Friday, April 05, 2019

Why we need fixed election dates

Writing in the Herald, Matthew Hooton argues that Jacinda Ardern should call an early election. Not for any reason, of course - but simply because she would probably win it:

Were an election held tomorrow, Jacinda Ardern would win in a landslide.

The sense of national unity and pride following Ardern's empathetic and decisive response to the Christchurch terrorist attack means she could be confident of securing a strong Labour-only Government in a two-party Parliament, with a demoralised National Opposition finally forced to confront its emptiness after a decade of John Key's hokey-dokey-ism.

Pretty obviously, this is a shit reason to call an election, and one which violates our constitutional norms (not that Hooton has ever cared about them). Yes, its "within the rules" (as the politicians love to say), but its also pissing on them - and on us.

I do not for a moment think that Ardern would take Hooton's unsolicited, unconstitutional advice. But it highlights a flaw in our democratic system that we need to plug, to prevent it being exploited by unscrupulous politicians. As for how to do that, the answer is simple: legislatively fix election dates, and require Parliament to assent (perhaps by a supermajority) to any attempt to call an election outside of the normal cycle. That would free us from the self-interested whims of politicians, and ensure that they obey the public expectation of playing the hand they're dealt and trying to make it work, rather than bothering us all the time because they are too lazy or unscrupulous to fulfil the commitments they've made to us by standing for election.