There’s a tired old line trotted about by those who dislike MMP and that whole proportionality thing it guarantees: “it gives minor parties too much power”.
You usually see it used to disparage law changes like the repeal of section 59 (which only 113 MPs voted for! Injustice!) and parties like the Greens … but since the anti-MMP movement is pretty much based on the right (in terms of a return-to-FPP movement, specifically; plenty of us politic-geek lefties throw the horns for systems like STV) you just never see the same criticism made of, say, ACT.
ACT, who exist because the voters of Epsom have basically struck a bargain with National: make sure your true-blue candidate is guaranteed a viable list spot, and we’ll supply the coalition partner of your dreams.
That bargain might be on the down now, but still we get stories about the PM coquettishly refusing to instruct National voters to tick Banksie (nudge nudge, wink wink) while of course supporting his own party’s guy (just what you’ve got to say, innit, hint hint.)
[And yes, having just snarkily defended proportionality you might think it's hypocritical for me to disparage ACT; but when parties like NZ First get nearly 10,000 more votes than ACT and no seats at all, proportionality's on my side of this one.]
Anyway. The question I pose today is, why, when the Greens get nearly 7% of the popular vote yet “have too much power”, do we not look to the two rogue electorates who have held so much more sway in the formation of our government? [Someone far smarter than me can probably do the math, but without ACT's five seats in 2008 you can't deny National would've had less free rein.]
So where’s the hate for Epsom and Ohariu?
Call me a raging feminist if you will, but here’s a funny thing:
Epsom is (at Aug 09) 64.4% Pakeha/European, and only 6% Maori/Pasifika. 35.9% of its population have a Bachelors degree or higher, compared to 14.2% nationwide. 59.2% of its households have an income over $70k, and 46.4% over $100k, at a time when the median was $59k.
93.8% of people receive no government benefit.
Ohariu is 69.2% Pakeha/European, and 11.3% Maori/Pasifika. 28.4% of its population have a Bachelors degree or higher, and 58.1% of its households have an income over $70k, and 38.2% have an income over $100k.
92% receive no government benefit.
… So we’re looking at white, academically-educated, well-off electorates (and please let’s not start the whining about how $100k per household doesn’t make you rich).
All I’m wondering is, what if those statistics looked very different? What if Mana and Labour were striking a deal over Northland? 40% Maori/Pasifika, 6.6% Bachelors or higher, 20.4% of households on 70k+, nearly 1-in-5 on a benefit?
Or, even more scandalously, the electorate that’s over 74.4% Maori, 9.7% varsity-educated, 1-in-5 on a benefit, 29.5% of households over 70k Te Tai Tonga?
Would the dominant story still be about the Greens having too much power? Would the Armstrongs and O’Sullivans of the world still be talking about dealings in Epsom as though it were a clever intellectual exercise?
Is anyone seriously going to argue that rich white electorates having significant, some might say disproportionate say in the future of our country, and this being treated as normal, isn’t a reflection of who’s in charge of New Zealand? (Hint: not the unions.)
Note: Before y’all ask, I haven’t subjected Wigram to the same analysis because since 2005 Wigram just hasn’t played the same role as Ohariu in providing a swinging single vote or Epsom in bringing in additional seats.
For more QoT goodness and a little badness (good badness, that is) head over to her blog: Ideologically Impure