The pros and cons of doing deals
This year’s election landscape will soon become clear, as the full array of the electorate deals being done under MMP are unveiled.
So far, there has been a striking difference between National’s apparent willingness to pursue such deals, and Labour’s refusal to entertain them. Some will applaud Labour for its stance. Others will lament a potentially self-defeating reluctance to exploit the wrinkles within our current electoral system.
The main mechanism for MMP deals is the ‘‘electorate coat-tails’’ provision, whereby a party that wins an electorate seat can bring other MPs into Parliament, in line with the ratio of party votes it receives nationwide.
In Ohariu, one incentive for National to do a deal with Peter Dunne is that Dunne’s United Future Party polls so poorly nationwide that Ohariu could become an ‘‘ overhang’’ seat that would increase the size of Parliament, as well as the centre-right’s net tally of seats.
(Similarly in 2011, the Maori Party won three electorate seats and created an overhang, since its party vote share earned it only two seats.) In Epsom, the Act Party candidate David Seymour can realistically hope to bring in another Act MP on his coat-tails. In both cases, National has an obvious incentive to deal.
As for the Conservative Party...if National hands an electorate over to party leader Colin Craig, several other Conservative MPs will enter Parliament on Craig’s coat-tails. A sizeable bloc of socially conservative MPs would seem very likely to influence the social agenda of National’s third term, via their coalition agreement with National, post election.
For that reason alone, the Conservatives’ party list is looming as a matter of considerable public interest.
Currently though, National is struggling to find an electorate MP willing to step aside for Craig. Rodney MP Mark Mitchell and likely Upper Harbour candidate Paula Bennett are refusing to sacrifice their electorate ambitions, leaving East Coast Bays MP Murray McCully as the likely, reluctant ‘‘volunteer’’ for Craig.
Of course, given Craig’s wacko public persona, National may simply be engaging in a pantomime of reluctance, and trying to look as if it is being dragged to the altar.
The public strongly dislike MMP deals. The 2012 MMP review sought to scrap the coattails provision, and lower the MMP vote threshold to 4 per cent. Out of naked self-interest, the National Government chose to ignore those findings.
Meanwhile, Labour has sought to tap into the public mood by refusing to do MMP deals with anyone. It rejected a Greens offer to campaign as a joint centre-left bloc.
Moreover, Labour also rejected doing any deal with Internet Mana to ensure the return of Mana Party leader Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau, despite the centre-left candidates he could bring in on his coat-tails.
As blogger Danyl McLauchlan has indicated, Labour has a greater incentive to do a quiet deal elsewhere.
If Mana candidate Annette Sykes wins in Waiariki for example, that would topple the Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell, and Harawira would then almost certainly come in off the party list.
Ironically, that scenario would leave Kim Dotcom with no Internet Party MPs whatsoever, despite his donated millions.
Labour is virtuously claiming to be uninterested in any such deals. For now, the field remains wide open for National to exploit MMP to its own advantage.