I see that the Nats in drag anti-MMP campaign have brought space on our banner. Now I know the mood of the authors on this subject. They like MMP, really don’t want anything else, and would like to fix some of the rough bits. They regard this years referendum as a monumental waste of time and resources. So my first thought was to simply boot the irritating and outright noisy junk off our site. But then I looked at their pathetic ad. I decided that it was more effective to take their money, counter it (like the Standards enhanced logo?) and comment on it.
As their banner showed, the anti-MMP’s only effective tactic is that of some rather pathetic scare tactics which completely ignore the real issues with MMP. They don’t say anything about the advantages of their preferred options. The tinkering with MMP we will get to deal with next election after we have to finally put the crazies pointless referendum to death this election. This years referendum is a just a waste of time. The one in 2014 is where we can fix MMP, which appears to be the only thing that the anti’s ad appears to actually want us to do.
In my opinion, no-one in their right mind would want to go back to the arbitrary fait governments that first past the post (FPP) (and its ridiculous cousin supplementary member (SM)) would give us again. Giving minority governments that had well less than 50% of the vote, and often well less than 40%, absolute control over the country caused some of the worst economic and social mistakes in this countries history. It allowed very small cabals of people who were essentially not beholden to anything apart from their gerrymandering party to make major decisions without more than minor consideration of the voters. The system excluded ‘losers’ in each electorate because they wound up effectively not being represented by anyone in parliament.
This culminated in the Muldoon government’s stupidity trying to withstand the forces of external change but doing it 20 years too late, and doing it against technical advice. Followed by the Act cabal’s arrogance inside Labour wanting to change everything too damn fast and not being careful enough about the damage that caused to the following generations (my mother volunteering at Woman’s Refuge is still picking up the intergenerational damage decades later). The Richardson National government ineptly playing copycat as a followup wasn’t exactly a great example of the benefits of a first past the post system. They were voted in not to do that type of widescale economic change – they did it apparently simply because they could..
Effectively we had more than 25 years of absolute chaos where small groups inside our government played simplistic and abrupt games with the economy ignoring the screaming as our society was stretched to the breaking point. That was why when the politicians finally gave us a chance to change voting system it was emphatically changed to a system that requires a higher degree of voter agreement. It makes the process of change in response to external changes much more gradual and a lot more consistent. For all of the political conniption since MMP was introduced. The abrupt changes in the economy that tore our society to pieces from the early 70’s to the mid-90’s have largely ceased. We’d managed to pay back our governmental debts caused by successive governments experiments in how to rapidly shed value, and were in really good shape to withstand the current global meltdowns – well at least until John Key started smiling and waving on Letterman.
Now I’m a pragmatic person and quite conservative (especially as far as my younger relatives are concerned). When the original referendum was held, I didn’t vote for MMP. I voted for a change to anything apart from the terrible FPP system whose original purpose was to keep idiot aristocrats in power. On the second vote I voted for single transferable vote largely because the aussies had shown that it sort of worked, and the fervor and rhetoric of the MMP advocates sounded more like the religious flagellation1 than something used in the real world.
Ok – I was wrong. Not about the nutters. They still sound just as hysterical now as they did then – just more right wing than they were then*. But MMP is great for expressing a democracy within the current available technology (ie periodic voting for representatives). It forces politicians to spend a lot of time talking to each other and to the electorate. You have to work the public opinion, and these days you have to work it in a environment where anyone could potentially start up a blog or facebook page and enter the political discourse directly.
Because if you don’t carry at least a major part of electorate forward with you and get the implied acquiescence of must of the rest then you will suffer the fate that National and its coalition parties will have this year. Effective political extinction of one or more parties as being irrelevant to the voters purposes, and the reduction of a major political party to scrabbling for votes in the house. This isn’t a bad side effect of MMP. This is the whole point of MMP. A politicians job is not to order, it is to communicate and convince because if you don’t carry the other side then you merely cannibalize the votes of your coalition parties as National is doing.
The implied checks and balances inside MMP are quite awesome if you’re a person like me who specializes in building stable systems. It makes most common political manipulations quite ineffective over the medium term. You cannot lock large amounts of vote in ineffectual protest parties as used to happen with Social Credit or the Values party. They either get big enough to get into parliament or they die out over a few election cycles. If they get into parliament then their effective power is limited both by their seats in a classic representative style, but also relative governmental experience. There is no real point in new party or new MP trying to jump the promotional queue during coalition negotiations. It is a sure way to lose seats (as the Maori party appears to be finding out).
Half arsed political tactics like the rights attempted staking of Winston Peters in 2008 that would have worked3 in a FPP environment don’t work for long in MMP. The voters will revive them if they have a constituency. Politicians are forced to compromise with the idiosyncratic mood of the voters, and with their occasional idiocies (including in my opinion the resurrection of Winston).
Which leads us back to the purpose of this pointless referendum on MMP. To me there appears to be the single argument behind this years pointless referendum. The supporters of FPP and SM are just nostalgic for the old days when little cabals of political figures could sit around and plan to take over a corner of the world without bothering to do much more than suckering the voters with elegant spin. It isn’t a point that goes down too well with the public who really don’t want to pushed around by the older versions of those pimply arrogant jerks. Since that particular wet dream isn’t popular, nothing else really makes any sensible reason to shift back to the 1960’s, so we get strange scare ads like the one that was playing on our blog as I wrote the post.
So I enhanced our logo with a ad from the pro-MMP side and wrote a post about why…
2: And I have to say that dogmatic lefties of faith (think of Bryce Edwards) were preferable to dickheads like Cameron Slater attempting ‘humor’ and bumbling through this new fangled concept of thinking. In the dinosaur days that he belongs in, they’d have just shipped the failures to the colonies. I’d like to point out that whilst the NZLP isn’t nasty, I sure as hell am. And I have reasons to be especially nasty to a hypocrite like him.