No, I haven’t suddenly turned into Martyn, I’m not going to perceive any bad news for the left as actually good news for the left. Just bear with me.
Over at Metro, Simon Wilson wrote a wonderful analysis of the election as a whole. In fact Simon Wilson has regularly been delivering the best analysis and commentary over this horrible election cycle, I recommend you go give him a read.
Anyway, he makes one point that I want to explore a little bit further:
The reason National is doing so well in the polls is that none of its potential coalition partners has any popular support at all. National hoovers up all the centre-right votes — largely because of the personal popularity of Key and partly because the public long stopped listening to anything Act or Peter Dunne says.
In today’s printed NBR column, Matthew Hooton opines that if you want a good proper right-wing Government then you should be double ticking ACT, not just picking David Seymour if you’re in Epsom, but picking ACT as your party vote too. And he’s right. And also if you want a representative Government then you should double tick ACT (unless you know, you’re not crazy right wing).
National party insiders have told me that after the 2008 election the inner sanctum of the National leadership (Key, Brownlee, English, Joyce) got together and decided that the perfect scenario for them would be a three-party parliament. National, Greens, Labour. That way they only needed to get one more vote than the other two combined. The Nats would forever be able to paint the Greens as the crazy fringe party and probably scare enough people into giving the Nats their vote. This is what I would call subverting representative democracy.
Whether or not you support the current model, it’s the best one we’ve tried so far (with apologies to Winston)(Churchill, not the awful one)(awfuller). Having just one party on the right means that anyone on the right will instinctively vote for that party, this will give us a less representative Parliament. And it means when National inevitably win an election with +50% they have free rein to commit us to any policies they want. There will be no checks and balances from coalition partners. No compromise needed. It will be pure and straight ideology. This is precisely what MMP was set up to avoid.
National didn’t get what they wanted. Instead they’re facing more parties. ACT and United Future are one-man-bands and that’s a shame, but they’re still there, the Greens have maintained their support, the Maori Party look like they’ll sneak back in and it seems Internet Mana will get one – if not more – MPs in the house. That still leaves us with two overwhelmingly larger parties.
A more mature MMP Government would be more – not fewer – parties of smaller size. That way we’d get away from this FPP mindset that seems pervasive – “Who will win? National or Labour? CUNLIFFE OR KEY?” – it would also get us away from Winston’s tired old bullshit about giving the largest party “first dibs” on going into coalition with him. That’s not how this is supposed to work. You’re supposed to team up with those parties that you are ideologically similar to. Not just buddy up with whomever is most likely to give you stuff.
If it isn’t in power, I think Labour should have a serious and frank period of reflection after the election. As far as I can see there are three factions to Labour. There’s the trendy urban libs who love teh gayz, the poor and being all progressive. There’s the Union faction who are very much preoccupied with workers’ rights and then there’s the “Waitakere Man” (sorry for using that term, but it really is appropriate). That’s the person who refers to a collective of gay people as a “gaggle” (forever missing out on coining a “giggle of gays”). They’re the sort of person who Labour was formed by, but now they’d probably vote National, or the Conservatives if they had a bit more money.
Are these three groups compatible under one banner? Do they really rally behind one idea? One vision? Since Helen left it would seem that they are unable to. So why not just give it up, stop pretending you’re one party. Split! That way each of your target demographics can vote for the party they really want to, and then there’d be an expectation that you’d naturally coalesce after an election and the biggest of the three of you could get the PM’s chair (or if the Greens get the biggest…). This is what I think a mature MMP parliament should look like.
Over on the right, National is pretending that they’re one tribe also. But again they are filled with factions, and they should split to ensure we get the most representative democracy possible. People wouldn’t be able to accuse politicians of being disengenuous. “Oh that John Key, he’s secretly a right wing extremist just enacting populist policies so he can get in.” No, I think Key would be in the more moderate section of the National Party if it split. But the far right ones would be able to stand up tall and proud and say “yes we are extreme right, but that’s who we are and we’re not ashamed.”
If you did this, I suspect you’d improve voter turn-out because everyone would have a party they could get behind – both left and right.
This can only improve things.
Anyway, I’m just one bloke, and frankly the world doesn’t really need another bloke telling the world how it should be run. Just having some ideas.