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Labour Grasps Nettle: Nettles Usually Sting

Written By: - Date published: 12:30 pm, September 15th, 2009 - 29 comments
Categories: labour, MMP - Tags:

By Rob Salmond

It sounds like Phil G did a great job at Labour’s conference setting out where the party should go from here. Unfortunately, his KISS message didn’t get to all attendees. Labour apparently now wants to propose modifications to MMP, including more electorate MPs, fewer list MPs, a lower threshold, and getting rid of the electorate-coattails rule. I think this is a mistake for three reasons.

1. The proposed reforms are a bit blah

The more electorate MPs idea does not, as hoped, make MPs much more accessible. In urban areas, having an MP’s office 3kms away isn’t much different to having it 5kms away, and anecdotally urban MPs don’t have lines round the block anyway. In rural areas, having an MP’s office 300kms away isn’t much different from having one 200kms away it is a massive hassle either way. I/S is right here (although he goes too far elsewhere in both posts on this topic) there is a possible cost to small party representation in this proposal. Also, this move really would affect minority group representation. According to Andy Reynolds (World Politics, 1999), people usually vote for ‘lowest common denominator’ (i.e. wrinkly white guy) candidates in single-member districts for multiple reasons, despite any party attempts to put up balanced slates around the country. More single-member districts = more old white dudes.

Ditching the electorate coattails rule may cause more people to strategically vote for large parties. It would not make a large difference to government formation or policy direction, but it would be a further barrier to small party representation. Minimizing strategic voting on the party vote is a good thing about MMP, and this idea gets more of it for little gain.

Yes, the 4% thing might help with representation, but only a little bit. It certainly isn’t a gain worth buying into a big political fight for.

2. Screwing with the structure of a referendum

Lianne Dalziel says: ‘This referendum must not be allowed to proceed as a ‘for and against’ vote.’ I disagree. No change must always be an option. The status quo is what the public wanted last time we should always get the option to say ‘no, we were right all along.’

(That is not to say there should not be any discussion of amendments to MMP, only that it really is not appropriate to conflate the wider ‘MMP or not’ question with the smaller ‘what kind of MMP’ question. Sure, if MMP wins the upcoming referendum, then let’s have the discussion. But let’s not put the cart before the horse.)

3. Taking heat off National

Until now, National has been getting heat (even from David Farrar!) for potentially subverting the referendum process. Screwing with democracy is not a good thing to take heat for. Why then would Labour want to divert any of that heat away from National? The only way this makes sense as a strategy is if there is massively overwhelming public mood against the electoral system as it stands and there isn’t much evidence of that.

Phil is right: Labour’s message needs to be simple and clear. By 2011, everyone needs to know that Labour is for improving quality of life for all in New Zealand by pushing lower-level living standards higher. Full stop. Elections are won with a very small number of clear and well-developed ideas, not with a plethora of ideas in various stages of development. Floating very public trial balloons about exciting things like the legal threshold for party representation undermines that clear and simple message.

So what should Labour say now? How about: ‘MMP can of course be modified, and we can talk about that later. But in order to improve MMP first you need to keep MMP, which the people will decide on soon. Labour’s focus is not on the electoral system right now. It is on improving quality of life for all New Zealanders ‘

29 comments on “Labour Grasps Nettle: Nettles Usually Sting ”

  1. Tim Ellis 1

    As always, Mr Salmond, a lucid and well-composed argument that raises a number of interesting avenues of discussion.

    A couple of initial thoughts on points 1 and 2.

    1. Accessibility to MPs does seem to be an issue, but it seems to me there are a copule of further factors at play. Firstly, I don’t see why an MP necessarily can’t serve 50,000 or even 100,000 people. The issue is how much resource they have to do it. If most of the work an MP does can be performed by electorate offices, with the MP making individual interventions on a small minority of cases. To an extent it seems to me the MP’s workload is more about how well they manage themselves than how large their electorates are.

    I think it certainly is true that more electorate MPs will make MPs more accessible. It’s also true however that modern communications make MPs much more accessible in 2009 than they were in 1996.

