Let ti be noted that Phil U was right when he blogged in January that there was a plan to put Russel Norman into Parliament before the election by having Nandor fall on his sword. I linked to his story and it then became a major news story – sadly with no crediting Phil as the original author.
There would be significant advantages to the Greens to having Russel, who was only No 10 last time, be in Parliament this year so he could campaign around the country funded by the taxpayer, as other MPs are.
For this to happen, they needed three things. Nandor to agree to resign. Catherine Delahunty to agree to refuse to be an MP, and for Mike Ward to refuse to be an MP.
Mike has refused, as he should. Incidentially Ward was ranked dismally low by the party hierarchy in their initial list ranking for 2008 and massively promoted by rank and file members. But his 2008 list ranking is not important – his 2005 one is.
There were two things which the Greens were trying to do, which sit badly with me. I’ll take them one by one.
1 – MPs resigning before the election
Labour is more guilty than the Greens here, but the idea of a party list is not to shuffle MPs off half way through a parliamentary term at whim. MPs are elected by the NZ public to serve three years and in all but exceptional cases they should. Steve Maharey becoming a VC is a worthy exception (yes I know he was not List but same principle). And Bolger becoming Ambassador is another. And few would fault a Party Leader from departing the scene once they are no longer leader. But these are rare exceptional circumstances.
Generally the public have the right to expect that the MPs they elect by voting for a Party and that party’s list, are going to represent the public throughout the term of Parliament. No wonder there is resentment against MMP when List MPs are treated purely as creatures of the party.
Labour since the election has dispatched Jim Sutton (No 11 on list, No 4 on effective list), Di Yates, Ann Hartley, and Georgina Beyer.
2 – Changing the order of the list post-election
Pressuring candidates to stand aside for someone more lowly ranked to become an MP is also anti-democratic and flys in the face of the public making an informed choice by voting for a party with an expectation of who will be MPs.
The Green Party members ranked Mike Ward No 8 and Russel Norman No 10 last election. People voted for the Green Party on the basis. Yes I know very few voters would now the exact details of the list, but that is not a reason to ignore its importance. If you argue who is on the list does not matter, then why not allow parties to have blank lists and let them appoint who they want at any time to be an MP for them.
For that is what the Greens, and to a degree Labour, have tried to do. Have the party rather than the public determine who becomes an MP.