Good piece in today’s Herald by John Armstrong focussing on Vote for Change’s declaration that they are not in favour of any particular form of electoral system at this stage. He doesn’t find it believable, and nor do I. His take is that “Vote for Change looks very much like the National Party Preservation Society in drag.” I agree. I think they have a classic bait and switch strategy, it involves Key, and we should not take it lightly.
According to Stuff, David Farrar has been involved in giving VfC strategic advice. Farrar himself describes this as three or four conversations. He opens the door to contracting Curia to poll for to Vote to change but says:
Regardless of whether Curia does any work for a group promoting a particular system, it won’t affect what I blog.
To which the only possible response is “yeah right”.
Farrar’s conversations may also have included tips from the campaign against the alternative vote in the UK run by David’s “mate” Matthew Elliott. You can read a bit about Elliott here in ConservativeHome, the UK equivalent of Kiwiblog.
As for the bait and switch, I think that VfC does not want to declare its hand now because it is looking to test the wind as to the most effective lines to run against MMP. I would bet a dime to a dollar that Curia will be contracted to poll for them to help establish these lines. So the bait is to run down MMP while pretending to talk about options, shift the current 50-33 in favour of MMP, then switch to Supplementary Member which is the change National really wants.
Not much attention is paid to it in New Zealand, but conservative parties around the world are very tightly networked through the International Democratic Union. They share campaign ideas, polling techniques and money, while the corresponding Socialist International only runs talkfests. The Conservative Party’s aim in defeating the minimally proportional Alternative Vote was to entrench their advantage in the constituencies. There will now be a boundary review which will reduce the number of constituencies and effectively be a rural gerrymander in favour of the Conservative party.
The ultimate aim of the Conservative party in Britain and the National Party in New Zealand is more or less continuous power. The National Party hated the fact that Labour won three consecutive terms in government from 1999-2008. They do not see themselves as the natural party of government, more the permanent party of government – that’s why they want a constituency-based system that is not proportional.They have learnt some lessons from their time out of power, most importantly not to frighten the horses.
So John Key is making soothing noises about MMP at the moment, while at the same time expressing his sotto voce preference for the Supplementary Member system. Here he is having a bob each way on the subject. I would bet a dime to ten dollars that if National is running at anything like their current poll numbers in the month before the November election, his view will harden up considerably.
I would also bet a dime to a hundred dollars that VfC will also declare a preference for Supplementary Member in a couple of months or so. After all, two of the six people on its supporters’ page, Kerry Prendergast and Emma Daken, are already recommending it.