Earlier today David Farrar breathlessly announced that Labour had decided to remove the electoral coat tail rule. He declared this as being unconstitutional and said this:
This is absolutely appalling. A Government that will ram through major electoral law changes under urgency, probably with no select committee hearings, and without consensus, is dangerous. Labour have form for this.
It doesn’t matter that I agree that the one seat threshold should go (and submitted that way). That is not the point.
The Electoral Act is not the ultimate winner take all prize for the Government of the day.
The only problem with Farrar’s assertion is that David Cunliffe did not actually say what Farrar claims he said. He promised to introduce a Government bill that would remove the coat tail rule and then no doubt the Parliament would finally decide on what would happen, as it always does. Undoubtedly select committee hearings would occur.
Farrar then updated his post by saying “[f]urther reports do not make it clear whether Labour is pledging to pass the law within 100 days, or introduce it within 100 days”. He could have watched the video. Then he would have heard David use the word “introduce”. Must try harder David.
Then tonight Brooke Sabin on TV3 continued the attack and said that Cunliffe would only get rid of the rule after using it to attain power through the IMP. Reality calling Brooke Sabin, Labour does not actually have the power to change the law, National does and has refused to change the law. Hear that? National wants the coat tail rule in place because it helps National’s quest for power.
I am still scratching my head about Sabin’s claim. He should criticise Labour for things that it actually does or says, rather than drawing the most extraordinary conclusions relying on events that actually have not happened. And he could criticise National for refusing to scrap the rule because is considers that it is in National’s advantage to allow ACT, United Future and the Conservatives to coat tail MPs into Parliament.
There obviously needs to be a debate about the current electoral rules. There actually has been a recent debate. The Electoral Commission recommended a reduction in the threshold to 4% and removal of the coat tail provision but National shelved the report on the basis that there was not unanimity. Allowing ACT and United Future a veto over electoral law is ludicrous. Labour has a Private Member’s bill that has been drawn that implements the Commission’s recommendations.
And there clearly needs to be a debate particularly about where the threshold should be set. For me I certainly think it should be reduced to 4% and I am open to a greater reduction.
But media when you are reporting on electoral law reform please get your facts right. Our democracy is far too precious a thing to be damaged by breathless assertions not based in reality.