Democracy, MMP, STV and TOPPING themselves

There has been quite a bit of talk about our system of democracy recently. There are new calls for reducing our MMP threshold, which has proven to be to high and a democratic impediment to small parties in New Zealand, especially those attempting to get into Parliament for the first time.

Peter Dunne has suggested a switch to STV, while Gareth Morgan wants his own way rather than democracy in The Opportunities Party.

Dunne at Newsroom: Let’s get rid of MMP altogether

When politicians start to talk about making changes to the electoral system, it is time to be wary. They do not do such things unless there is something in it for them.

So when Justice Minister Andrew Little starts musing about a referendum to “tidy up” one or two “quirks” of the MMP system, rest assured that he is not doing so out of genuine concern for its credibility and wellbeing, but rather for the protection of the electoral wellbeing of the Labour Party.

Over the last thirty years since the Royal Commission recommended the move to MMP, both the National and Labour Parties have done their best to subvert it.

The major parties have done hat they can to preserve their size, status and perks, at the cost of better democracy,

An astute politician might infer therefore from that that the best way to guard against that public scorn in the future is to broaden the scope of Parliamentary representation, not restrict it.

A truly bold politician might go even one step further and promote the replacement of MMP altogether, and so do away once and for all with the alleged need for tinkering amendments, by moving to STV, the single transferable vote, whereby every MP is directly elected by a constituency and is accountable to that constituency. That would do away with the party list system whereby so many unknown candidates find themselves MPs, even if the electorate had failed to elect them  directly, or had even voted them out on election day. (How fair is the current system when for example, nearly one third of our current Ministers were rejected in individual electorate contests in 2017?)

Now shifting to a system where every Member of Parliament was directly elected would be a reform worth doing. It would certainly shake up the system; provide fairer and better representation; and make every MP directly accountable to a particular electorate, rather than the party bosses. For those reasons alone, there will be no politician bold enough to take it up, when the option of “tweaking” the system to preserve partisan advantage is so much easier.

But there is no chance of a major change to our electoral system in the foreseeable future. and Gareth Morgan has rubbished it.

 

And as TOP conducts a ballot to elect new party leadership Gareth Morgan has been throwing his weight around, trying to influence the ballot with his money. And mouthing off on Twitter some more:

“Appealing only to the privileged, university offspring of urban elites was never going to be enough for TOP. We need to draw as many active members from the tradies and the ZB listener segment. We haven’t, suggesting NZ is too fat, content and comfortable for our policies”

I doubt that Morgan is going to attract many tradies and ZB listeners. Or decent candidates – who would want to be lambasted by him if they didn’t do what he wants.

Bryce Edwards (Newsroom): The death of minor parties under MMP

TOP appears very unlikely to be a real contender in 2020, as the party is currently struggling to reinvent itself as TOP 2.0 and embroiled in a faction fight over its future.

Former deputy leader Geoff Simmons has been operating as the interim leader until now. But it’s not clear he will be elected, especially as Gareth Morgan is campaigning strongly for rival candidate Amy Stevens, an Auckland lawyer currently working for ASB.

Morgan has written a couple of Facebook posts in which he calls for a vote for Stevens, and explains why Simmons is the wrong person for the job. Morgan says Stevens is what TOP needs in order to connect with the centre right of the political spectrum: “what Amy Stevens offers is a business background not one as a public servant” and “she can relate to all those small business owners who are as familiar with the trials and tribulations of running a business”.

And as a bonus, Morgan – who gave $3 million to the party towards the last election – promises more money for TOP if Stevens is elected: “My money will be on Amy to lead the refresh that is TOP 2.0, as I think she’s sufficiently credible to attract the significant funders. I’ll certainly chip in if she’s leading.”

Clearly Morgan believes that TOP has become too liberal or leftwing: “TOP faces a big risk right now that it gets usurped by people who would otherwise vote Left or Centre Left. Our policy programme is for all New Zealanders, we are over-represented by members from the Left, Centre Left”.

Morgan gave TOP and chance in the last election, then ruined that with his antics online. With his dictatorial approach and his rubbishing of current leadership and supporters it looks like he is topping TOP.

Also from Edwards:

Could the next general election result in a two-party Parliament made up of just Labour and National? It seems highly unlikely – especially under proportional representation – and yet the 1News Colmar Brunton poll released on Sunday points to a scenario where we could be close to that.

