Sunday, May 14, 2006

The politics of elimination

There's a perfect illustration of the problem with the 5% threshold in today's Herald: according to National Party environment spokesperson Nick Smith, what stopped National from gaining power last time wasn't the fact that not enough people voted for them - it was that too many people voted for the Greens. If National could have attracted just one in twenty Green voters, then the Greens would have been driven below the 5% threshold, and (all other things being equal) National would be in power.

I absolutely loathe this "feature" of our MMP system - but I loathe more those politicians who seek to game it to eliminate small parties from Parliament. This is a deliberate policy aimed at disenfranchising people and rendering their votes meaningless. Unfortunately, we're going to have to put up with it until the threshold is where it ought to be: at the level required to gain a single seat.

That aside, Smith is using this point to argue that National needs to compete more strongly for the Green vote, and proposing policy changes to try and capture those votes. This is something we should welcome. It is a Good Thing when parties actually compete for votes, and competition from National will force Labour and the Greens to respond in kind. But if National wants to capture some Green voters - or have a chance at gaining Green support after the next election - might I suggest they tackle the really big issue: climate change. Otherwise, they're simply tinkering around the edges, and literally fiddling while the planet burns...

Update: Smith's speech, "A Bluegreen Vision for NZ", is here.


"Dr Smith said the 6822 votes for the Greens at the last election "effectively stopped" National leader Don Brash becoming prime minister." If ever you needed proof that a vote for a minority party under MMP isnt a waste of time, this is it! :-)

What a joke - the NP are almost totally in denial about major issues like climate change or peak oil. (the uncertainties are being understated! the market will provide! more roads! less regulation! trust us! won't someone think of the economy!). Their relevant policies are mostly negative (repeal this, withdraw from that) or involve review when urgent action is long overdue. The intersection between Green and National policies and values is so close to zero it may as well be so as far as I'm concerned -there's no appeal to this Green voter. (Disclosure: I did once vote for them. But it was a long time ago and I got better).

Posted by Anonymous : 5/14/2006 11:45:00 PM

Anon: some of the stuff that Smith is suggesting - community conservation, more national parks, tighter emissions standards for cars - isn't bad at all. But its all undercut by their stance on the RMA, let alone their climate change denial. Still, the fact that they think they need to get some green votes is good, and it will hopefully encourage Labour to respond in kind.

Really, the best thing Labour could so is impose all of this before the next election, forcing the nats to either make real policy concessions or admit that they're just trying to greenwash.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/15/2006 12:02:00 AM

Who the hell would be Nick Smith.

He (and his Blue Greens) was an early supporter of pollution taxes and of carbon tax. And then he ended up issuing press releases opposing them when Labour put them in, because his party's party line is against them.

The problem of being an environmentalist in the National Party: you have to accept that your party doesn't really give a damn and will switch policies to screw you at a whim.

Posted by Icehawk : 5/15/2006 10:32:00 AM

OTOH Smith's got a point about this:

"Take climate change. I know of no area of public policy in the past 20 years that is in as big a mess... You have to give Labour a big black mark for its climate-change policies." - Nick Smith

He's certainly right there. It's hard to imagine a more inept approach than that shown by Labour. The talk the talk, announce a plan to walk the walk, and then backtrack. Images of Michael Jackson's Moonwalk come to mind.

Posted by Icehawk : 5/15/2006 10:40:00 AM

Icehawk: I agree, Labour's climate change policies have been hamstrung by a lack of political will and a complete disaster with forestry policy (not helped by their relying on forest sinks to meet our target, and taking no steps to promote them - though I should note that that's been a cornerstone of policy since 1995). And OTOH, at least Labour will talk the talk; National won't even do that.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/15/2006 11:01:00 AM