John Banks: condition deteriorating
1. Electoral Commission review completed
Checklist for the week…
- Electoral Commission recommendation: Reducing the Party threshold from 5% to 4% √
- Electoral Commission recommendation: Eliminating the one electorate seat party threshold √
- Consequence of Electoral Commission recommendations: Annoying the hell out of John Banks √
Yes, it’s been a good week.
In short, the Electoral Commission has recommended the following
- The one-electorate-seat threshold for allocating list seats should be abolished.
- The party vote threshold for allocating list seats should be lowered from 5% to 4%
- The provision for overhang seats should be abolished for parties that do not cross the party vote threshold.
- Candidates should continue to be able to stand both in an electorate and on a party list at general elections.
- List MPs should continue to be able to contest by-elections.
- Political parties should continue to have responsibility for the composition and ranking of candidates on their party lists.
- Parliament should review the gradual erosion of list seats relative to electorate seats as it risks undermining the diversity and proportionality of Parliament.
This blogger endorses every recommendation made by the Electoral Commission.
The recommendations eliminate contradictions; remove areas vulnerable to rorting by politicians; and increase the democratic nature of MMP.
The only comment I would make is that the law should be tightened in the area of political Parties ranking their Party Lists. At present, the law states only that such Lists should be democratically ranked – but gives no formal expectations of how the process of ranking is carried out.
In fact, I would endorse Electoral Commission over-sight of all Party List rankings to ensure that there is no ‘giggery-pokery’ by Party apparatchiks. As they say, justice must not only be done – it must be seen to be done.
The same could be said of the political process. And after all, as politicians are fond of telling us when they increase police surveillance powers; if Parties are honest in their list-ranking process – they have nothing to be afraid off. Right?
However, all up, I believe the Electoral Commission has done an outstanding job on the review.
2. Party Responses
ACT supported retaining both the 5% Party and one electorate seat party threshold.
The Electoral Commission rejected both propositions.
ACT’s sole MP, John Banks, called the review recommendations “woeful”, and then went on to state,
“Those who want to gerrymander with the electoral system do so because they lost the last election.”
Really, Mr Banks?
When it comes to “gerrymandering”, none is guiltier than ACT and John Key, and their now infamous “cup of tea” incident during last year’s general election campaign. That event was an outrageous attempt to throw the election by suggesting to Epsom voters that they should cast their electorate votes for John Banks.
For Banks to now try to climb the moral highground, and accuse those who want to reform MMP as “gerrymandering”, is breath-taking and nauseating hypocrisy on a grand scale.
Banks also issued this statement on the ACT website,
” ACT will not support any changes to the MMP voting system. No electoral system is perfect, and the proposed changes do not offer any additional benefits to New Zealand. We do not support the abolishment of the one seat threshold.”
Aside from the inference that ACT is fast becoming a quasi-fascist party by ignoring the mass of public submissions that support reforms to MMP, it is clear that John Banks’ Number One Priority is – John Banks. Ie; getting himself re-elected to Parliament.
This man’s lack of personal insights into his behaviour, and how the public view his self-serving and clownish actions, is deeply troubling.
Of all the major Parties, only the Greens seem to have acted on principle on this issue.
As Green MP, Holly Walker said,
“Abolishing the one electorate seat threshold and lowering the party vote threshold will help to reduce the number of ‘wasted’ votes, and ensure that everyone’s votes count.
Removing the one electorate seat threshold will make a big difference for fairness by making sure that the votes of people in some electorates are not given more weight than others.”
It should be pointed out that whether the Party threshold is kept at 5% or 4%, or whether or not the one electorate seat party thresholdis retained or not, makes no difference to the Green Party.
With their electoral support now consistently over 10% (11.06% last year), and not being reliant on winning an electorate seat to gain Parliamentary representation, their submission to the Electoral Commission gives better representation to supporters of other small Parties, such as the Conservative Party.
Now that’s principled.
Labour’s submission to the Electoral Commission supported reducing the 5% threshold to 4% and doing away with the one electorate seat party threshold.
It’s fairly obvious why; National has been able to rort the one seat electorate seat threshold to allow potential coalition partners to win seats in Parliament.
By doing away with the one electorate seat party threshold, the demise of ACT is all but assured, and Peter Dunne’s party, United Future, becomes irrelevant.
Interestingly, Labour’s support for reducing the Party List threshold to 4%, gives the Conservative Party a greater chance to win seats in Parliament.
It also allows NZ First a better chance to win seats. (In 2008, NZ First missed out on seats by only .93 percentage-points of reaching the magic 5%.)
