In one of the Asterix the Gaul cartoon stories, by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, we are told the story of how the Romans defeated the British. Julius Caesar invaded Britain and succeeded in his conquest, mainly because the British soldiers under Cassivelaunos stopped fighting every day to drink hot water (with a drop of milk) and they refused to fight over the weekend. Caesar, using his military genius, decided only to fight when they stopped to drink hot water and at weekends.
Under the current MMP system, parties which win electoral seats can gain extra seats according to the number of party votes they also get. This means, for example in the past, by allowing ACT to win a seat uncontested at Epsom the National party has benefitted from more seats than “the right” would have won by National winning the Epsom seat.
Labour has announced that, should/when it forms the next Government it will abolish the coat-tails provision. It has also announced that it will not use the provisions to benefit itself by allowing Hone Harawira to win the Te Tai Tokerau seat uncontested by them in this election. In fact, the ABC (anyone but Cunliffe) faction of the party appear to be doing everything possible to attack Mana and the Internet Party.
Holier than thou
The current system allows for coat-tails. It is quite reasonable to promise to abolish the provision when you get into power, but to fight the election as if the provision has already been removed is foolhardy. It is behaving like the British in the Asterix story.
The Labour party should do all that it can do, within the current rules, to win this election. For the sake of a quarter of our population who are directly suffering the consequences of inequality (and poverty) and the other three quarters who are suffering the indirect consequences, we need all the parties of the left to obtain the maximum number of seats they possibly can. To do so, a deal is needed in Te Tai Tokerau.
The Labour party also needs to confirm now that, when in power, it will reduce the threshold from 5% as recommended in the select committee, so that they are not seen to “pick and choose” the reforms that are needed.
There is a chance that by allowing Mana and the Internet Party to win seats, instead of potentially creating a pool of 4%+ of wasted votes, Labour may have a more complicated negotiation process. It is also likely that such a Government would be more left leaning than one that was missing them.
Neither of these scenarios fills me with foreboding. We need a genuinely Social Democratic Government, rather than the previous National-Lite Governments we have seen in the last twenty years, to redress the equality balance.
The idea of another 3 years of a National Government propped up by a combination of the extreme right, fills me with fear for the damage it will do for the majority of working and non-working poor in New Zealand.
- Nick W