The possibility that minor parties could be left out of Parliament altogether in 2020 is generally dismissed, often with the assumption that “the minor parties always do better during the election campaign”. This simply isn’t the case. For example, at the last election, support for both the Greens and NZ First plummeted during the campaign.

What’s more, ever since MMP was introduced, every minor party that has gone into government has subsequently received a worse party vote at the following election.

So there is a real risk to both Greens and NZ First. TOP look like self-destructing. The Maori Party, Mana Party and United Future look unlikely to return.

If David Seymour manages to retain the Epsom electorate it could be down to National, Labour and ACT after the 2020 election (but voters may decide they want to prevent this two party dominant scenario).

Meanwhile, the Labour-led Government is pondering bringing in some small fixes for MMP. But the proposal to reduce the 5 percent threshold to 4 percent is mere tinkering in the face of what clearly needs more radical thinking. Abolishing the threshold entirely, makes more sense.

The MMP threshold is proving to be a major barrier to the healthy flourishing of new minor parties. Of course, it’s not the only problem for the small parties. We therefore need a more serious think about the state of minor parties and how to allow them to prosper. If not, New Zealand’s multi-party parliamentary system might soon become a thing of the past, leaving the public with a choice, once again, of just two monolithic traditional parties.

There has been a lot of good discussion on this here at Reddit: Minor parties were supposed to be a big part of politics under MMP, yet they are in serious decline.

 

Leave a comment

33 Comments

  1. Noel

     /  December 7, 2018

    I did vote for MMP but accepted the majority decision.
    There is nothing changed in the reasoning voters wanted a change to MMP.
    It’s the politicans who have manipulated it beyond the original intent.

    Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  December 7, 2018

    It would be ironically amusing if Labour also suffered a demise of its “friends”.

    Reply
  3. robertguyton

     /  December 7, 2018

    Your headline is in poor taste, Pete.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  December 7, 2018

      Why?

      Reply
      • robertguyton

         /  December 7, 2018

        Dunno – maybe he just didn’t think?

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  December 7, 2018

          No, why do you think it’s in poor taste.

          Reply
          • robertguyton

             /  December 7, 2018

            Because I’m woke, I suppose.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  December 7, 2018

              So you’ve got no reason at all ? You’re just being a dick and posting remarks that have no rationale behind them? Is that what you’re saying?

            • robertguyton

               /  December 7, 2018

              Not at all. Just being literal. The use by Pete of the words “topping themselves” is incautious, given the discussions around suicide, Imo.

            • Gezza

               /  December 7, 2018

              I think you’re trouble-making. You cannot be so dense you don’t see the pun – the play on TOP, and the well known and hackneyed phrase “political suicide” that I’m certain I’ve even seen used on TS more than once. Did you ever complain about that there?

            • robertguyton

               /  December 7, 2018

              I think using a phrase that implies beheading and is commonly used in describing a suicide, is inappropriate. The excuse that it’s a pun is weak, Imo.

            • Gezza

               /  December 7, 2018

              Not buying it. How many suicides by people cutting their own head off can you link me to.

            • robertguyton

               /  December 7, 2018

              That’s a distasteful request, Gezza. I think I’ll let you do your own research there.

            • Gezza

               /  December 7, 2018

              That’s a pathetic response, robert. I think you just got pwned & you know it.

            • Blazer

               /  December 7, 2018

              but are you ‘current cake’?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  December 7, 2018

              I can think of someone who did it.

              Sydney Carton.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  December 7, 2018

              But I don’t believe that topping oneself has ever meant beheading, it just means putting an end to oneself in the UK, anyway.

  4. Gerrit

     /  December 7, 2018

    Robert being a snowflake? Looking for any reason the be offended?

    Problem for the big parties is that they get being ruled in what they can and cannot do by the smaller parties. Case in point being Labour/Greens being ruled by NZ First.

    So to make that problem get “topped” they will try and persuade those small party voters to change their votes to the major parties.

    Small political parties thus will come and go. Especially if they veer from a broad based multi interest party to a narrow focused single interest party.

    Greens used to be broad based in appealing to a lot of potential voters on the environment.

