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A fair waka-jumping law?

Written By: - Date published: 6:28 pm, December 6th, 2012 - 37 comments
Categories: political parties - Tags:

It’s back in the news with Brendan Horan, but what to do in a party-based system like MMP with an MP who is no longer in their party?

Many feel it is a problem for List MPs, but in truth most electorate MPs are there because of party rather than individual support as well.  If they leave their party, there is usually a feeling they should have a by-election to renew their mandate – and that option is open to them (as Hone and Tariana did).  Their mandate is local, so those locals can be polled again.

But a List MP’s mandate is national.  It’s often misinterpreted to be for the party they were elected with, but MPs are meant to represent all New Zealanders, not just those who voted for their party (even electorate MPs are meant to put the national interest over local desires, thus avoiding pork-barrel politics).

I doubt many of us desire a nationwide referendum on any MP who has a party dispute – and I’m sure the MP and the party would hate it…

One point I’d like to make that it is the party – not the caucus of a party – that gets MPs elected.  They select them for their electorates or the list.  So if an MP gets ejected from their caucus, that shouldn’t be seen as waka-jumping – when they leave or get ejected from their party that’s when any new law should be triggered.  If a caucus is running roughshod over party principles and one MP stands up for them, they should never be ejected from parliament for that.

Of course that could give the intriguing situation where the party ejects MPs it feels aren’t doing the job, even if caucus has no problem with them…  Which might be great, but as turkeys rarely vote for Christmas any waka-jumping law probably needs to be on ejection from both caucus and party.

And it should be for both list and electorate MPs.  Electorate MPs of course would have the chance to come back on a by-election.

The Herald has the idea of the Speaker deciding on a party’s application to have the MP removed.  I quite like that.

Except I’d have it that once a party (and okay, maybe caucus as well) ejects an MP they are out, unless they wish to appeal to the Speaker – who could then act as a judge, taking both sides case.

Does that seem a fair law?  It might cause an inconvenient by-election, but it treats all MPs equally, as MMP is meant to.  It provides an appeal for fair justice, and it keeps a party’s representation in the normal case.

37 comments on “A fair waka-jumping law?”

  1. Pascal's bookie 1

    I think people are over thinking this.

    MP gets elected.

    They are an elected mp, who holds their seat until

    i) the next election, or

    ii) they are found to be ineligible to be an mp.

    Shoehorning political disputes into ‘ii’, which is what people are talking about, isn’t something I would support.

    • Policy Parrot 1.1

      I have to agree with PB here. There is so much potential for misuse here. Party-hopping is obviously something that is not good as it runs counter to our party based system. However, once someone is in parliament, they are the representative, and the party name is but a moniker. People like Marilyn Waring or John A Lee would have been cast out of Parliament if they were list MPs because they stood up for their beliefs – is that really what we want?

      Note: None of the MPs who left their party because of a caucus dispute (other than ideological), or other self-indulgence (i.e. Frank Grover) have been reelected to parliament. Only those who have stood on a point of principle (i.e. Jim, Winston, Tari, Hone) have been reelected.

    • felix 1.2

      Yep to both Pb & PP above.

      When you vote for a list you’re voting for the people on that list.

      It’s really that simple.

      • Te Reo Putake 1.2.1

        Yep, though most people don’t know the names on the list beyond the party leader.

        • felix 1.2.1.1

          I don’t really see that as a flaw to be fixed in the electoral system.

          • Te Reo Putake 1.2.1.1.1

            Me neither. If voters really cared about the make up of the list they’d join the party they vote for and help determine the rankings.

      • Populuxe1 1.2.2

        I suspect that’s bullshit and most people vote out of tradition or on policy, particularly for the party vote. They may vote differently for their local MP, but you seem to have forgotten we have a two vote system.

        • felixviper 1.2.2.1

          People probably do, and that’s peoples’ own problem. If people won’t read a list/don’t care who’s on it then they can shut the fuck up about the MPs they get to represent them.

    • ianmac 1.3

      Pascal: I think people are over-thinking this.
      So true. What is wrong with us that the moment there is an oddity, we want to rush through a new law to “fix” the problem? Neither Mr Horan nor NZF benefit from the problem. It happens maybe once each term so there are more important issues to settle.

    • Ben Clark 1.4

      Between you and Andrew Geddis, I’m partly convinced we don’t want a law.

      It’s not ideal to have MPs who turn out not to be worthy of the privilege, and I’m trying to propose a law that can get rid of them without causing other (worse) side effects. Hence the necessity to alienate both party and caucus, and an appeal to the Speaker – who could see natural justice over a point of principle vs bringing parliament into disrepute and rule appropriately.

      It’s a line call for me if you can get the right law. And probably not a priority.

