In reply to steve Baron's post at "Better Democracy"
Hi Steve, great to see you back blogging again!
I absolutely agree with everything you say here, Steve, particularly with regard to the perceived win-win situation for the government, and indeed that could be extended to the political class as a whole.
Perhaps the two votes (constituency and list) should be made fully transferable, ie one could elect to use both votes on the list or for the constituency or one on each. As this would imply that both votes are of equal value, the number of seats chosen from the list should be same as the number of constituencies. However, if the number of constituency votes in any constituency fell below a certain threshold (25% of total votes cast would seem to be a legitimate level) then no member would be elected for that constituency and the number of seats for list members would be increased by one to keep the number of seats in the house at a constant level. Of course, parties would be free to put forward an "associate MP" for those constituencies in the same way that losing parties do now.
This would eliminate the issue of "back-door MPs" and would eliminate the need for the thresholds ( as rubbish a PC contrivance as ever existed anyway- the situation that arose after the last election with ACT and NZF was truly ridiculous) as the list members would have their own legitimacy through equal status. Of course the option of making a preference selection from party lists would be a great fine-tuning if it were at-all possible.
What do you think? I reckon it's a work of genius myself. Can you think of any reason why it would not work? Can you think of a name for it?
I've been thinking further about this overnight, and have a couple more thoughts to add.
Firstly, the present variant of MMP is postulated as being fairer to the electorate as it gives those who support a candidate who is a "no-hoper" at a constituency level a "second chance" to have an influence via the list candidates. Having given this some further thought, and applying the "Machiavellian test" (as I am wont to do) I realise that the above view of MMP as it exists today is merely a sales-pitch by the political class. The true purpose of present variant MMP is to make sure that, should a key (ha-ha!) member of a parties caucus fail to be elected on the constituency basis- because the lists are assembled in priority order as determined by the caucus itself, and as members elected in the constituencies are removed from the list before seats are allocated- The unfortunate loser will always reappear in parliament by virtue of their high position on the list.
This is a reinforcement of the long established process whereby "new entrants" to political parties are groomed and weeded out as they pass through the party machinery until those that actually appear as candidates in electable seats or list positions are nothing more than clones of their selectors.
We exist in a political climate where the political elite of all persuasions are persuing agendas that are based upon loyalty to special interest groups. National/ACT court global corporate business, Labour court the bureaucracy, both at a national level and transnationally (Helen Clark's U.N position would be payback for her loyalty). These party aparachiks are not going to allow a more just system of representation to damage their chances of persuing their respective agendas.
The party list system institutionalises the position of the parties in the political arena. There is no constitutional basis for this. It just grew from small beginnings until it came to dominate the organs of democracy and statecraft with no mandate other than that from those who clawed their way to the top of the political pile and then sought to entrench their position. As with all things that grow in an intergenerational way, the public just accept that "it is that way because that's the way it is".
The answer? Certainly to disestablish the party lists as unconstitutional and anti-democratic. MP's are meant to represent their constituents personally, not as themselves representatives of an organisation to which they owe an overarching (and enforced by the whip) loyalty. The electoral list should be a single schedule of personal names (of course they can declare their position of support for a given party in their manifesto) and a list vote should consist of a chosen number of individual candidates prioritised 1,2,3,4,5 etc. What do you think?