Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stand up for MMP

It’s good to see John Armstrong taking a clear firm stand
on MMP. In fact, his New Zealand Herald column
is the clearest, firmest column he’s written in quite a
while. It should be required reading for anyone inclined
to dally with going back to FPP or switching to SM, which
is basically FPP-lite. Armstrong tackles all the arguments
for dumping MMP and sends them packing. He’s
particularly robust on how reverting to FPP would leave
the country exposed again to the absolute power of a
small unrestrained executive:

Losing MMP would be a giant leap backwards;
a constitutional tragedy of disempowerment
given the gaping absence of limits on Cabinet
power in a unicameral Parliament.

Couldn’t have put it better myself. By contrast, fellow
Herald columnist Fran O'Sullivan sides feebly with the
'We need governments with hair on their chests' camp
by writing: ‘Fighting the next election on an electoral
system—even first-past-the-post—which gave more
power to the major party to implement sensible policies
would do more to even the gap with Australia than
endless horsetrading.’

(To which Marty G at The Standard has retorted: ‘That
"endless horsetrading" is called democracy.’)

O'Sullivan is an astute analyst of business and politics
whose opinions I often respect, even when I disagree
with them. In this case, however, she is backing the view
that the best kind of government is the one with
unlimited power to do what it wants (aka 'implementing
sensible policies'). Governments, according to this view,
have to be able to be swift and decisive in their governing,
unimpeded by having to consult or negotiate with other
parties—otherwise they'll be outmanoeuvred by other
governments in the global marketplace. Governments
like that of China, say, that don't have to worry about
internal opposition, coalition deals, parliamentary debate
and other time-wasting stuff. In my view it's a dangerous
road to go down, and New Zealand's in danger of drifting
down it, unless more voices like Armstrong's are raised.
We're still waiting for a ringing, unequivocal commitment
to MMP from the Labour Party, for instance. Lord knows
puts little enough restraint on parties that lead
governments, but a little's a lot better than none at all.

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