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National Party Voters of Mt Albert – Who You Gonna Call?

About a third of voters in Mt Albert are National Party voters. Who is going to represent their interests in Mt Albert for the 7 months between this weekend’s by-election and the General Election of September 23rd?

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There is only one credible candidate who can do that – and it certainly won’t be either Jacinda Ardern or Julie Anne Genter. Only Geoff Simmons of The Opportunities Party is able to work with either a National-led or a Labour-led government. TOP’s interest is solely on progressive policies, which seem to elude both Establishment parties as they prioritise “as little change as possible”, as the strategy to hold on to voters. That Establishment inertia is something voters are getting increasingly sick of.

A party that can therefore have enough representation in Parliament, that has progressive polices to improve New Zealand for everyone, is the ideal ally for either major party. It would make progress respectable again, and break this nauseous cycle of Dolittle.

It’s actually worse for the National Party voters of Mt Albert if Labour or Greens win the by-election. Both parties are openly antagonistic to the current government. Realistically they could do diddly squat to further the interests of Mt Albert over the next 7 months. Their representatives can’t even work with National.

This is why we entered this by-election. Because National decided not to put a candidate up for the third of Mt Albert voters who are National Party voters, The Opportunities Party saw that we had a unique advantage. We are the only ones who are quite happy to work with whoever the government is, so long as it’s to further the interests of all those in the electorate.

It seems nuts that twice now Labour MPs have abandoned Mt Albert part way through their terms in order to pursue personal goals. In the case of Labour in 2017 the problem is that its party vote is looking to be so low there is next to no room for List MPs to be elected. There’s an unseemly rush into electorates by senior MPs in order to secure their political careers.

This puts National voters of Mt Albert in a unique position – they could thwart the attempt by Labour to secure a place in the next parliament for its 5th ranked member. Into the bargain they could get an MP who can actually represent the interests of Mt Albert voters for the next 7 months – something that is just not possible for either Labour or the Greens.

Finally, let’s acknowledge it; The Mt Albert by-election is an expensive by-product of a flawed electoral regime. This has been pointed out recently by Political Science Professor Nigel Roberts and by former Clerk of Parliament and Ombudsman, David McGee who suggested that MPs post a bond as an article of good faith that they’ll serve their full term.

These by-elections are games engineered by existing MPs who dump their electorates to chase greener pastures. At the very least the party that enables their member to take flight should pay the full cost of the by-election. That would surely slow down the waste of taxpayers money.

Showing 8 reactions

  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2017-02-23 09:24:28 +1300
    Hi Steve, as a voter who voted for an electorate candidate I’d be unhappy to see another candidate from the same party take over. I’d rather see my #2 candidate being promoted (provided we used STV, of course). Electorate votes are votes for people, not parties, and I might not like the other candidate and what he or she stands for, even if he or she is from the same party.
    Tough luck for the list MP in my scenario, I agree, but that’s the price of keeping the balance of power. The opposite can also happen, and might happen in Mt Albert, as TOP pointed out in an earlier blog post: “Jacinda and Julie Anne are already MPs so all that happens if one wins is that party gets another List MP …”. That doesn’t sound quite fair to me that a seat is given away to someone at the bottom of the party vote list, either, but we’ll always have to deal with one issue or the other, as long as MPs are elected in two different ways.
    I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know how Germany handles situations like this, my apologies. I wasn’t interested in politics back when I still lived there – that started after I had moved to NZ.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2017-02-23 08:27:31 +1300
    Hi Oliver
    After a night’s thinking about it here is another option. The party holding the electorate just goes through their candidate selection process and whoever wins that becomes the MP. No by-election required.

    On behalf of the bottom ranked list MP I’ll express a dislike for your idea below.
    Although it’s possible your cunning STV plan could be the way for TOP to get into parliament when the four party candidates who polled higher all decline the job.

