The Dim-Post

March 29, 2010

Time to make a NEW mistake

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 11:14 am

Tangental to the tension within the ACT Party, minority parties who enter governing coalitions always make the same error: their MPs take as many portfolios as they can get, which weds them very tightly to the governing party – a model that has worked really badly for every minority member in the past and is not playing out very well for ACT or the Maori Party in the present. Surely the smart thing to do is have a leader take a senior portfolio and then have thier deputy/co-leader with no Ministerial responsibilities – free to represent the party, develop policy and critique the majority party because they’re not part of Cabinet.

I don’t know whether this could save ACT – which seems to have rather deeprooted problems beyond this – or the Maori Party, which doesn’t hold with western-centric imperialist notions of doing things that make sense and won’t destroy them as a political entity, but it could certainly be a model for a future Green arrangement with a Labour government.

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30 Comments »

  1. How is it not playing out well for the Māori Party? Are they not on track to get at least five seats at the next election?

    Surely the smart thing to do is have a leader take a senior portfolio and then have thier deputy/co-leader with no Ministerial responsibilities – free to represent the party, develop policy and critique the majority party because they’re not part of Cabinet.

    And how did that work out for United Future? He became head of the IRD, his Judy Turner took no Government role and his party support collapsed.
    And how about New Zealand First? Winston took the senior portfolio of Foreign Minister, Peter Brown took no Government role and now they’re out of Parliament.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 29, 2010 @ 11:25 am

  2. …his Deputy Judy Turner…

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 29, 2010 @ 11:26 am

  3. NZFirst and United Future were single personality based parties, so they didn’t have the option of dual leaders the way the others do. It probably would have been very sensible for Dunne and Peters to cultivate the profiles of their fellow MPs but that wasn’t their style . . .

    Comment by danylmc — March 29, 2010 @ 11:35 am

  4. What has happened a fair amount in The Netherlands in the last decade is that the Party Leader doesn’t enter the government. Not all parties do that, and usually they’re not so tiny compared to the big party, but I think that’s actually a better alternative. Party Leader is free to campaign for his party and ideas, and they still get some input on the government.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 29, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  5. What? and miss out on ministerial salaries? That’s hardly sellable – sacrifice for the good of the party….

    Comment by Paul — March 29, 2010 @ 11:52 am

  6. Not sure if it was me just being half asleep when I saw it, but Rodney’s interview on Breakfast this morning was bizarre… http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast-news/breakfast-monday-march-29-3436915/video?vid=3436921

    Comment by max — March 29, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  7. United Future [was a] personality-based party

    Have you a citation for this?

    =)

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 29, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

  8. The Greens will continue to poll about 5-6% forever until they enter into a formal relationship with a Government, whereby the inability of the New Zealand media to grasp the concept of a “coalition”, “confidence and supply agreement” or anything more complicated than a two-party system will see them starved of media attention and relegated to electoral obscurity.

    Comment by JD — March 29, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

  9. Max, what made you think that the Rodney Hide interview was bizarre, honestly?

    I have been very critical of ACT recently (I am saying this so you don’t accuse me of being a blind-faith Actoid) – but I thought Rodney Hide came across as being very honest, very sensible and expremely coherent in this interview. He actually looked to me like a politician who is prepared to put the health and cohesion of the New Zealand political process ahead of just his own party.

    I campaigned hard with a political party as a volunteer for MMP at the time, but I think it has been a largely unforseen disaster for New Zealand for exactly the reasons that Rodney Hide expressed here; namely that the electorate is at the mercy of politicians’ machinations and manoeverings after the election and we are unlikely to get what we voted for. This was CERTAINLY the case after the last election and in this example, we see that electing National has done nothing at all to change the economic and social malaise that our country is infected with.

    MMP was initially introduced with a plan for a review of how it is working and (I think but I am not exactly sure) a promise of a referendum on it. This has NOT happened and I think it is about time the electorate forced the issue.