This blogger suspects that Labour strategists are thinking long-term on this issue. The Conservative Party may well win seats if the threshold is reduced to 4% – but this may be only a short-term victory for Colin Craig. One term in Parliament may alienate further electoral support, as happened to Peter Dunne’s United Future Party from 2002 to 2005 to 2008.)
Predictably, the Mana Party is the Party that most loses out if the Electoral Commission’s recommendations are adopted.
Mana’s leader, Hone Harawira, won the Maori seat of Te Tai Tokerau comfortably and also gained 1.08% of the Party Vote. Had Mana received an additional .12% votes, his Party would have gained an extra MP (the “coat tail” effect).
There is a good chance that if the one electorate seat threshold is retained that Mana could reasonably count on an extra one or two MPs. This is especially likely as the Maori Party bleeds electoral support because of it’s close association with the National Party, and increasingly divisive feelings over the sale of SOEs and water rights.
So it is little surprise that the Mana Party stated it’s opposition to abolition of the one electorate seat threshold.
It appears to be silent on the Party vote threshold.
This blogger believes that removing the one electorate seat threshold should only be a minor nuisance to the Mana Party. As the Maori Party disintergrates, Mana has a decent chance to pick up many of the Maori seats.
Like ACT, National supported retaining both the 5% Party andone electorate seat party threshold.
Deputy PM, Bill English has stated that National would consider the recommendations of the Electoral Commission.
Interestingly, right wing commentator and National Party cadre, Matthew Hooton, stated on Radio New Zealand on 13 August,
“The other good thing for National in this report is by getting rid of the tomfoolery around the one seat rule, National won’t be tempted to have cups of tea with the likes of John Banks and Peter Dunne and they will become less relevant to the political system…
…So now National, assuming it will accept these recommendations, even though they are against what National itself recommended to the review, but if the government does accept these, then National now knows very clearly it’s path to it’s third term is through that Winston Peters/Colin Craig deal.
… Well strangely enough National recommended that 5% threshold remain and Labour recommended to the review that a 4% threshold be introduced and the review team has gone with what is the Labour party and the public’s preference. And the irony there is I think is that the 5% threshold, maintaining it , would have served the Labour Party’s interest and the 4% threshhold favours National. So the two Parties both, two main parties both, made recommendations that were against their own interests.”
See: Radio NZ, Nine to Noon Show: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Josie Pagani
In this matter, I concur fully with Hooton. Whilst reducing the 5% threshold to 4% may disadvantage the Left in the short-term – in the long-term it will remove anomalies in the electoral system that provides fertile ground for a pervading sense of political cynicism, thereby alienating people from voting.
The worst thing to put people off voting is a perception that the system is “rigged” to produce pre-determined results.
That’s why we got rid of First Past the Post.
New Zealand First
Winston Peters has curiously split his Party’s response to the Electoral Commission’s recommendations;
- 5% vs 4% Threshold
Peters states that NZ First wants the 5% threshold retained, even though it might disadvantage his Party.
Right-wing blogger, David Farrar, stated on Radio NZ’s 4pm Panel on 14 August, that he considered Peters’ preference for 5% as “principled”.
Peters wants the 5% threshold retained because it suits his strategy. NZ First has a better than 50/50 chance of crossing the 5% threshold in upcoming elections – especially now that his Party has access to millions of dollars in Parliamentary funding and free TV advertising.
Conversely, by insisting that the 5% threshold be retained denies the Conservative Party the chance to win seats in Parliament, as reaching 5% is considerably harder than 4%. The Christian Coalition Party achieved 4.33% in the first MMP election in 1996.
This assessment of Peters’ rationale is confirmed when, in the next breath, he supports abandoning the one electorate seat party threshold,
- One electorate seat party threshold
“There have been numerous attempts to corrupt the integrity of MMP by the National, ACT and United Future parties by misusing the intent of the one electorate seat threshold for the allocation of list seats.”
It’s interesting that Peters wants the 5% threshold retained, and insists,
” Rt Hon Winston Peters says the 1993 referendum confirmed that the public wanted the threshold for a party to win list seats in a general election to be five per cent.
“It shouldn’t be tampered with now by Parliament”.”
- but at the same time is comfortable with removing the one electorate seat party threshold despite it also being part and parcel of the 1993 Referendum?!
The reason Peters wants the one electorate seat party threshold removed is that it prevents the Consertive Party from doing an Epsom or Ohariu-type deal with National, and thereby gaining Parliamentary seats by winning an electorate.
This is precisely how ACT gained five seats in the 2008 electorate;
- ACT failed to reach 5%, and gained only 3.65% of the Party Vote
- National did a deal with ACT, letting Rodney Hide win the Epsom electorate
- The one electorate seat threshold allowed four other MPs enter Parliament on Hide’s “coat tails”.