    2. Interesting points on minority group representation. If there is a trend towards the wrinkly white guy, then what role can parties have to change this? It seems to me that most of the electorates in the country are pretty safely either National or Labour. There aren’t a lot of genuinely marginal seats. As somebody else has recently pointed out, National’s seventh or eighth most marginal seat is Rotorua with a 5,000 majority to Mr McClay. I don’t think there are many more seats that National could win from Labour. So at a pinch in my view there are about 10 seats of the 70 that are truly marginal. The rest are safe seats who will pretty much elect whoever is proposed by the party.

    So if my logic is correct, if the parties have a high degree of central control over who their candidates are, and if the large majority of seats are safely held by one party or the other, isn’t the existence of the “wrinkly white guy” phenomena something that the political parties themselves can stamp out?

    • lprent 1.1

      Oh a comment that actually says something…

      Firstly, I don’t see why an MP necessarily can’t serve 50,000 or even 100,000 people.

      The main reason is that it gets impossible to run an election campaign to very large electorates for an individual candidate or MP. The candidate is meant to be a representative of the people in the electorate. It gets very hard to do that if you have time to talk to ever smaller percentages of them.

      This was a problem that became quite apparent after MMP got introduced. The electorate effective sizes in Auckland (and pretty much everywhere else) became twice the size. That was why we started to get electorate offices in urban electorates.

      It also meant that the number of suburbs / communities in the electorate doubled. In fast turnover electorates it is pretty clear that MP’s no longer knew their communities as well as they used to. Electorate offices aren’t all that satisfactory as an alternative to MP’s having time to talk to people in different communities.

      Same kinds of issues for candidates as well. I think that the 45-50k ratio at present is at the upper level of what is tolerable for a voter to have access to the representative. I’d prefer it to be somewhat lower. List MP’s tend to be used to cover separate communities or electorates of other parties MP’s.

      Of course this is the same issues that apply to the Auckland super-shitty. The numbers per representative seemed to have been designed by NACT to ensure that the representatives can be divorced from their voters. Probably because this makes it easier to be captured by a minority of voters with the money required for them to run campaigns.

      • Tim Ellis 1.1.1

        That is a very interesting contribution LP and raises some points I hadn’t thought about before.

        So if despite the increased possibilities of modern communications, it is still very difficult for candidates/MPs to really get to know their electorates, then it does seem desirable to increase the number of electorate MPs. I tend to agree with that substantive point.

        The issue then becomes how much you can increase the number of electorates without increasing the size of parliament. How many more electorates would you need to make electorates more manageable? 10? 20?

        Let’s say 20. If you have 90 electorates, how much does that impact on either proportionality (as Mr Farrar has pointed out, it almost guarantees an overhang, sometimes very large ones) or diversity? Mr Salmond seems quite concerned with diversity, which is reasonable enough.

        My view is ideally that you would have enough electorate MPs to make electorates manageable (and campaignable, given your insightful comments on this), and have enough list MPs to provide for diversity and maintain proportionality.

        I don’t think you can do this in a 120 seat parliament. Which means in my view, if you are seriously talking about increasing the number of electorates, then you have to consequently increase the size of Parliament. That seems to be the clincher in my view. MMP was sold as a 120 MP solution and that aspect of MMP wasn’t very popular as I recall. If to make a serious increase in the number of electorates you’re effectively looking at a 140 seat parliament, then that will make the debate very interesting.

        I personally don’t have a problem with a larger parliament for the above reasons, but I don’t sense the public will be happy to add another 20 MPs into the mix for little other reason than to make campaigning and managing electorate bases a bit easier for current MPs.

        • lprent 1.1.1.1

          So if despite the increased possibilities of modern communications, it is still very difficult for candidates/MPs to really get to know their electorates, then it does seem desirable to increase the number of electorate MPs. I tend to agree with that substantive point.

          Oh yeah, the possibilities of modern communications are tending to fragmentation and less towards communications. The whole essense of modern communications is that consumers of media pick their own.

          That is why (along with the dropping comms costs) the number of channels is increasing. Who wants to watch TV1 with all of those damn ads, when you can watch a DVD from fatso with a lot less ads.

