Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler


At least we have MMP

So Hilary Calvert is a Member of Parliament. Let us be thankful that we have MMP.

Had David Garrett been wheeled in as an electorate candidate in support of the election of a broader church National Party he'd probably still be in Parliament. But as a list MP, he could only claim a mandate while continuing to represent the party his supporters actually voted for. So when it all became untenable, he had the good grace to move on. MPs representing arbitrarily-drawn geographical constituencies – rather than voters nationwide – have tended not to do that.

Taito Phillip Field stuck around until the election, even though the people of Mangere had chosen to be represented by a Labour MP, and the people of New Zealand by 50 Labour MPs. Chris Carter, the member representing Te Atatu, and whom only the media want to talk to, is toughing it out just the same.

In the early days of MMP there were a few list MPs who tried that, but it seems this has sorted itself out. Now, it's only constituency MPs who stay on when they're not wanted. Of course, this isn't really fair on their voters: the influence of their MP in the House is shot: what Minister is likely to stick his or her neck out to help a member of the public – and what party caucus is going to consider amending a policy position – following an entreaty from a local member like Chris Carter or Brian Connell?

If we still had first-past-the-post, Richard Worth would probably still be the member of Epsom, and wouldn't have left after it became clear he could be no use to anyone: this list MP phenomenon appears to have a lot going for it.

I fully expect that this will provoke a backlash against first-past-the-post that will see the list-MP-based MMP romp home at the upcoming referendum. Given the antics of electorate MPs in recent years, I wouldn't be surprised to see the people demand that a list-only option be considered. That MMP – a system where the cast-offs of our political system can move aside to ensure real representation can continue – has shown its strengths in recent weeks is difficult to dispute.

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