Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Labour's electoral review

Labour's "independent" review of the electoral system reported back today. You can read the full thing here, but most of it was basicly a rehash of the 2012 Electoral Commission review, and in response to the same questions, produced mostly the same answers: a lower threshold and removing the one-seat rule. Which gives us the same problem: a less-representative parliament. As someone who wants the most representative Parliament possible, that's not a good outcome. If people are concerned about the unfairness between small parties who win electorates and those who don't, the answer is to lower the threshold so it doesn't matter, not to punish both. But then, I guess I'm not some snobby status quo big-party voter...

The interesting answers are to the questions that weren't asked in 2012. The review has recommended lowering the voting age, and a referendum on a four-year term. The first was a foregone conclusion given the Supreme Court ruling. As for the second, its what the review was set up to recommend. But it is good to see the commitment to a referendum, given Labour's earlier idea that they could just stitch up up a deal with National to impose it by insider fiat. Hopefully the recommendation for a referendum will kill that idea, and it will certainly strengthen the argument that any change without a referendum is fundamentally illegitimate. (If there is a referendum, I will of course be voting against...)

There's also strong recommendations to crack down on political donations, including a cap on individual donations and a ban on donations from companies and other legal entities. The review has listened to the people here: we hate money in the political system, view it as a corrupt influence, and want it limited. Sadly, its the politicians, the people who want all that corrupt money, who will be making the decision.

And that's the real problem here. We saw it with the 2012 review: the self-interested politicians liked some recommendations, hated others, sought to cherry-pick them for their own advantage, but were (fortunately) deterred by voter expectations from doing so. I see no reason to think that this review will be any different. Which means that some good reforms will go undone - but so will the shit ones (and to be clear, removing the one-seat rule is shit). This afternoon, Chris Hipkins said Labour would be presenting its own ideas on the electoral system pre-election. Which makes you wonder what the point in an "independent" review was if the government is just going to ignore it and push its own solutions anyway. It just seems like another abuse of the public's good faith, and suggests that all of us who submitted to this review wasted our time, again.