In the last few days, many have noted National’s blatant self-interest in ignoring the Electoral Commission and maintaining the MMP status quo. The Commission suggested lowering the threshold to 4% and removing the “coat-tailing” exception, but National refused to do so because they wanted to continue having cups of tea with John Banks, Peter Dunne and (if needs be) Colin Craig. And now their chickens are coming home to roost with the Internet Mana strategic alliance. (In theory, the Conservatives and ACT could follow suit – but I’d argue there’s less common ground between Jamie Whyte and Colin Craig than between Kim Dotcom and Hone Harawira)
Certain Labour members (edit: though not Louisa Wall) are taking a far more critical view of coat-tailing and strategic use thereof. Many have (rightly) criticised Labour for being anti-strategic, anti-small-parties and anti-anyone-further-left-than-them. Some have also (wrongly) suggested they’re hypocrites for not consistently criticising “coat-tailers” on the left and right. In fact, they are consistently criticising coat-tailers – condemning both Epsom and the Internet Mana alliance as “rort[s] of the system,” “ruse[s]” and “scam[s],” and proposing to get rid of the rule that allows them.
So they’re not being inconsistent. But they are being hypocritical, by condemning coat-tailers in the first place – for at least four reasons.
They’ll no doubt say the difference is voters “genuinely liked” Jim Anderton (and their ex-buddy Peter Dunne), whereas Epsom voters only vote for the ACT candidate because they want to see his party represented. Perhaps this is true. But under First Past the Post, millions of voters across the country voted for Labour candidates not because they liked the candidate, but because they wanted to see the party represented. And still under MMP, many Green/Mana/etc supporters vote for Labour local candidates because they prefer a Labour local MP to the only other realistic alternative.
So they’re also hypocritical because they’re happy for Labour voters in Wigram or Green voters in Wellington Central to vote strategically for another party’s candidate, but not National voters in Epsom (or Labour voters in Te Tai Tokerau, for that matter).
Thirdly, they’re hypocritical because they call the “cup of tea” strategy a “rort” and in the very same press release endorse their own “reverse cup of tea” strategy: Labour voters voting for National’s Paul Goldsmith in Epsom. The only way this can possibly be ethically coherent is if they see all local seats as “rightfully” belonging to the same party that won the most party votes in that electorate (ie, always either National or Labour)… but in that case they’d have to give up most of their 22 electorate seats from the last election (some examples). And, of course, it would be pointless having a two-tick system if that was how it worked.
Lastly, they’re hypocritical because what is a political party but a strategic alliance of disparate factions and individuals, with some common purposes, banding together to pursue those purposes in elections and government? There’s at least as much diversity of views within Labour or National as there is between the Internet Party and Mana, and considerably more in-fighting (so far). But Labour have inherited a respectable and safe “major party” status that will never be described as an unholy “rort,” due the historical accident of being descended from a party that once represented the labour movement. This means that by condemning Internet Mana, they’re condemning a “sin” they’re not “tempted” by. Like National but unlike anyone else, they’ve never had to work doubly-hard for each vote, by first convincing potential voters a vote for them won’t be wasted. They’ve never had to resort to creative MMP strategies to provide this assurance. Blinding themselves to the privilege the system gives them, they blame the parties the system doesn’t privilege for taking the opportunities available to them.
Fixing the real problem
These days, Anderton is representing a dead fake building instead of Wigram, and Dunne is serving casinos instead of Clark… there’s no small parties left Labour actually likes. So, very nobly, they’re proposing to enact the Electoral Commission’s suggestions if elected.
But these high-minded condemnations and proposed solutions misdiagnose the problem entirely. The problem is that the threshold built into our MMP system stops it being truly proportional. It stacks the system against small and new parties, threatening to waste their votes and making them work far harder for them… thus creating the need and incentive for the so-called “rort” strategies.
That won’t change by getting rid of the coat-tailing exception, or even by lowering the threshold from 5% to 4%. We’d still have small parties banding together – only they’d be doing it to get across the 5% (or 4%) threshold, like the original Alliance. And we’d still have artificially skewed results – like the Labour voters who vote NZ First to make sure they get above 5% (or 4%), or the voters who shy away from small parties because they’re worried they won’t reach 5% (or 4%), often leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The only way to stop disadvantaging small parties and incentivising “dodgy deals” is something neither National, Labour or the Electoral Commission suggest, but the most evidence-based/least reactionary submitters, international experts and bloggers across the political spectrum do: make MMP fully and straightforwardly proportional, by eradicating the threshold system that causes these problems in the first place. 1% of the votes, 1% of the seats – end of story. No need for the controversial coat-tailing exception, nobody’s vote robbed of effect because the party wasn’t big enough, and no need for creative strategies to negotiate coat-tailing versus wastage.