    Comment by Dave Mann — March 29, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

  10. A few years back Tom Scott skewered Peter Dunne in a cartoon that had PD promising loudly that United Future would never be a ‘cult of personality’. Dunne’s real-life comment was directed at Winston Peters, but Scott flayed him for that beautifully.

    Comment by Ataahua — March 29, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

  11. “electing National has done nothing at all to change the economic and social malaise that our country is infected with”

    Incremental change, without rocking the boat too much (and getting rid of Helen), is essentially the platform which got National elected. YOU might want radical change, but thats simply not what national campaigned on.

    Comment by Eddie C — March 29, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  12. namely that the electorate is at the mercy of politicians’ machinations and manoeverings after the election and we are unlikely to get what we voted for.

    Well we get both the poiticians and the machinations that we vote for.

    The way I see it, complaints of this type are just saying that the system sucks because the bloody people don’t agree with each other enough.

    Given that the people don’t actually agree with each other enough for there to be a single party government, then who is this ‘we’ that is being thwarted by the mechinations?

    We vote fopr reps. In order for those reps to get shit done, they have to negotiate with other reps untill they get a majority. What’s the problem?

    If the solution to the problem is excluding voices purely to the avoid negotiation needed to get a majority of the people’s reps onside, then, um, fuck off. Frankly.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — March 29, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

  13. Dave Mann: “MMP was initially introduced with a plan for a review of how it is working and (I think but I am not exactly sure) a promise of a referendum on it. This has NOT happened and I think it is about time the electorate forced the issue.”

    There was a parliamentary review of MMP back in 2001 (as required under the Electoral Act 1993) – you can read it here (http://www.elections.org.nz/files/review_of_mmp.pdf). As it required near-unanimity to recommend any changes, not surprisingly nothing came out of it.

    Graeme Edgler has written on the myth that NZers were promised another referendum on MMP back in 1993. The reason you are not exactly sure on this point is that it never happened.

    Nevertheless, the electorate will have its chance to “force the issue” in 2011. But I’d suggest to you there’s no such thing as a perfect voting system – every one has its own consequences, be they intended or otherwise.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — March 29, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  14. Eddie, there’s a difference between incremental change and no change at all. A small difference, granted, but its the small things which can make a big difference somtimes…. I can’t see that National has made any changes at all – small, incremental, radical, big or even miniscule. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

    Comment by Dave Mann — March 29, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  15. Thanks for that Andrew. Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it, but it does seem to me that under the old FPP system all the significant political factions actually did get a say in how things were run without this infernal dog-wagging-the-tail result that we have under MMP.

    In previous times (I hesitate to say ‘the old days’ hahahaha) each of the parties had different wings or factions within them, and these factions fought hard to influence policy from within. They didn’t always succeed of course, but they did have a voice and some influence. Now, by forming a distinct party of its own, a fringe group is in a far more powerful position to stymie and dictate policy, which is a power far beyond its numerical support in the electorate. Not healthy.

    Comment by Dave Mann — March 29, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

  16. Yep – you’re being unfair to Peter Dunne. You need a personality to create a Cult of Personality…

    Comment by Leopold — March 29, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  17. Graeme Edgler has written on the myth that NZers were promised another referendum on MMP back in 1993. The reason you are not exactly sure on this point is that it never happened.

    We voted in MMP in 1993, the law that vote enacted included the Select Committee review Andrew mentions. A few years into the first MMP Parliament, Jim Bolger was rolled, and my understanding is that some time later PM Jenny Shipley, annoyed with New Zealand First, and Winston Peters, started talking about there being another referendum on MMP. People picked up on her statements, assumed she knew what she was talking about and that it was always planned that there’d be a further referendum, and waited patiently for it to come about (becoming less patient – and more certain – as time went on).

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 29, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

  18. “MMP was initially introduced with a plan for a review of how it is working and (I think but I am not exactly sure) a promise of a referendum on it. This has NOT happened and I think it is about time the electorate forced the issue.”

    There is a referendum on MMP to be held in two stages starting from 2011 – there has been a bit of publicity about this. There is also a concurrent review of MMP to be held on the detail of its construction — thresholds etc.

