Lindsay Perigo used to say that “New Zealanders need to get over this knee-jerk notion of changing the electoral system, and go for freedom instead.” He’s right: if we’re going to beat the bastards back – which is how to gain our freedom, right – then the important thing is not to change the way the bastards are voted in, but to make sure the bastards are properly chained up. (Which means, let’s face it, a properly written constitution.)
As “Captain Ahab” says at the CYFSWatch website, “Although MMP has brought many changes, it is clear that a new voting system cannot by itself radically alter a nation’s traditional political culture.”
That said, with John Boy’s announcement of the forthcoming two-stage referendum on MMP, it looks like we’ll still be talking voting systems for some years to come. May the gods help us!
And may the gods rescue us too from the “race to the centre” that the big parties think MMP requires, and those wastes of space that, let’s face it, MMP has delivered us. You know who I mean, those people “on the list” who are slipped in and can never ever be elected out again: the unelected and the unrepresentative; the braindead and the brazen; the Alamein Kopus and the Sue Bradfords.
Whatever its other demonstrated faults, perhaps this is MMP’s greatest flaw: that it gave power to those like Bradford who have never won office in an open contest, and never would have. (And by contrast to the Bradfords of the political world, at least the Kopus are benign.)
So despite ourselves, it looks like we’re going to be saddled once again with a debate on electoral systems in which case it’s important not be encumbered once again with a bear trap.
Which leads me to make two suggestions. First, if we’re going to change the system again, then the STV system has my money – not the sexually transmitted disease, you understand, but the Single Transferable Vote system used in Australia, though without the compulsion in Australia to vote. And as it happens, that post by “Captain Ahab” at the CYFSWatch website I linked to above explains the system well, and why it should be your preference (the simple answer being that it gives at the opportunity for those few principled politicians who do exist in New Zealand to be heard, and to be rewarded with office – which is about as much as you can really hope for in a voting system).
And the second suggestion is that if we’re going to have the debate, then it might be opportune for some young enthusiast for liberty to pick up the baton and become The Face of STV – or in other words, to “do a Rod Donald” in reverse. Do it well, and you’ve leveraged a place for yourself and your colleagues in the bear pit, you’ll have helped ensure the system introduced might be better than it would be otherwise, and you’ve probably also set yourself up to continue the debate into one on the necessary constitutional changes that will eventually need to be made here if we are to ever chain the bastards up properly.
It’s a dirty job (just like all politics) but someone has to do it. So who’s up for it?