Sunday, August 28, 2005

MMP and Poetic Justice

On one of the right wing blogs, people are being advised to keep the champagne under lock and key, despite a lift in the polls for National. As well they might, for while the polls have shown a lift for National, they are (apart from one poll) still behind Labour. More importantly, National's potential coalition partners (ACT, New Zealand First and United Future) have not improved their poll standings.

Indeed, New Zealand First has actually dropped behind the Greens and is, according to the latest Colmar-Brunton Poll, hovering on the 5 percent threshold. However, and fortunately for them, they have Winston and Tauranga. United Future remains on 2 percent, but, fortunately for them, they have Peter Dunne and Ohariu-Belmont. However, ACT looks like going the same way as the Alliance and the Dodo, with its poll ratings fluctuating between 1 and 2 percent.

So, National is in danger of having no substantial supporting coalition partners in the new parliament. Well, that’s the miracle of MMP and mathematics for you!! You campaign for both the constituency and list votes, drive your potential coalition partners under the threshold and lose….tut...tut...tut…

Though, I feel that there is an element of poetic justice involved in relation to the demise of ACT. It appears that Roger Douglas and other ACT sympathizers conspired with National Party right wingers to help remove Bill English for Don Brash. Their logic appeared sound enough, Brash was a known Monetarist and Supply-sider, importantly he had previously made sympathetic overtures to ACT and it appeared that he might be prepared to cut a deal with them. However, once he had been installed as National Party Leader, Brash steered the party into a more right wing orientation and subsequently ruled out any electoral deals with ACT. All of which had the result of nicely severing ACT from its electoral base and essentially sealing its political fate.

Of course, National isn’t the only major party guilty of trying to kill off its potential partners. In 1996, 1999 and 2002, the Liberal (sorry, Labour) Party tried to do exactly the same. It launched a strong campaign in all these elections (usually in the last week) designed to undermine the second vote preferences of the Alliance and, later in 2002, the Greens. This was despite promises made by Labour to the Alliance in 1999, that it would not do so.

Ultimately, this means that there is no security for Labour on the Left. The demise of the Alliance did not mean that Labour maximised the left vote – which is all important in a proportional system. True, there were/are still the Greens, however; only 7 percent of 1999 Alliance voters in 2002 went to them, 42 percent went to Labour, while the rest tended not to vote. These were/are essentially wasted left votes, which could be used to ensure a real left – centre left government without having to rely on the ‘commonsense’ of Peter Dunne or the ‘xenophobic populism’ of Winston Peters.

It now appears that the Tories having done the same to ACT are facing similar circumstances. Ah well, in this situation, I can’t bring myself to shed a tear…..


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