The Electoral Commission acknowledge that lowering or abolishing the threshold “would be a solution more consistent with the principle of proportionality that underpins the MMP system”… the only reason they won’t do it is because of a fear of a “proliferation of small parties.” Yes; you read that right; a supposedly independent commission are biased towards large parties, considering them “safer” than small parties; even though there’s no evidence high thresholds or few parties brings stability. And, of course, both big parties agree with them – neither of them suggest lowering the threshold below 4%.
The stupid thing is, at the moment we do have a proliferation of small parties; but we also have a proliferation of the strategies Labour condemns, because that’s basically the only way small and new parties can get in. If the Electoral Commission get their way, there may be less opportunities for small parties and their strategies, but (as they admit!) this would come at the cost of true proportionality. Is this anti-democratic knee-jerk response and anti-proportional threshold rule really worth it?
Men haven’t been very good to women in NZ lately.
The list of men who have used and abused Bevan Chuang in the course of the Brown-Chuang-Wewege-Cook-Slater-Palino affair is long and getting longer. Some were apparently motivated by mid-life crises and delusions of grandeur, others by attempts at pharisaical political smear campaigns… but they’ve all used a person’s life for their own ends (and apparently they’ve all lied about it). I don’t think I trust any of these men with high political office or media profile. Chuang herself doesn’t seem to have acted particularly well, but nobody deserves what she’s been through.
Meanwhile, Labour’s decision to phase in a rule ensuring 50% female MPs was met with the predictable panic that men are losing some of their privilege. This was typified by Patrick Gower, TV3’s gutter-journalist political editor who feigned alarm about demotions of male MPs (note this excellent critique he pretty much ignored). His numbers actually only show that IF Labour’s party vote is as low in 2017 as it was in 2008, and IF no male MPs other than Ross Robertson retire before then, TWO male MPs may have to leave Parliament so Labour can achieve gender equality (if any male MPs would object to that, good riddance).
Worse than Gower’s shoddy maths is his implication that political parties are male-dominated because of ‘merit’ rather than structural injustice. And his suggestion that 50% women in Labour is a problem but 75% men in National presumably isn’t. And his leaping to the defence of poor, persecuted privileged male MPs instead of highlighting the systemic gender inequity Labour’s quotas are designed to address.
But the worst, of course, is the Roast Busters rape club.
The existence of such a group is abhorrent. As is their ability to publicly boast about it.
As is police traumatising, blaming and ultimately ignoring complainants. As is their inaction after 2 years, 4 complaints, and ample opportunities for evidence. (Compare this to their shoot-first-sort-out-legality-later approach to shutting down people criticising them). As is the way they lied and blamed their inaction on victims not being “brave enough” to lodge proper complaints. As is the fact that their only accountability is an “independent” group of ex-cops who inevitably understand and sympathise with police. As is the fact that we’ve known for years the police have a rape problem and they’ve repeatedly failed to address it.
As is their school’s inaction.
Worst of all is our ubiquitous rape culture that allows all this to happen. It’s part of the same patriarchy that leads to Len Brown and Cameron Slater et al using Bevan Chuang, and Patrick Gower complaining that men are losing their privilege. We can’t just blame the direct protagonists. All of us, especially middle-class educated white Western heterosexual cisgender Christian men like me, have to accept responsibility for the ways we’ve contributed to a kyriarchal culture that dominates, discriminates, dehumanises and, ultimately, rapes.
The only positive to come out of all of this is are the small signs of hope that rape culture may be starting to change. This could be a vital tipping point in awareness that we have a problem. But the work of addressing it is just beginning.
Photo by Greg Presland
The spectre of a possible leadership challenge in Labour isn’t going away as long as David Shearer remains incoherent, visionless and powerless against John Key. A lot of good stuff has been said about this whole mess by The Standard, Tumeke, Chris Trotter, Gordon Campbell, Brian Edwards etc, but I want to highlight one sad result of the ongoing dominance of the caucus by the old guard, anti-democratic, right-leaning, “Anyone but Cunliffe” clique.
The main feature of the recent Labour rankings reshuffle is promotions of Shearer supporters and opponents of the democratisation of the party, and demotions of Cunliffe and democratisation supporters (note also Charles Chauvel’s recent resignation).