          Similarly why bother using valuable time to go to a boring political meeting when you can get a MP speaking on a web page. The problem is that it usually takes more skills than your average MP has available to actually make a good video (eg JK). Then you have to figure out how to get people to want to look at it…..

          Somehow you have to do all of this while also being in parliament.

          At present it isn’t that much of an issue. As the electorate population rises, the number of electorate seats increases…

          • Rob Salmond 1.1.1.1.1

            On Tim’s initial point (1), certainly in a lot of other democracies (exemplified by the US), most MP constituency work is done by highly skilled staffers. Certainly you could do that instead of having more electorate MPs, which has all the upsides of more list MPs that I/S talked about, but comes at the cost of increasing Parliament’s budget, which is never very popular. Also, NZers would have to get used to being helped by an MP’s functionary rather than the MP personally, which would possibly take quite some getting used to, especially in smaller communities.

            In terms of the diversity point (point 2), it is worth noting that of the 63 general seats at present, 46 are held by white dudes (13 by white ladies, leaving only 4 for non-white MPs). That is a pretty high proportion. The theory Reynolds talks about suggests this is no accident, and that one way of solidifying one’s personal vote in the district is by not alienating anybody on demographic grounds – which is something the “lowest common denominator” white guy candidates can do more successfully than members of demographic groups less often seen around the Beehive. (Note I’m not suggesting that is a good thing, just that it happens.) This knowledge can make parties wary about alienating even some of the majority in a district (whose ire may extend also to the party vote) by asking them to vote for anything other than a lowest common denominator candidate. That is why giving parties more room on the list to balance the ticket makes for a more balanced parliament overall.

            • Rob Salmond 1.1.1.1.1.1

              On Lyn’s concern about how many people an MP can effectively serve, I think it is all about what you are used to. In the US, members of Congress serve about 600,000 people each. They do it very effectively (much more so than our MPs do probably) backed by a large ans highly skilled staff. In the UK it is about 1MP per 80,000 or 100,00 people with substantially fewer staff. Certainly any change would take some adjusting to and may cause some interim angst, but I do not think there is a magic number anywhere, above which geographic representation **necessarily** suffers.

              But I agree with Lyn about technology. YouTube and google are poor substitutes for shoe rubber when it comes to getting to know a district.

            • lprent 1.1.1.1.1.2

              Yeah, but the real issue would be paying for enough bodies inside the electorate. At present its usually two full-time equivalent paid staff. It is clearly inadequate because the pay is pretty poor and you get what you pay for.

              You’d also have to remove that really stupid prescription against parliamentary services staff in electorates not meant to be doing ‘party political’ work.

  2. Francois 2

    FFS

    THE REMIT IS NOT A SUBSTATNTIVE ONE IT IS A REMIT ABOUT WHETHER TO HAVE A DISCUSSION OR NOT. NONE OF THESE DISCUSSION POINTS ARE PROPOSED REFORMS THEY ARE JUST DISCUSSION POINTS I CANT BELIEVE WE WASTED 1 HOUR DEBATING A REMIT ON WHETHER OR NOT TO HAVE A DISCUSSION!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    /rant over.

    Seriously. Andrew Little should’ve chaired better

    • Daveo 2.1

      Dude, it’s being discussed by MPs over at Red Alert as a live option and was talked about by Phil Goff on Q&A. That’s pretty substantive if you ask me.

      I understand this was driven up as a remit by that careerist James Caygill. I do worry about some of those young ones. Pity there weren’t the numbers on the floor to sink the remit.

      • Tigger 2.1.1

        Francois is right – these are all points to be discussed. The drive was to ensure that New Zealand knows enough about MMP to have a quality discussion so that when they vote they can vote from knowledge rather than just National party spin. The MPs are just talking about possibilities, not policy.

        And by the way, the MMP lobby has GOT to stop fighting among itself or else the FFP crowd will win.

        • Rob Salmond 2.1.1.1

          Tigger – I agree that the issues should be discussed. I just think that now is a fairly unfortunate time to have those discussions, partly for the precise reason that you mentioned. If the pro-MMP camp start having a discussion / argument about fewer list MPs vs more MPs overall vs more staff for MPs etc as fixes for problems with the current version of MMP, then we aren’t doing all we can prevent major electoral reform. So let’s save these technical discussions, or at least stop highlighting them in public, until after we’ve saved MMP.