    Comment by Ian Llewellyn — March 29, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

  19. Thanks, Graeme and Andrew for the facts on this one. Graeme, what are your thoughts on MMP… would you like to see it retained or a referendum with the possibility of changing back to FPP or going with another system entirely?

    Comment by Dave Mann — March 29, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

  20. Dave: As far as I’m aware, “all the significant political factions” under FPP were National and Labour and no one else. I suppose you might call Social Credit and the Alliance significant at times, considering the percentage of the population that voted for them in 1981 and 1993 (respectively), but it would hardly be accurate to say that they had any sort of major influence in Parliament.

    Comment by derp de derp — March 29, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

  21. Graeme, what are your thoughts on MMP… would you like to see it retained or a referendum with the possibility of changing back to FPP or going with another system entirely?

    I’d actually like to see both. I like MMP. As Andrew notes, there’s no such thing as a perfect electoral system, but of the options we have MMP is the best (though I would make a few minor-ish changes).

    There’s going to be a referendum at the next election, and I also quite like that. I didn’t get to vote for MMP the first time ’round, and I’m looking forward to having my say on it. Yes, it means that there’s the possibility that we’ll abandon MMP for something else, but just because I think MMP is a good idea, doesn’t mean we should ignore everyone else.

    First-past-the-post is a really bad system. Take all the things you favour about it (e.g. your comment 15, which is one of the best arguments against MMP), and you’ll find they’re also present in a preferential voting system, but without the idiocy of having someone elected despite getting less than a third of the votes (e.g. Peter Dunne in 2008). When 68% vote for someone else and you can still claim a mandate as their representative, you know your system’s got problems.

    As for MMP: I’d get rid of or lower the threshold (no more than 3%, 2.5% seems about right if we’re keeping one), get rid of the electorate seat exemption, and open the lists. Of course, open lists are kind of unwieldy when you’ve got one nationwide list, so I’m not 100% sure that would be an improvement in reality). I’d keep the ability of candidates to both contest electorates and be on the list, and I’d probably allow MPs to run in by-elections, but would consider adding a proviso that if they win, their party doesn’t pick up a replacement list MP. Feel free to ask me about my reasons for any of these if you’re interested =)

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 29, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

  22. Dave: As far as I’m aware, “all the significant political factions” under FPP were National and Labour and no one else.

    Well, yes. That was his point. The factions were within the major parties, and they argued between themselves before the election and agreed on a manifesto which they implemented after it.

    National had it’s urban businessmen and country farmer constituencies. And social conservatives who later formed a large part of New Zealand First’s base.

    There was a free market group within Labour – Roger Douglas etc. – who went on to form ACT. And a more socialist wing – which became New Labour, and later the Alliance, etc.

    This is a pretty good argument – that we’ve always had coalition governments, they just used to be called National and Labour, and they announced their policies before the election, rather than after post-election negotiations.

    As time went on, however, the strength of this argument diminishes. The large votes at various times for the Values Party, Social Credit, and later the Alliance, and what this showed about public acceptance of the broad coalitions represented within Labour and National through the middle of the 20th century, are probably a major rationale (or at least symptom) of why we had the Royal Commission and MMP in the first place – lots of voters were turned off the major broad-church parties, and their views were only minimally represented in Parliament.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 29, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

  23. “in previous times (I hesitate to say ‘the old days’ hahahaha) each of the parties had different wings or factions within them, and these factions fought hard to influence policy from within.”

    &

    “namely that the electorate is at the mercy of politicians’ machinations and manoeverings after the election and we are unlikely to get what we voted for”

    so in the good old days the diverse viewpoints of our society were represented by shady factions within political partys which was good unlike now where diverse groups are represented by their own parties which is bad?

