Thursday, July 16, 2020

It (mostly) doesn't matter who wins an electorate

There's an election coming up, so naturally over on The Standard there's the usual post demanding $GreenCandidate stand aside in $Electorate to boost the chances of $LabourPartyCandiate. This time you can fill in the variables as "Chlöe Swarbrick", "Auckland Central", and "Helen White", but you see the same thing from the Labour Party every election. In every case, the idea is that if they don't, $NationalCandidate (TBA, in this case) might win. And in almost every case, its complete bullshit.

To point out the obvious: New Zealand has had MMP since 1996. And in MMP, it is the party vote that matters, not who wins electorates. Outside edge cases where a victory by particular candidate would ensure the place of a party in Parliament (like Epsom, or, say, Auckland Central if the Greens won it), it doesn't actually matter who wins a particular electorate. In most cases, its just a matter of career advancement, ego-boosting, and job security for the candidates involved. And while that obviously matters a great deal to the hacks involved, who live and die by such nonsense, it is absolutely irrelevant to the rest of us. Outside those edge-cases (which are few and far between), those advocate one candidate stand aside - and sacrifice their chances to boost the party vote - to prevent "vote splitting" are trapped in the electoral mindset of First past the Post, an electoral system which has been dead and buried for 24 years.

Auckland Central isn't an edge case for anyone other than the Greens (who will almost certainly make it over the 5% threshhold anyway). Electorate victory essentially doesn't matter there, and certainly doesn't matter more to anyone else than them. So, they should go hard, and fight to win the seat. If they do, great - it makes them that much more secure in Parliament. If not, the outcome in Auckland Central will not matter to the overall electoral outcome. And it certainly won't matter if someone wearing a blue tie beats someone wearing a red tie, except to the people concerned and their respective hacks and hangers-on.