Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A sensible deal

The other big news of the day is that ACT has reportedly struck a deal with National to not run in marginal seats, effectively boosting National's chances of winning them. This is likely to produce the same outrage as National's deal with ACT in Epsom, but it shouldn't. It's a perfectly sensible arrangement if you want to eliminate certain MPs, and I'm surprised Labour and the Greens don't pursue such arrangements (e.g. in Ohariu). And unless the seat in question is the electorate lifeboat for a small party, it will not affect the outcome. Under MMP, it is the party vote that is important, and electorates are mostly irrelevant. Except in the case of a small party, where they can be crucial to obtaining representation in Parliament, all they do is shuffle the party list, by elevating some MPs ahead of others. So, in most cases, all that's at stake with such arrangements is wounded pride. That may matter to the petty egotists of our political class, but I don't see why the rest of us should care. The overall election result will be determined by the party votes cast, not these sorts of deals.

At the same time, these arrangements do have a cost. There's the obvious one of minor party loyalists feeling "betrayed" at not having an electorate candidate to waste their vote on. But more importantly, strong electorate candidates give visibility, and hence boost the party vote. And when the allocation of the last few seats can come down to a question of a few hundred votes, that could make a difference.