      • Crimson Nile 1.4.1

        Perhaps some issues could be avoided straight up by better vetting of list candidates before an election?

        • aerobubble 1.4.1.1

          I would disagree with any moves to introduce powers to remove MPs just because of alledged wrong doing. Surely the problem is that list MPs should have stood in a electorate and so gone through the character testing process. So just link list MPs to the vote they received. If Horan gets the most NZF votes then his standing in the NZF party might mean Peters getting the kick not the other way round. The list system keeps producing, due to the allure of list MPs for single seater parties, a line of parliamentary disrepute. Garrant, Banks, Hide. Even Dunne is a hollow figure in the parliament. So many small parties, such a fragmented electorate has insured that Dunne says a minister for over a ?decade?, that’s just wrong. List MP should be selected on the basis of their ability to get votes from voters, and that means standing in constituencies and their position being selected in the list of their party on that basis.

          If we want specialists in parliament then that’s called an upper chamber.

  2. Others oppose it but my experience as an activist causes me to believe there should be some way of making an MP leave if they go rogue.  Electorate MPs can force a by election and stand again’  List MPs should just go.  Activists did not work their butts off to provide rogue MPs with privilege.

    I appreciate the threshold should be difficult.  I thought a unanimous vote by the caucus should be required.  Ben’s suggestion that the Speaker sit as an appeal body has some attraction although I wonder what criteria he should apply. 

    • Ejection if they ‘go rogue’ from a Party? Absolutely not.

      MPs should agree to a code of conduct that generally lays out what they can be removed from parliament for, but that ought to have nothing to do with their party.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        If an MP gets kicked from a party for whatever reason then they no longer represent that party. If they’re a list MP then that party no longer has it’s proportion that it was voted on the party vote. This would indicate to me that they should leave so that the next member on the party list can take over so that that party maintains their proportionality.

        Now, an electorate MP is different as technically they were elected and not the party. This would mean that getting them thrown out of the party can’t get them thrown out of parliament. To me this would indicate that we need the electorate to have the power of recall so that the electorate can get rid of an under-performing MP.

        If an MP is found guilty in any court action they should be removed from parliament. In fact, I’m pretty sure that they are.

        • Tiresias 2.1.1.1

          I agree with DTB’s view that members on a party list are not directly elected. They have and hold their seats only to comprise in Parliament a refelection of the percentage of the national vote for that party. If they cease to represent that Party then Parliament no-longer properly reflects that national vote until they vacate the seat and is replaced by someone who does. That is the very essence of Proporional Representation. To leave or to be kicked out of the Party without resigning cocks a snook at the spirit of PR and the entire electorate who casts a perhaps carefully weighed tactical vote under its rules.

          However PR works at a Party level. Hence expulsion merely from a caucus or the withdrawal of a whip does not disturb that proportionality while the MP remains a member of the Party for which they stood. Indeed this is a useful limit on the power of a party leader (such as WP) who might not agree with the views or stance of a member who nevertheless retains sufficient support from the grass-roots of the party to avoid being expelled, thus preventing party leadership from devolving into a dictatorship.

          More problematic is the case of the elected MP expelled from his party, or who Waka-jumps. The spirit of PR is offended in exactly the same way yet the elected MP’s mandate is from the voters of his electorate and not any national proportionality. Can there be any other conclusion in such a situation under a Parliament mandated to represent the people on a proportional basis based on a tri-annual vote that the list members of the parties affected must be adjusted, with the party to which the MP jumps losing a list member and the party from which he jumps gaining one? I don’t see any alternative – it’s just an unforeseen consequence of PR. If individual MPs decide they can jump ship or be pushed out yet retain their seats the whole basis of Proportional Representation becomes yet another constitutional fiction to get up the peoples noses and discredit Parliament.

      • aerobubble 2.1.2

        List MP have no standing, no votes from voters and so are put into this invidious position.

        One seater parties have a real problem bring in new blood, Anderson, Banks, Dunne, Peters, all rely in some way or other on the list to get them oodles of unrepresentative power. Peters has essentially seven votes to his name, his other MPs are dutiful to his party dictatorship. Dunne has been minister in far to many governments to be independent or fearful of voter backlash. And let’s not even get started on the mess that is ACT. And then Anderson, his party disappeared the moment he did, emphasizing the fact that the current list regime provides to much unassailable power to single individuals.

        Horan is just another victim of the list.

  3. Skinny 3

    I agree with the Bookies sentiments.

     Some of us who were discontented with Goff’s Labour. When the tea cup saga unfolded NZF looked viable to get across the 5% threshold, adding punch to the opposition benches which is what Labour lacked last term. The deciding factor was Horan’s proactive stanch on a picket line in the early hours of a bloody freezing winters day. He did register a high party vote, so to a certain extent ‘he pulled votes’ the party may not have received. So stay on he can till proved guilty of a crime. 