    How did Germany handle this situation?
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2017-02-22 20:30:16 +1300
    You’re of course right, Steve, about the party vote determining the number of seats. But you can compensate for a change of party candidate after a by-election (either Winston-style or succession by STV, as I suggested) by redoing the math and redistributing the seats. Say the candidate of party A won the electorate seat originally, resigned later, and a candidate of party B won the by-election or was promoted by STV, then party B might have to surrender its lowest ranked list MP and party A gets another list MP. That preserves the balance of power.
    If the electorate went to a candidate of a party with only a small percentage of the party vote, you might get side effects, like the whole party suddenly making it into parliament because of the coattail rule, or an overhang mandate.
    Of course you’re right again, my evil plan of promotion by STV would pretty much always change the party candidate – unless nobody wanted the job and a by-election was held. But as you said, even then there is a chance – although much less likely – that the by-elected candidate is from a different party. Fun stuff for electoral commissions, I guess.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2017-02-22 19:38:03 +1300
    Hi Oliver (I’ll get the right number of L’s this time)
    The makeup of parliament is determined by the party vote. So if a party wins enough votes to be entitled to 35 seats then they get list seats equal to 35 minus their electorate seats. If the electorate seat is effectively forfeited by your method then the proportionality of parliament is lost (MP’s do love to raise the proportionality of parliament).
    But I just realised that a by-election doesn’t always go to the party that held it previously: – Winston in Northland for example. Your method though means it must change party.
    And there are enough electorates where the MP doesn’t belong to the party that won the party vote.
    This isn’t a matter I’m willing to die at the barricades over though. It’s just that I have a dislike for a different treatment for MP’s between electorate and list when they leave parliament early.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2017-02-22 16:33:34 +1300
    Steve, I think you have to apply two different rules here, each of which would honour how the MP was elected in the first place. Electorate MPs are elected by voting for a person (it doesn’t matter that many people misunderstand it as voting for a party – there are people on that side of the ballot, not parties), so if we used STV and the elected MP resigned, the next preferred one would succeed him or her, and if that next one couldn’t or wouldn’t take the job, then the next, and so on. STV would guarantee that the voters’ preferences were still honoured, and you wouldn’t get the stupid and money-wasting exercises we’re seeing in Mt Albert at the moment. Only if none of the original candidates took the job, you would need to run a by-election.
    List MPs are elected by the party vote, so it’s only fair that a resigning list MP is replaced by the next one on the list. Again, it honours the voters’ choice for that party.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2017-02-22 15:39:34 +1300
    Hi Olliver
    Interesting, but an electorate MP who leaves parliament would be effectively gifting the seat to another party who may, or may not, be “on the same side”.
    How would you handle a list MP resigning? I would like to see one rule applied to MP’s instead of a distinction between electorate and list MP’s.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2017-02-22 14:59:51 +1300
    What about the following idea – we switch to STV (single transferable vote) for the electorates, and when the elected candidate leaves early (for whatever reason), the votes are redistributed according to the STV rules, and the seat is offered to the other candidates in order of preference, until someone accepts? That would avoid the costly by-elections with all their posturing and deal-making, and honour the original outcome of the election by giving the vacated seat to the next preferred candidate that is willing to take it. It would also encourage additional commitment by the candidates who lost the original election to still be available to take over the seat later, if the need arose.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2017-02-22 08:33:08 +1300
    An interesting idea of having MP’s post bonds that they’ll serve the full term. But as National and Labour hold the majority of electorates they would probably set the bond at $5,000. Yeah, nah.
    But if you set it at say $100,000 aren’t we then saying only the wealthy can afford to become MP’s?
    Making the party pay for the by-election? This is a great chance for an MP who is having a snit with their party to quit as payback. Parties have factions and if your faction is on the outer then …
    How about having any MP (electorate or list) who leaves parliament not be replaced unless three quarters of all MP’s vote to accept that the reason for leaving was genuine – death, yep; serious illness, yep; lost the election and is no longer PM, nope; major fallout with party, nope; and so on.