They might still have a buddy list MP, if people could stand only for an electorate or the list, but the motivation for the buddies wouldn’t be as great as it is for those who know they will be trying to win not only party votes but the seat as well.

Without the protection of a list place, MPs might forget that while they represent and must advocate for their constituents, they are also in parliament for the good of the whole country.

Lindsay Mitchell argues that Paula Bennett should wear the loss of Waitakere as a badge of honour:

Sue Bradford stood for Mana in Waitakare to play up welfare hysteria. Carmel Sepuloni was the feasible Labour candidate able to represent the anxieties Bradford stirred. Labour also did some shitty things to stir up fear and paranoia among beneficiaries. In the face of these two influences it is hardly surprising that a welfare-reforming Minister half serious about the job would lose electorate votes.

Paula’s achievements as a Minister might well have cost her the seat, although with only an 11 vote loss that is not yet certain, but as a list MP she will still be in parliament working so that welfare, as Lindsay says is:

the safety net it once was rather than the career (too respectable a word) choice it has become.

Paula has first hand experience of life on a benefit. She knows it’s hard but she also knows it’s possible to get off it. Parliament is a better place for having people with her life experience in it, it would be worse if losing an electorate cut her career short.

Another factor, unlikely to win much sympathy from the wider public, is party control of candidates and MPs.

One reason Labour did so badly this election is that most of their candidates gave up campaigning for the party vote and fought old-fashioned FPP campaigns for electorates. If candidates could stand only in a seat or on the list that would happen every election.  People like a bit of independence from MPs but most also punish parties for disunity and disloyalty and there would be a lot more of that if candidates had to opt for either an electorate or the list.

I understand why people who reject MPs in electorates find the party votes of the rest of the country keep them in parliament but under MMP its the party vote that counts.

Tweaking the system won’t change that and any tweaks that reinforce the distinction between list and electorate MPs would make the MMP worse.

Who blabbed?


The result of the special vote count won’t be public until this afternoon, so who are the sources?

Cabinet minister Paula Bennett is on the verge of losing her Waitakere electorate seat.

Sources report that Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni is ahead by fewer than 10 votes after the counting of special votes.

If it’s that close there’s sure to be a judicial recount, but who told the media?

A blue bird told me that National people in the know are keeping the results to themselves until the official announcement which suggests that the leak has come from Labour.

Bradford’s candidacy boost for Bennett


Former Green MP Sue Bradford has confirmed  her candidacy in Waitakere.

This will help sitting MP and cabinet minister Paula Bennett by splitting the left vote.

The candidacy will get Bradford and her party some publicity and if Mana got sufficient party votes for a second MP, assuming its leader Hone Harawira keeps his seat, she might get in to parliament.

The iPredict contract gives Bennett a 74% chance of holding the seat.

The contract on Bradford being  second on Mana’s list, after Harawira, hasn’t attracted much interest.

Mana helping National


Former Green MP Sue Bradford wants to stand in Waitakere for the Mana party.

The one who is most likely to benefit from that is sitting  National MP and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

The ones most likely to lose from this are the labour and Green candidates as the vote gets split between them and a party even further to the left.

This won’t be the first time a wee party has acted as a spoiler, helping the candidate they have least in common with at the exepnse of potential coalition partners.

It is another fault with MMP.

Parties are criticised for pre-election accommodations in electorates although that is both sensible for them and helpful for voters who can choose to follow the lead they’re given or not.

But the alternative is for the wee parties to butcher the vote of their likely allies.

Yule wins Local Govt Presidency


Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule has been elected president of Local Government New Zealand.

Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast, who contested the presidency too, is the new deputy.

Bob Harvey, Waitakere mayor had earlier criticised local bodies supporting Yule’s nomination:

“It’s a brainless stand as the largest urban authority in New Zealand to not think through what the job entails and I’m surprised and amazed at their decision. Local government will be in serious trouble if they don’t come to their sense and realise that the job is beyond the mayor of a small rural district.”

Obviously enough of those who voted realise that size doesn’t matter and a president with an understanding of provincial issues and a deputy who knows about urban issues should ensure the views of all local authorities are understood and represented.

Update: I stand to be corrected on this but I think Yule was electorate chair for Michael Laws when he (Laws) was a National MP. The skills he’d need for that job will be very useful in his new role 🙂

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