Most notable among these demotions is Lianne Dalziel, who goes from list rank 14 to the unranked back benches with Cunliffe and most of his other supporters. This is a slap in the face to Dalziel who has been a tireless advocate for Christchurch, and an advocate for the East and the people against Brownlee’s support of big business in the recovery. Unfortunately for her, she has also been an advocate for the democratisation of the Labour party and for a return to its left-wing roots. The only two Canterbury-based MPs in Labour’s top 20 now are Clayton Cosgrove (who has no earthquake-related portfolios) and Megan Woods (who moves off the back benches to number 20).
Of course, the lack of Christchurch representation in Labour isn’t new. Christchurch people, who tend to be more working class than Auckland or Wellington, are more left than liberal; that is, they seem to be more attracted to a classic left politics of economic justice, as embodied by the last great Christchurch prime minister Norman Kirk, rather than the liberal identity politics that Labour has turned to since Kirk’s time. I’m a lot more supportive of Mana and the Greens than what Labour have become, but I’d still hope that Labour would prioritise the Canterbury region at the moment. If they really want to win back the city, they should be articulating a powerful people-first alternative to Brownlee’s way of doing things – not to mention to school closures and the steamrolling of ECAN.
I’ve remarked before that “Anyone but Cunliffe” should apparently be taken in its full possible meaning: “Key rather than Cunliffe”. It’s very sad that it apparently also means “Brownlee rather than Dalziel”.
Here’s the full numbers for the reshuffle; list and portfolios are here, I’ve noted promotions, demotions, locations and (suspected) factions/cliques. Sue Moroney is the only exception to the general pattern.
‘Cunliffe’ supporters are taken from TV3’s Patrick Gower, so should be taken with a massive grain of salt. ‘Old Guard’ are taken from bloggers Chris Trotter and The Standard, who seem to have have been a lot more honest on these matters than the mainstream media (please note this conflates various groups that don’t necessarily fit together neatly: the ‘old guard’, opponents of democratisation, neo-liberals or those fearful of returning to the left, and supporters of Shearer). The rest all most likely support Shearer, but have been less vocal about it.
1 David Shearer (no change) – Auckland
2 Grant Robertson (no change) – Wellington – OLD GUARD
3 David Parker (no change) – Dunedin
4 Jacinda Ardern – (no change) – Auckland – OLD GUARD
5 Clayton Cosgrove (little change) – North Canterbury (office in Kaiapoi) (no earthquake-related portfolios)
6 Annette King (PROMOTION) – Wellington – OLD GUARD
7 Shane Jones (no change) – Whangarei
8 Phil Twyford (promotion) – Auckland – OLD GUARD
9 Maryan Street (no change) – Nelson
10 Chris Hipkins (PROMOTION) – Wellington – OLD GUARD
11 Nanaia Mahuta (demotion) – Waikato-Hauraki (offices in Hamilton and Auckland) – CUNLIFFE
12 David Clark (PROMOTION) – Dunedin
13 Sue Moroney (PROMOTION) – Hamilton – CUNLIFFE
14 Su’a William Sio (demotion) – Auckland – CUNLIFFE
15 Phil Goff (little change) – Auckland – OLD GUARD
16 Darien Fenton (promotion) – Auckland – OLD GUARD
17 Damien O’Connor (promotion) – South Island West Coast (offices in Motueka, Westport and Greymouth)
18 Clare Curran (promotion) – Dunedin – OLD GUARD
19 Andrew Little (promotion) – New Plymouth – OLD GUARD
20 Megan Woods (promotion) – Christchurch (Christchurch Transport Issues Spokesperson) – OLD GUARD
Remainder of Caucus listed by length of time in the House
Trevor Mallard (DEMOTION but lined up for Speaker) – Wellington – OLD GUARD
Lianne Dalziel (DEMOTION) – Christchurch (Earthquake Recovery Spokesperson, EQC Spokesperson, Civil Defence and Emergency Management spokeperson) – CUNLIFFE
Ruth Dyson (no change) – Christchurch (no earthquake-related portfolios)
David Cunliffe (DEMOTED last year) – Auckland – CUNLIFFE
Parekura Horomia (no change) – North Island East Coast (Office in Hastings) – CUNLIFFE
Moana Mackey (no change) – Gisborne – CUNLIFFE
Iain Lees-Galloway (no change) – Palmerston North
Raymond Huo (no change) – Auckland – CUNLIFFE
Rajen Prasad (no change) – Auckland? – CUNLIFFE
Kris Faafoi (no change) – Wellington – OLD GUARD
Carol Beaumont (promotion – brought into Parliament as Chauvel leaves) – Auckland
Louisa Wall (no change) – Auckland – CUNLIFFE
Rino Tirikatene (no change) South Island (offices in Invercargill, Christchurch, Nelson, Wellington) – CUNLIFFE
Ross Robertson (no change) – Auckland