Coat-tail of Many Colours

Coat-tail of Many Colours

Written By: Date published: 1:19 pm, November 22nd, 2013 – 72 comments
Categories: act, conservative party, Economy, election 2014, electoral systems, greens, hone harawira, john key, mana, maori party, MMP, national, nz first, paula bennett, united future – Tags: , , ,

John Key’s desperate and disloyal promotion of the Conservative Party in recent days and yesterday’s unseemly rush by Paula Bennett to claim the new Upper Harbour seat as her own sends a couple of interesting messages. Firstly, that National’s internal polling must be confirming that they are going to lose their current coalition partners. Secondly, that their declining popularity, combined with the proposed electorate boundary changes, mean they are going to lose their marginal urban seats.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the Hollow Men have already decided that the choice is stark; Colin Craig or a decade or more on the opposition benches. I imagine they will be willing to accept Craig’s opposition to asset sales, given that they will have completed their un-mandated program by the time of the next election anyway. They may even agree to wind back marriage equality and child protection to an extent, if that is the price of power.

While the talk today is that the seat they will gift Craig is Murray McCully’s East Coast Bays, I think they have a plan B as well. And it involves rorting the results of the MMP review.

Palmy Labour MP Iain Lees Galloway has had his private member’s bill on MMP drawn from the ballot. This bill builds on the findings of the MMP review, which supported a lower threshold and an end to extra MP’s coming in as a result of a single electorate seat win. The bill was actually written by Lianne Dalziel and Iain LG has picked it up following Lianne’s election to the post of Christchurch Mayor.

The indications are that it will receive enough support from various parties to at least get a first reading.

The effect would be to end an obvious distortion in the results for minor parties. The bill aims to stop additional list MP’s going to Parliament on the coat-tails of a single electorate MP. It would also see the 5% threshold for list representation drop to 4%. The classic example of the unintended disparity is the 2008 election where NZ First achieved 4.07% of the party vote and gained no seats and ACT achieved just 3.65% of the party vote but were entitled to 5 MP’s as a result of being cynically gifted the Epsom electorate seat.

So far, so good. This is what NZ wants.

List only parties such as the Greens and NZ First have nothing to fear from this change, and in the case of Winston Peters, it offers an opportunity for revenge for his three years in the wilderness. However, the Maori Party, ACT and United Future will recognise this as the death knell for their hopes of any significant influence in the next Parliament. Even if these parties retain their total of five current electorate seats, they would have no extra MP’s unless they enjoy a dramatic change in their public popularity and, therefore, they will not be able to offer a lifeline to save the current coalition.

Mana will have reason to be worried, too. While current polling has Hone Harawira trailing a yet to be named Labour candidate in Te Tai Tokerau, there are encouraging signs that they will get a big enough party vote to see a second MP elected via the list should he hold that electorate. This bill would end that hope.

But Mana are not my concern; John Key is. I believe that National will support this bill from start to finish.

Call me cynical, but I think the Hollow Men will be looking at this bill as a means to ensure they can form a new coalition with Colin Craig. Clearly, they already understand that the current governing arrangement is not going to keep them in power, hence the bigging up of the Conservative Party in the last week. The desperation of Key to cling to power is shown in how swiftly he is prepared to publicly write off his current partners and talk of a National/Conservative Government even when the N/ACT/MP/UF arrangement still has 12 months to run.

So why would the Nats support the bill, if it hurts the chances of their current partners?

Well, to sneakily ensure the Conservatives have two options for getting into Parliament. My feeling is that National will seek to amend the bill to drop the anti-coat-tailing provision, but retain the proposed 4% threshold, thereby allowing Colin Craig two distinct chances of winning seats. One via a patsy arrangement in East Coast Bays, with coat-tail MP’s in tow, or via the more legitimate list only result above 4%.

There is a genuine risk that Key will scupper the real intent of the bill (ending coat-tailing) but promote the 4% threshold for his own ends. Iain Lees Galloway is going to have to work hard to make sure both aspects of this bill get through the house, in the form the MMP review says voters prefer. He’s going to have to convince all the opposition parties to support it, even though some will have doubts. Then he will have to make sure it is not watered down to benefit the right.

Never underestimate the lengths these villains will go to in order to cling to power. Blatantly manipulating the genuine wish of NZ voters to further democratise Parliament as a way of gifting Colin Craig a Parliamentary presence would be nothing to them. Democracy means nothing to them. We mean nothing to them. Nothing.

Power is everything.

Te Reo Putake

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About tereoputake

Lefty, footballer, vegetarian View all posts by tereoputake

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