    Now with the more narrow snowflake focus, the Greens polling and vote will decline as people seek a broader based, and more able to make change, political party.

    Reply
    • robertguyton

       /  December 7, 2018

      With New Zealanders as a whole become more snowflakey, The Green’s vote will surge to new heights. Most here agree that wokey, snowflakey thinking is escalating, so my claim is correct, it’s undeniable.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  December 7, 2018

        1 News Colmar poll – November 2018

        National 46% (up from 43)
        Labour 43% (down from 45)
        Greens 5% (down from 7)
        NZ First 4% (down from 5)
        ACT 1% (up from 0)
        Maori Party 1% (no change)

        Reply
        • Ray

           /  December 7, 2018

          Robert grasp of “reality”is a bit loose when it comes to the Greens, it as if he thinks it is a board game for children.

          Reply
        • robertguyton

           /  December 7, 2018

          The “National’s on 46%” poll?
          Ha ha ha ha!
          National’s own polling, more accurate by far, had them on 41% Probably had the Greens on half that, but they’re not gonna tell us that , are they!

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  December 7, 2018

            I dunno. What’s been your impression of how accurate they are where their polling has shown them streets ahead of Labour in the past?

            Reply
  5. PartisanZ

     /  December 7, 2018

    Q: Who will put forward these constituency ‘candidates’ under STV?

    A: The Blue & Red Parties much as they do now IMHO. STV is just as likely or more likely to favour Big Parties as MMP with its 5% threshold. I predict the Big Parties would exploit STV with misleading propaganda and we’d be back to an effectively FPP system in a jiffy.

    I’d also bet money that a referendum on electoral system change would offer FPP as an option and another ‘Peter Shirtcliffe-style’ campaign would promote its reinstatement at enormous ‘private’ expense. There’s no shortage of big money to get behind such a campaign …

    Why?

    Simple: FPP always favoured National and their predecessor country and conservative parties and would do so again. FPP favours big money even more than MMP. It’s probably a moot point since big money ‘owns’ the whole political system pretty much anyhow …

    So Labour are talking about a referendum to reduce the threshold to 4%, which they know full well will make almost zero difference to the political landscape other than retaining their current ‘friends’ NZFirst & Green representation.

    What a sensible democracy would somehow do now is instigate a massive public pressure campaign to make the referendum be for a threshold of 2 – 2.5% …

    Who’s got the time, energy, money or inclination for that? ActionStation?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_transferable_vote#Degree_of_proportionality

    Reply
  6. PDB

     /  December 7, 2018

    The problem isn’t totally with MMP, the problem lies in the fact that the smaller parties that have been created/operating since MMP has been in place have been overall of a very poor standard hence hardly anybody votes for them.

    Reply
    • PartisanZ

       /  December 7, 2018

      Depends what you measure the small parties against PDB …?

      I suspect your touchstone and yardstick is National who you consider to be exemplars of political party operation and no doubt policy as well?

      Damn fine managers of the economy eh what? [On behalf of whom?]

      IMHO some, much or maybe even most of the problem lies with political parties of any size … and their existence being an expression of the herd instinct … kua mutu: full stop.

      Reply
  7. David in Aus

     /  December 7, 2018

    “How the hell will we ever get pollies who know the diff between quality and inadequate policy”
    I find this ironic coming from Gareth Morgan. I find him well-meaning but his statements are as slippery as any politicians.

    He says his policies are evidence-based- poppycock. Universal Basic Income is not evidence based. Some economists think it is theoretically a good idea but there is no evidence of its effects on society.
    Taxing Capital intensively, instead of income taxes- again no evidence.

    Sugar/fat taxes- no evidence on health outcomes just on sugar consumption.

    He is entitled to his views but he has been vastly overdressing his policies. They are not evidence-based policies. There are like Communism before being put into practice by Mao and Stalin. They may or may not work but they are not evidence-based.

    He had some prominence in the last election because he was a left-wing alternative to the National party. But a left-wing alternative to a Labour/NZF government is not attractive to those on the left. Right-wing leaning voters will not vote for Gareth’s policies. T.O.P has TOPPED and is TOPPLING.

    Reply
  8. Gezza

     /  December 7, 2018

    Leaked to Beehive Letters by every member of the TOP Board on his email list.

    Reply

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