    I don’t trust Peters for the next election so will actively slag him off when ever possible. 5% is going to be a tough ask next time Dimston.

  4. QoT 4

    It’s a tricky one, and I totally have sympathy with the idea that most electorate MPs are voted in for their party identity rather than purely for themselves … but on the other hand, when (say) Peter Dunne gets elected in Ohariu, people have ticked a box next to the name “Peter Dunne”. So you can wager that at least they don’t object to him personally enough to vote for someone else.

    Now someone (*cough*) may party-vote a certain way because there’s a particular person on the list who they really want to see in Parliament. It’s just a lot harder to measure or estimate that, so the safer bet, if we have to make one, is that they are there because they lucked out being high enough on their party’s list to be there.

    So personally, I’d prefer electorate MPs have the option to stay as independents, but list MPs don’t. It’s really just a gut feeling for me.

    • felix 4.1

      Hmmm. I’m not really comfortable with the idea that when we vote for a list of people we’re not actually voting for that list of people.

      • QoT 4.1.1

        The idea is that some people, sure, are voting for a list containing specific people. But a lot more are voting for a list with a specific title.

        I know that my 1 electorate vote will absolutely go to [insert candidate here]. But while I may hope that my 1 party vote contributes to #13 on [insert party here] getting into Parliament, I am not voting for #13, my vote does not go specifically towards person #13, my vote doesn’t get cancelled and re-assigned if only #12 gets into Parliament, etc.

        • karol 4.1.1.1

          Agree QoT.  I check the party list, then vote for them as a group, not any individual.  If one individual lets the side down, I am happy with the next person on the list replacing them.  That next person could also possibly have got in at the election, if the party had more votes.

        • felix 4.1.1.2

          The fact that there are people who are using the system badly – and probably against their own interests – doesn’t necessarily mean the system is broken. It might just mean there are people who need to learn more about how it’s supposed to work.

          Or to put it another way, if you only like one person on the list then maybe you want to think about whether that’s the right party for you.

          • QoT 4.1.1.2.1

            if you only like one person on the list then maybe you want to think about whether that’s the right party for you.

            … I’m not sure how that’s relevant to what I wrote. Yes, I may have a particular liking for a particular candidate, but I’m obviously not voting for a party on the basis of one candidate down the list. Or, if I were, it would be because all other options had been eliminated.

            • felix 4.1.1.2.1.1

              Yeah that’s kinda what I mean. You’re voting for all the people on the list.

              I don’t see why just because one of them gets booted from their party that means you didn’t vote for them anymore.

              • QoT

                … but you didn’t vote for them. That’s my point. Your vote may have been influenced by individuals, but you didn’t vote for the individuals, because (unless as TRP says above you’ve joined the party and helped influence the list makeup) the list is at the whims of the party.

                Yes, I personally have been influenced by individuals. If those individuals left their party while in Parliament, I would still not think they had a right to claim a mandate, because their entrance to Parliament is literally contingent on membership of a specific party.

                Yes, this gets confusing because we can all name electorates which would elect a turnip if it wore the correct colour of rosette. But those individuals are still elected specifically under their own name. That’s the difference.

                • felix

                  “the list is at the whims of the party.”

                  Well yeah, it’s for the party to choose the list and it’s for voters to vote for the list that contains the people they most want representing them.

                  Otherwise what would be the point of publishing them before the election?

                  • QoT

                    But those people are united most simply on the basis of party affiliation. Yes, I am absolutely sure there are voters out there who vet every member of every list likely to get into Parliament, but on the other hand you’ve got Alamein Kopu, Gordon “what was I meant to be voting on again?” Copeland, and now Brendan Horan. All of whom the vast majority of people probably assumed were in Parliament because we haven’t perfected the technology of cloning Anderton/Dunne/Peters.

  5. Skinny 5

    Pretty much from the get go of MMP it’s been abused. 

    One example that really grates me is when a party candidate gets a shoe in ranking on the party list. Stands in a winnable electorate, puts in a half arse campaign, lose, don’t really care knowing full well they were in parliament win lose or draw.  Meanwhile someone who was prepared to put the work in to win that seat, gets given a hospital pass of a seat to stand in. 
    At first blush, maybe to circumvent this a party should be able to decide the List order of unsuccessful electorate candidates after the final count of votes?

  6. Matthew Hooton 6

    This is a difficult one.

    In theory, parties win party votes partly or largely because voters carefully analyse the party lists and choose the group of people they think are best to represent them in parliament. That is, in theory, National won a few extra party votes because Cam Calder was number 51 on the list and his contribution to the strength of the National Party list is a reason why John Key is prime minister.

