Editorial: MPs' views don't count

20:03, Nov 07 2012

Labour leader David Shearer said his party was keen to see the Government move quickly on the recommendations in the Electoral Commission's final report on our electoral system. He will be disappointed. Justice Minister Judith Collins said the Government would take time to consider the report and consult other parties for their views.

But the commission has done all the consulting that is necessary by considering submissions from the only people whose opinions matter - the voters. On the strength of those submissions, it would abolish the rule that allows MPs to bring in other MPs after winning one electorate seat. It also wants the party vote threshold to be lowered from 5 per cent to 4 per cent.

The views of politicians should not influence what happens next. Political pundit David Farrer was spot on when he said politicians would continue advocating what was in their self-interest, because "all parties believe the best electoral system is one that gets them into government".

ACT party leader (and sole MP) John Banks is an example. He is a minister in the Key Government, although ACT attracted just 1.07 per cent of the party vote at the general election last year, because of tactical voting by National supporters in the Epsom electorate. Those voters gave him enough support to win the seat, but Paul Goldsmith became a member of Parliament, too, on the National Party list.

Mr Banks wants to preserve the rules that concocted that result. Prime Minister John Key has signalled he is keen to preserve them, too, presumably because of the potential they provide to bring more ACT and UnitedFuture MPs into Parliament on the coat-tails of leaders who can win electorate seats. This increases the chances of a centre-right coalition holding on to power.

Another recommendation calls for the Electoral Commission to review the operation of the 4 per cent party vote threshold and report to the justice minister - and to Parliament - after three general elections. This has been criticised in some quarters because it invites "tinkering" with the electoral system. But occasional tinkering is preferable to persisting with faults which, if left for too long, might drive voters to demand much more drastic changes to the electoral system.