  3. Amanda 3

    The entire remit is based on initiating discussion and is a response to the dissatisfaction of many NZ’ers with some of the unfair outcomes of MMP – such as Gordon Copeland remaining in Parliament after leaving UF, Hide bringing in a cabal with his one-seat-win and NZ First having no presence at all for lack of an electorate seat.

    The point of the remit is to review our current system in response to issues raised by the electorate. The rest of the remit – entrenching the Maori option and preventing waka-jumping – are being passed over. Let’s not be afraid to have the conversation – we should always be looking critically at our electorate system to ensure voters have the best possible representation.

  4. Rob Salmond 4

    Amanda – Certainly I agree that these are all good things to talk about. But I think the best time to talk about tinkering with MMP is once we know MMP will still be around for us to tinker with. I do not think there are many people out there who are thinking “if I can’t get these small changes to MMP then I guess I prefer FPP or SM”. I think that for two reasons: 1. The vast majority of people do not think about this issue in this depth (and also, by the way, have never even heard of Gordon Copeland, let alone got upset about his waka jumping); and 2. The reforms, as I said in the original post, don;t actually do all that much to change the character of MMP. So yes, let’s have the discussion. Let’s even have the “remit debate about having a remit debate” or whatever it was, but let’s maybe wait until we’ve saved the bathtub before we argue about the flavour of bubble bath to put in it, and let’s not highlight the remit debate about having a remit debate when the public and the party leader are both asking Labour to focus on other more bread and butter-type issues.

    • lprent 4.1

      Amanda, I’m afraid I agree with Rob. There are some clear problems with our version of MMP. However they pale into insignificance compared to the alternative. Now that Key has announced that there will be a referendum looking at alternatives to MMP, we really should just concentrate on that debate.

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1

        we really should just concentrate on that debate.

        Which would come down to debating the advantages of MMP over pretty much everything else.

      • Ari 4.1.2

        Lynn: I think at least saying “If you don’t like MMP because of X, there’s some really good small reforms we could do to fix that” is a useful debating tool. Especially as it gets people interested in actually learning about electoral systems to some degree.

  5. burt 5

    Rob Salmond

    Sounds a lot like a lurch back toward FPP to me. Labour never really gave up the dream of governing alone did they. NZ politics would be such a better landscape if the dinosaur major parties were reduced to 30-35 seats each.

    • Pascal's bookie 5.1

      burt, I’m a bit confused about your stance on some of this stuff. JFTR I’ve voted labour exactly once, and National Party once as well.

      But what exactly is your problem with L and N campaigning for ‘two ticks’. Both parties are big tent popular and populist. They represent the (small c) conservative middle of the spectrum. The reason they get votes is not because they ask for them and trick voters into vacillating between them, but because that’s what somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of voters actually want.

      The point of MMP or other PR isn’t to avoid large parties per se, but to avoid parties getting bigger representation than their support warrants. If a party can get a majority of support then under a proportional system they are entitled to govern alone. You know this, but keep on about how somehow N and L are betraying MMP by seeking a mandate.

      I’d argue that all parties have a duty to their supporters to try and get as many people on side as possible. Competition between parties is a good thing. But it doesn’t work unless they actually compete.

  6. Nice post Rob, although all the agreeing above is making me nauseas. Agreed Burt so lets get that threshold down so we can actually increase the chance of a new party (that is not a break away from one of the major two) entering parliament and lets have some proper multi-party democracy!

  7. James Caygill 7

    Rob,

    glad to see you in the debate; although as you already know I disagree with many of your points :).

    I’m not wanting to ignore the other points – but for today I want to inject some evidence in the debate about WWG’s (Wrinkly White Guys) or OWD’s (Old White Dudes).

    Your contention is that “More single-member districts = more old white dudes.”