In simple words, Peters wants the Conservative Party from winning seats in Parliament in a similar manner.
In doing so, he retains his role as sole “king maker” between National and Labour/Greens.
3. The Thresholds – Why Change was necessary
5% Party Threshold
The Party vote threshold was probably originally set at 5% to allay fears that Parliament would be over-run by a plethora of small parties, as has happened in Israel. The resulting instability would have destroyed MMPs reputation within a few years, and would not have survived the subsequent referendum.
A relatively ‘median’ 5% threshold could allow a measure of proportionality, whilst at the same time not resulting in the “Israeli Disease”. (Israeli politics has been dominated by numerous small, extremist, political parties, elected under proportional representation with almost no Party threshold. In 2009 this resulted in a dozen parties being represented in The Knesset. See: Politics of Israel)
With MMP firmly bedded-in after 15 years, and the public comfortable with Parliamentary proportional representation, it seems appropriate to reduce the Party threshold to 4%. This provides space and opportunity for a new political party to form; win representation in Parliament; and provide fresh ideas to be debated.
One electorate seat threshold
The one electorate seat threshold has always been an anomaly – but with justification. It was assumed that despite MMP being favourable to small political Parties, it might still be difficult to win representation in Parliament. It was considered that if a small Party had the electoral support of voters to win one electorate (which was still fought under First Past the Post), then they deserved their full compliment of MPs, according to their Party vote, regardless of whether or not they reached 5%.
The one electorate seat threshold was a kind of “dispensation” from the 5% threshold, to ensure that a small Party could have an effective voice in Parliament.
Not only is it no longer needed – but the one electorate seat threshold dispensation has lately been exploited by larger parties such as National, gerrymandering the system to gain potential coalition partners in Parliament.
It has also been demonstrated to be highly unfair.
In the 2008 General Election neither ACT nor NZ First reached the 5% Party threshold. But because National assisted Rodney Hide to win the electorate seat of Epsom, ACT was given the one electorate seat threshold dispensation, and won five seats in Parliament.
The irony was that ACT won fewer Party Votes (85,496 or, 3.65%) than NZ First (95,356 or, 4.07%) – but ACT still got into Parliament.
That result was not the fair system of proportional representation that was ‘sold’ to the public in 1993.
That situation was untenable, and the public stated as such in their submissions to the Electoral Commission. It was an affront to the Kiwi sense of fairness.
Accordingly, the public demand an end to it.
4. National’s dilemma
National now has a clear choice – and it is in a bind.
If it decides to accept the recommendations of the Electoral Commission to lower the Party threshold to 4% and abandon the one electorate seat threshold – then it risks alienating support from it’s two, one-man band, coalition partners, Peter Dunne and John “I-can’t-remember” Banks.
Dunne and Banks may push their coalition deal with National to the brink – and over the edge – if National accepts the Commission’s reforms.
If the reforms are implemented, it will make Dunne irrelevant, and John Banks and his Party, dog-tucker.
Dunne may win Ohariu – but he would never again have the chance to bring one or two extra MPs into Parliament on his “coat tails”.
And Epsom voters would dump Banks in favour of their own true-blue National candidate.
This would make life unpleasant for both Dunne and Banks. They might decide to issue an ultimatum (see below, “John Banks – mental confusion worsening?”) to abandon the reforms – or else they would walk from the Coalition. What would they have to lose?
But if National decides not to enact the Commission’s reforms, it risks losing a potential coalition partner – the Conservative Party – in 2014. A Party threshold of 4% would mean 5 Conservative Party MPs.
That is simply too good an offer to pass up. Especially if National drops to 43% or 45% in the polls, as this blogger predicts will happen in the next twelve to 18 months.
Tough times ahead for the Nats…
5. John Banks – mental confusion worsening?
John Banks’ mental condition is deteriorating.
Today, the Member for Epsom forgot which political Party he is a member of, when he said on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report“,
“The National Party are not going to support this proposal.”
And again, on MSN News, Banks made it clear that he believed himself to be a National Party spokesperson when he said,
“This is not going to happen. The National Party is not going to support this proposal.”
John Banks is an ACT member of parliament – not National. He can no more speak for National than Hone Harawira could speak on behalf of Labour.
It is becoming more apparent each day that the fellow is losing his tenuous grip on reality. This blogger hopes that he will receive the treatment he requires and makes a speedy recovery from his delusions and shocking memory loss.
Tomorrow, Banks may attempt to walk on water. Or invade Poland.
= fs =