    Another day in the topsy turvy crazy world of Dave Mann…

    Comment by nommopilot — March 29, 2010 @ 3:53 pm

  24. MMP was a thankfully nonviolent response to the madness of Rogernomics.. the 5th Labour government was a breath of fresh air after 15 years of “free” market philosophy (1984-1999). I don’t know if people here can remember how Labour’s right-wing coterie (ACT) slashed and sold the family silver, and National followed that up with Ruthanasia. Incremental and negotiated change (MMP) is a normal democratic process. Radical changes with no mandate (FPP) is dictatorship.

    Comment by ropata — March 29, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

  25. Radical changes with no mandate (FPP) is dictatorship.

    Exactly. Like Britain today, with two hard-right parties and little chance of any other group getting a significant number of seats.

    open lists are kind of unwieldy when you’ve got one nationwide list

    I think ranking the list members would need to be optional.

    Or have a mandatory primary for each party where voters get to rank the list. But would you need to commit to voting for the party, or would you have the US situation, where you can register as a Democrat and vote Republican? And don’t parties have a right to expect people to be financial members in order to choose their candidates? (although AFAIK the Greens are the only party where the members choose the list. ACT maybe?)

    Anyway, I’m unconvinced that the MMP referendum isn’t all a push to get FPP back in by stages..

    Comment by Rich — March 29, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

  26. Oh dear! Rodney bleats

    “that the electorate is at the mercy of politicians’ machinations and manoeverings after the election and we are unlikely to get what we voted for.”

    That happens regardless of what system is in place.

    The sun rises, the sun sets. O dear, how predictable.

    Boo hoo Rodney/ACT cannot get their way. Sigh.

    MMP is to blame.

    Why is it that a certain advertising slogan comes to mind?

    Comment by peterlepaysan — March 29, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

  27. I think the fact that we have such a strong tradition of party whipping in NZ kind of mitigates against many of the complaints about lists. Voting for the list is voting for that party to have more votes in the house. Obviously it does matter who is on the list, but not so much as people make out; it’s not like they are going to be all independent in the house when the bells go bing.

    Whether or not this is a good thing, I’ not sure, but I do like the idea that the structures should pass as close a resemblance to the way the system actually operates in reality as possible. So, vote for a party, get a reliable party vote in the house. Actual person may develop into a good minister or what-have-you, or may not. If they break ranks, they are probably toast. But in reality, most voters vote for parties.

    One of the worst things about fpp, and electorate mp’s in general to a lesser extent, is the fiction that parties are not the main deal.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — March 29, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

  28. I think ranking the list members would need to be optional.

    Of course. Any open list system should have an above the line option. My main point of concern was that the voting paper would need space for like 400 candidates on it.

    Or have a mandatory primary for each party where voters get to rank the list. But would you need to commit to voting for the party, or would you have the US situation, where you can register as a Democrat and vote Republican?

    No-one anywhere needs to commit to voting for a party. It’s one of the benefits of the secret ballot.

    And don’t parties have a right to expect people to be financial members in order to choose their candidates? (although AFAIK the Greens are the only party where the members choose the list. ACT maybe?)

    Not ACT. Yet, anyway. And yes, parties do have a choice who their candidates will be – freedom of association is a pretty fundamental human right – but I do have a choice as to whom I give my vote.

    Anyway, I’m unconvinced that the MMP referendum isn’t all a push to get FPP back in by stages..

    I don’t really care why they’re doing it. It’s high risk – if MMP wins, that’s probably the end of it; and their vote is worth just as much as mine.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 29, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

  29. One option would be to give voters the ability to rank candidates online in a kind of primary a few weeks before the election. These ranks would be held by the Electoral Commission and temporarily mapped to a voter id. At the actual election, voting for the party you ranked would validate your ranking. The details would then be destroyed (or at least anonoymised) after the election.

    That gives open lists without the huge ballot and with secrecy. The downside is that it requires nasty electronic voting.

    parties do have a choice who their candidates will be – freedom of association is a pretty fundamental human right

    How do open lists square with that?

    Comment by Rich — March 30, 2010 @ 9:53 am

  30. Rich, the party gets to choose who’s on the list — just not who gets elected off it.

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 30, 2010 @ 9:55 am


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