    I understand the thought, but let’s look at the evidence:

    Of the 70 electorate MP’s in the current Parliament, 14 are 60 or older. Fair enough you might say that that’s too many (although I’d argue that’s unfair) and that anyway your argument is that it’ll get worse with more electorates.

    But of those 14, 10 are Tories. I struggle to see how and why one can construct an electoral system based around forcing conservatives to do what they naturally don’t want to do – be less conservative. Their ideology is what pushes them to WWG’s not electorates.

    So that leaves 4 MPs out of 70 who are 60 or older and on a part of the political spectrum we can assume cares about diversity. Setting aside the ridiculousness of caring about such a low proportion (given I presume we’re fearing a doomsday scenario where such number spiral out of control) – who are these elders?

    Two of them are from the Maori Party – So they’re not white, and one of them isn;t even a guy. So there goes half the MP’s we’re worried about. Pita Sharples, 68, and Tariana Turia, 65, are still (despite thier age) strong representatives. I’m not concerned if the Maori Party suddenly starts to select more people like them.

    So that leaves only 2 MPs who are 60 or older on the left. Jim Anderton, 71 and Annette King, 62. Both very senior politicians, one of whom is unlikely to stick aroudn in 2011, despite his latest murmerings. So what exactly are we afraid of?

    The truth is that NZ, especially the left values older politicians, much less than the US does; I’m not clear how useful such comparsions are. Many of the MPs we perhaps think of as old aren’t actually – I was surprised myself – perhaps it’s that they’re just ugly, not old.

    I truly believe that more electorates, and we’re talking a maximum of another 20, will not suddenly mean that parliament is swamped by WWGs. There simply isn’t any evidence that that’s the kind of person we vote for in an electorate. (unless of course you’re in a conservative stronghold, and then nothing we do can change the voting tendancy there anyway).

  8. James Caygill 8

    Okay – so the numbers should be

    8 tories, not 10. Auchinvole, Hutchison, Tisch, Hayes, Roy, Smith, King, Peachy

    Which leaves 4 on the left, not 2. Anderton, King, and also Robertson, 60 and Hawkins, 63.

    So the left has 3 WWG’s – all of whom are in the twilight of their careers – I don’t think we’re at risk of an explosion of Robert Byrd’s here.

  9. Rob Salmond 9

    Hey James

    Thanks for the comment. This is certainly an important debate to be a part of even though, as I’ve said, I wish we weren’t having it in public right now. That said, I’ve got three points about the numbers you gave:

    1. Rather than get into an impossible argument about how old counts as “old,’ let’s re-cut the numbers looking at the broader issue of how many “white guys’ win electorates, regardless of age. (The “white’ and “guy’ parts of the diversity argument are usually seen as more important than the “old’ part.) Of the 63 general seats, 46 were won by white guys by my count. That is 73%! Even among the left, over 65% of our general electorate MPs are white guys. That is rather a lot, no?
    2. The point of the Reynolds piece is that the fault for this situation in single-member districts does not lie entirely with the parties. Part of it lies with the voters, who appear to find it easier to vote for lowest common denominator white guy candidates than for others. If Reynolds is right about that, then we don’t get to write off the plethora of Tory white dudes as all the Tories’ fault. It is partly due to voters’ individual behavior (which, interestingly, do not align with their expressed preferences for diversity), and every party needs to be concerned about that.
    3. Neither Reynold’s point nor mine is about a straight comparison between New Zealand and the US. The relationship between more seats assigned through party lists (especially with large district magnitudes) and more diversity in parliament is well-established across the advanced democracies. Here is a link to an article I did on this topic in 2006: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~rsalmond/salmond_lsq_2006.pdf

    Certainly moving from the current 70 districts to 80 will not make a massive difference here, as you suggest. (It turns out these effects, while real, have been overestimated in earlier research.) But by the same token a move like this also won’t make much difference to the accessibility of MPs etc – it would only change the average size of an electorate by about 8,000 people). And I/S is right, decreasing the number of list seats by 20% does open up the possibility of smaller parties getting a bit screwed. In the end I do not think this proposal makes a whole lot of difference to the character of MMP in most circumstances, and therefore isn’t worth spending any capital fighting for.

