Sunday, May 21, 2006



Out with the dead wood?

The Sunday Star-Times reports that Labour is planning to purge its dead-wood by the end of the year, with up to three MPs being pushed towards retirement. Good. One of the problems with MMP is that there seems to be less turnover in MPs, with the result that the government's lineup is looking a little long in the tooth (of the 50 Labour MPs, only 11 have entered Parliament since the 1999 election). One of the opportunities of MMP is that list MPs can retire mid-term and be replaced by the next person on the list - allowing a party to renew itself without needing an electoral bloodbath. If Labour is to successfully fight for a fourth term in office, it needs to avail itself of this opportunity, and bring in some new blood.

The difficult bit, of course, is persuading the incumbents to leave. And this is where things get difficult, because it means political appointments to dipomatic postings and Crown Entity boards. This smacks of an American-style "spoils system" (where parties use power to capture the "spoils of office"), and its not something I like to see in New Zealand.

5 comments:

The low turnover is something that only really relates to Labour, I think most of the other parties (including National, since it did so badly at the 2002 election) have a pretty high turnover of MPs. Perhaps someone should do a study on it...

Posted by Lewis : 5/21/2006 04:01:00 PM

National used the good, old-fashioned "electoral bloodbath" method. But yes, it is primarily due to labour's vote remaining stable over three elections.

By way of comparison, Labour's 1987 lineup had nine new faces compared to 1984 - while they had gained only thre extra seats.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/21/2006 04:50:00 PM

Idiot/Savant:

Meow. :) OTOH, and taking off my partisan hat for a moment, I was surprised that Labour put up such a blah list that seemed focused on incumbent protection (and no expectation that folks like Sutton and Pettis whose seats were rock solid on paper would need it) and appeasing every internal faction, sector group and minority.

Perhaps a few more MMP elections will see parties becoming geninely creative and smart when drawing up their lists. It seems to me that they're a much underused tool to not only 'renew' caucus, bur front a campaign.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 5/22/2006 10:39:00 AM

What do you expect, when lists are left to party heirarchies? List rankings are used to reward long service (and servility), and newcomers find it very hard to break in.

One way of changing this is to encourage more democratic list-selection. The Greens had a straight-out primary election for their list, and I'd encourage every party to do the same. Better yet would be German-style open lists, where the public effectively rank the list while voting - but that would require some significant tweaking.

And I agree, the list is underused as a campaigning tool by the major parties. Unfortunately they seem to focus on their electorates rather than stressing the diversity and talent of their lists.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/22/2006 10:55:00 AM

With Labour you have to say what talent - they all seem to be party hacks who were either teachers, lawyers or in the union.

National on the other hand can say there list is drawn from a wide segement of the community and bring some great skills and knowledge to parliament.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/23/2006 02:00:00 PM