Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Herald backs MMP

Over the weekend, the UK went to the polls in a referendum over its voting system, and voted overwhelmingly to retain an unfair system which lets politicians abuse and dominate them. The result has made people here think hard about our upcoming referendum on MMP, with the result that the Herald, which has previously pushed for the quick referendum process favoured by Peter Shirtcliffe and the anti-MMP clique, has come out in support of MMP:

Experience with MMP suggests voters for third parties are not interested in proportionate power, they want their vote represented in Parliament, not necessarily in the Government. Increasingly, the small parties have kept their distance from the governing party they support, preferring confidence and supply commitments to a formal coalition.

All five elections under MMP have produced government by the party that was first past the post. Proportional representation has changed less than its advocates hoped or its opponents feared. Minority governments still rule, tails have not wagged dogs, stability remains. The previous Government lasted nine years; polls suggest most voters want the present Government to have a second term.


MMP is working well and could be better with some refinements. If it fails this year, it will be given a second chance against the preferred alternative. It deserves to survive - but voters are not theorists on electoral fairness, they want the system that produces the Government they want.

I'd take issue with the first paragraphs: small-party voters are interested in proportionate power, and proportional representation gives it to them. What has changed is how that power is exercised (from formal coalition to a looser arrangement). And while that's been an unexpected feature, the end result is still what MMP's advocates wanted: a properly representative parliament, weaker government, and policies backed by real majority support rather than a clique within a subgroup within a plurality. But I don't disagree with the conclusion. MMP is clearly working. It is delivering representative, fair and stable government. Under MMP, we get the government we vote for. That can't be said of the less democratic alternatives.