    Cheers,
    Rob

  10. James Caygill 10

    Rob,

    It is only one point at issue among many – but as I’ve noted elsewhere I have no problem with changing how we cap the size of the House to help the situation from deteriating further.

    On the issue of gender, as I said at the conference, smaller more urban seats would have made a huge difference for diversity at the last election.

    The following candidates, among others, would have had a much greater chance of winning their seats:

    Lynne Pillay, Judith Tizard, Carol Beaumont, Lesley Soper and even Moana Mackey and Maryan Street might have stood a better chance with more urban seats up for grabs.

    And let’s not just deal with the general seats. We should not treat the Maori seats as somehow ‘different’ – they’re just as effected by your arguments – but I suspect not as helpful to them given current numbers are 3 Women, 4 Men.

    I know we quickly head into the arcana of how electorate boundaries are drawn but 8k people can be a huge difference when you’re dealing with urban/rural boundary issues.

  11. Rob Salmond 11

    Hey James

    So I think any new discussion by politicians about the size of the House (with proposal for possibly more MPs) is a really bad idea for those politicians who want the public to like them. I see absolutely zero interest in the public for more MPs, and I think there is a big price to be paid by any party that looks like it is trying to screw around with the electoral systems for partisan gain or to hire more of its mates.

    The reason I excluded the Maori seats is because ther isn’t much point looking for evidence of a “too many white guys” scenarios in Maori-only seats. But I can certainly include them for the gender part if you want. Out of the 70 total electorate seats, 71% were won by men. I don’t think that weakens my argument much.

    I would be interested in the evidence that lies beneath your suggestion that smaller urban districts would have helped several women who, as it stands, lost by up to 6,000 votes, get elected. How do you get to this claim? (Also worth noting here that three of the possible gainers – Tizard, Mackey, and Pillay – would have ousted other women, so no gain for descriptive representation in those cases.)

    Also, have you checked to see whether some men who lost to women might also have been helped with similarly small districts? For example, could the exercize, depending on the boundaries, have helped Gilmore beat Dalziel, or Heffernan beat Dyson, or Burton beat Upston? (All of those had victory margins around the same as in the Soper or Mackey contests.)

    Rather than get into a dorky discussion about how much extra accessibility you get with an electorate of 52,500 vs 60,000, I’ll make this observation, which goes back to my larger point. If it is this hard to get me, a professional political science nerd, excited about these changes, imagine how hard it would be to get the general public excited about them. And therein lies the problem with having this debate now. Attempting the very difficult task of getting people keen of this kind of stuff makes it harder to get those same people excited about keeping MMP, because it is too much techie information for busy people to be bothered with. That is why we should have this discussion, but only **after** MMP is secured as our electoral system.

  12. James Caygill 12

    Rob, lol – I suspect some will start telling us to ‘get a room’ soon.

    But I’ll play 🙂 – you know me I never let a good debate go begging. And I know you don’t either….

    you know I’m discounting the Tory seats – and frankly you haven’t convinced me I should care about the representative nature of them yet.

    I’m not advocating a debate about increasing the size of the house – just simply saying that I noted I/S’s concerns and that they can be fixed.

    i don’t think we need to get the public excited about the nerdy aspects – equally I don’t think we should hide anything from the public. I think the top-line change is what will attract the public – and in that sense you’ve brought me back to the substance of your OP, in that I disagree about your views of the public and media sentiment about List MPs and tinkering with MMP.

    I think putting MMP up unchanged risks it losing far more than pointing out ways it can be made better and having MMP (with a commitment to reform) going up against SM or FPP.

    That’s why some of us (not just this annoying ‘careerist’ ;)) have promoted this debate. And it’s certainly been entertaining so far.

    as for boundaries – we’re getting more partisan and very definitely dorky here, but simply put, more electorates allows more flex in the boundary drawing around communities of interest and certainly allows more ability to provide decent rural/urban boundaries.