    So, arguably, constitutionally, John Key or the National Party authorities shouldn’t be able to say we don’t like Mr Calder anymore and he is expelled from our caucus, knowing that would mean Mr Calder will be deemed to have resigned from parliament. The List MP does have, and should have, some independent identity from the party.

    This would particularly be the case in the event of broken promises. A case can be made that Winston Peters’ expulsion from the National caucus in the 1990s was because was trying to uphold the party manifesto and it was the leadership which had behaved badly by breaking manifesto commitments. Peters was protected because he was MP for Tauranga, but if MMP had been in place and Peters had been a list MP, it should have been difficult for Bolger, Birch and Richardson to get rid of him.

    Similarly, Anderton left Labour in the 1980s, also because he believed there had been broken promises. Had he been a list MP, waka-jumping legislation would have forced him out of parliament when, arguably, he was the only Labour MP at that time standing up for Labour values.

    So I wouldn’t want to see waka-jumping legislation introduced that would hand too much power to party bosses.

    Of course, the other side to this is the disgraceful behaviour of some of the NZ First MPs in 1998 and Kopu, so I can see why people are attracted to waka-jumping legislation.

    I don’t know which side of the argument I would ultimately come down on …. but my point is there is an argument to be had, so that it is not totally obvious Horan should have to go.

    • QoT 6.1

      This is a difficult one.

      Meaning no one’s currently paying you to express an opinion one way or the other?

  7. “Except I’d have it that once a party (and okay, maybe caucus as well) ejects an MP they are out, unless they wish to appeal to the Speaker – who could then act as a judge, taking both sides case.”

    I’m willing to bet a year’s salary that the Speaker (and the Clerk of the House) would oppose this suggestion with every fibre of his being. Giving the Speaker the power to determine whether or not a party has properly decided that one of its MPs has breached its own internal rules – or, more particularly, the power to tell a party that it has misapplied its own internal rules – would unavoidably politicise the role in a deeply undesirable way.

    Put it this way … imagine the proposed rule was in place last parliamentary term, and Chris Carter had gone to the Speaker (Lockwood Smith, a National Party MP) and said “Labour’s decision to kick me out was wrong”, and the Speaker (Lockwood Smith, a NATIONAL PARTY MP) had said “quite right – the Labour Party has overreacted here to your quite reasonable concerns about Phil Goff’s leadership, and so you get to stay on as an MP”, how happy would commentators on this site be that Labour is required to (in effect) lose an MP in the House ON THE SAY SO OF A NATIONAL PARTY MP?

    • Rich 7.1

      Which of course is a good argument to have an independent Speaker as in the UK?

    • aerobubble 7.2

      List Mps are second class MPs, they need a stronger mandate, and so should be selected on their party list on the basis of how many votes they get. Would Peters have still been the leader of NZF had the opportunity been available to other party members to beat him out of the biggest vote?
      Would Horan be so ineffectual had he had to garner a real mandate. Essentially all we are seeing is how, once again, NZ society locks in discriminatory marginalizing apartheid practices which significantly place some individuals in under privileged positions, and then we all get to cackle
      about how delinquent and talk about removing their basic rights as citizens. Horan just another NZ created bitch to be harasses by the caring law abiding majority?

      hey, what a surprise Geddis again not disputing the system inequities but rather pushing for new Geddis law ego trip.

      • Rich 7.2.1

        Getting a high number of electorate votes, in most parties, depends on where you stand.

        If the party favours a candidate, they’ll get Mangere (Lab) or Helensville (Nat). If not, it’ll be the other way round.

        And those of us who live in marginal seats will be represented by a string of mediocrities as nobody but first-timers without much clout will want to run.

  8. Rich 8

    If parties don’t want to have a problem with ‘rogue’ MPs, they should be more careful about how they select their list (and electorate) candidates. Most of the problem candidates have been ones that have been either nonentity proxies for their leader (like Horan) or because they were thought to bring a bag of money or votes.

    Elect the best people to the list, and the problem lessens.

  9. Descendant Of Smith 9

    One of the benefits of MMP was that it allowed you to vote for your best local MP and also vote for the party you wished based on their list.

    I know many who split their votes.

    In the first MMP election it was obvious most parties has people high up on their list to “attract” certain groups. Equally they put people high on the list who sat in safe seats who had a sense of well shit I’m there, campaigned half-heartedly and promptly lost some previously safe seats. Labour in particular did this.

    It was always going to end up with a few tears.

    Parties got a little wiser next time round but still need to get a little wiser.

    The parties should reap what they sow and jumping ship or being booted out of the party shouldn’t be a factor.

    If Horan has done wrong-doing and stolen money – which is really what the issue is – existing processes will deal with that if he is convicted of such.

    I see no good reason for Winston’s Peters decision to expel him from the party for whatever his reasons were to change the election result.

    Existing processes will work fine if he has done wrong.

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