Rob Salmond’s take on the boundary changes announced yesterday. As he (and Ben yesterday) point out in a MMP election system the actual electoral boundaries usually only really matter to a few MPs. It isn’t likely to make much of a difference unless National manages to have a cup of tea with a party with enough electoral muscle to get more than a single MP into the house and an electorate’s voters think this matters. After the John Banks/Act debacle who’d be moronic enough to think that electorate seats in a list do matter? Apart from our silly first-past-the-post stand-in-man for David Farrar of course…
The new electorate boundaries which will govern the election came out yesterday, and I have now had a little time to digest the final changes. Here are my three reactions.
One of the nice things about MMP is that the tortured process of cutting the population up into little chunks no longer has any major influence on the election result. The party vote is what matters, and the party vote has nothing to do with the electorate boundaries. (This is even more true in New Zealand than in many other PR countries, because of our single nationwide district for handing out list seats, and also because our boundaries are drawn by a mainly non-partisan Commission, limiting the opportunities for silly gerrymandering that we see in the US sometimes.) So any huffing and puffing about boundaries really is anorak-only territory.
2. Big picture: A small win for the left.
Until now, New Zealand had 70 electorates. Now we have 71. One National-leaning electorate (Waitakere) has disappeared, and is replaced with a new National-leaning electorate (Upper Harbour) and a new Labour-leaning electorate (Kelston). So the number of National-leaning electorates remains unchanged, while the number of Labour-leaning electorates goes up by one. Hooray!
(Astoundingly, the seat-warmer at Kiwiblog disagrees, proclaiming a complete, humiliating failure for the left. Which is the obvious thing to do when the number of left-leaning seats goes up by one but the number of National-leaning seats does not change.)
3. Swings and roundabouts in the weeds
The people who care most about the boundary changes are electorate MPs, and people who want to be electorate MPs. Looking at those people as a whole, even focusing in on left-leaning MPs only, it is a case of swings and roundabouts:
The final tweaks in the Auckland Isthmus, for example, leave Phil Goff better off than before, make little net difference to David Shearer (losing some good red territory to Mt Roskill, but gaining other red territory from Auckland Central), and make Jacinda Ardern’s task in Auckland Central harder. One gain, one on-the-one-hand vs on-the-other-hand, one loss. Net effect on Labour: zero.
In the Hutt Valley, the changes help Chris Hipkins in Rimutuka, and make Hutt South more marginal, but still with a four figure paper majority for Trevor Mallard. Net effect: Zero.
Christchurch was always going to have a large-scale change following the post-earthquake population movements. By my count, the “paper lead” in each of the electorates hasn’t switched in any particular electorate. Little net effect.
So, now that we have the electorate semi-sideshow out of the way, it is onwards and upwards in the Party Vote campaign.