    Nelson would be more urban and much less Tasman. Labour is strong in Nelson, not in Tasman. True also for Gisbourne, and Invercargill (the seat where boundary drawing starts for the country – ie you start at the bottom and work up). Not all that familiar where upston’s support comes from, but note I didn’t put Stevie Chadwick on the list because actually a smaller Rotorua would hurt Labour, as it cuts out Kawerau. Taupo (Burton v Upston) is a hard one, because it’s an electorate that is sandwiched in teh middle of everything else – it’s very difficult to determine its boundaries without knowing a whole lot of other consequential changes.

    others: Waimak would likely be split into a returned Christchurch North (Mike Moore’s old seat) and a tory rural electorate. Hawke’s Bay would change significantly, and Auckland would have a huge reshuffle.

    right – that’s enough boundary stuff. suffice to say smaller electorates are both easier to service and in my opinion, better for being able to keep the number of WWGs down.

  13. Rob Salmond 13

    Hey James

    Nerdfest rolls on!

    So this will be my last one for today, which means you get the last word if you want.

    I don’t understand why the Nats’ women don’t count here. For my money their women are just as representative of women as ours I don’t get why ours are more womanly then theirs, or why our Pasifika delegation is more from the Pacific than theirs. Certainly if this becomes a prominent public debate you’ll have to drop this distinction or risk looking far too partisan.

    My view is that the public doesn’t care much between MMP as is and MMP with your proposed amendments. And I think they would be right not to care the systems are not much different as far as I am concerned. Which means the baseline risk of MMP losing is about the same either way. Except that by unilaterally taking away the status quo as an option for the public, we risk getting branded undemocratic, which may or may not hurt MMP but would certainly hurt Labour.

    I won’t get into the play-by-play boundaries stuff, but at a broad level you seem to be suggesting that a decrease of 7,500 citizens in a district (of whom about 5,500 can vote and about 4,500 actually vote) might be able to overturn a 6,500 vote majority. That one doesn’t pass the smell test for me, and even at much narrower majorities (1,000 to 2,000) would require either (a) the dumbest National party rep on the Representation Commission ever; or (b) some similar gains for National elsewhere on the map. I never bank on (a) because I respect the Nats’ collective political cunning even if I disagree with their ideology. Which takes us to (b). Their gains, as you have pointed out, are very likely to be personified by white dudes. And that takes us back to square one.

    Also, the multi-country evidence that I have mentioned before tends to contradict your claim that “smaller electorates are better for being able to keep the number of WWGs down.’

    Right, bedtime for me.

    Cheers,
    Rob

  14. lprent 14

    I suspect some will start telling us to \’get a room\’ soon.

    Nope – that is what you effectively have. There are so many posts going up on site these days, that a few hours later, you have a room of your own. It is just the political junkies, moderators, and specific google searches that read ‘old’ (ie yesterday’s) posts.

    There are some older posts that get a lot of long-term traffic. Most notably is the tax calculator post from a few eons ago.

    But this is an interesting thread. I’m with Rob, I don’t think that the number of seats increases your probability of having more successful non WWG’s. Political parties are notoriously ‘conservative’ when it comes to selecting for winnable seats. You either have to have an outstanding ‘local’ candidate (eg Steve C), or a proven political track record with intense party support (Helen C), or a 3rd party support (eg Lynne P).

    I suspect that best path overall is to the second one. Get in on the list and then get into a seat on retirement (but not a by-election). The difficulty is that it is so hard for a list MP to demonstrate local campaigning skills which are a lot of what the local people look for. They really need to get virtual electorates

  15. James Caygill 15

    As usually happens rob, I got distracted and stopped replying.

    But I did want to come back to your contention about majorities and boundaries.

    Electorates aren’t drawn or more importantly re-drawn the way your logic suggests.

    A decrease in electorate size of say 5k voters does not simply mean each electorate can be pushed one way or the other by a party up to 5k votes without reference to other electorates – that makes no sense at all.

    You start at the bottom of the SI and draw the boundary for Invercargill with 5k less voters in it. Then you move on to the surrounding district. Now (ignoring the tolerance issue for ease of illustration) you have to move the old boundary by 10k, 5k from invercargill and 5k to take account of the smaller seat.

    Pretty quickly you’ll see that you’re shuffling numbers all over the place – that’s how you overcome majorities that are bigger thant the simple reduction in size in any one seat.

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