McCarten’s advice to the left on how to win with fewer votes

Matt McCarten provides advice to left voters on . Much of what he says is sensible, but his advocacy of a deliberate strategy is dangerous and will destroy MMP and the Maori seats if he succeeds. His advice:

Centre-left voters

Staunch Labour voters will give their electorate and party vote to Labour. But the softer centre-left voters should give their party vote to the Greens.

Agree this is sensible. Also softer centre-left voters can vote for the best candidate in their electorate while still voting centre-left on the party vote. You don’t have to put up with a bad or lazy MP just because of their party – this is why we have MMP.

Staunch left voters

… If these left-wingers instead gave their party vote to the Greens it would give them another two MPs they wouldn’t otherwise get.

Matt is correct here. A vote for RAM, Alliance etc is wasted and helps National more than it does Labour or the left. They should vote Greens. The same goes on the right – a vote for Family Party, Kiwi Party etc is a wasted vote and they should vote for one of National, ACT or United Future.

New Zealand First supporters

It will take a miracle now for NZ First to get over the 5 per cent threshold given what’s happened to Winston Peters. Any of NZ First’s soft supporters should now probably throw their party vote to Labour.

That would be sensible. Having NZ First get 4% and wasted vote will help push National over the line. But of course not all NZ First voters are centre-left.

The only glimmer of hope for NZ First would be if all the non-National party supporters in Tauranga threw their electorate votes behind him. If he won Tauranga the party votes for NZ First would not be wasted and any list MPs he was able to drag through on his coat tails would be added to a Labour-led government. But don’t hold your breath on this.

I suggest people watch TV tonight before deciding on that strategy.

Progressive Party supporters

Their sole MP, Jim Anderton, is a reliable Labour ally. He won’t win enough votes to bring in an extra MP, so his supporters should give their party vote to Labour to help them win an extra seat that may make the difference in Clark keeping her job.

Here Matt gets dangerous. He is implicitly suggesting a deliberate overhang strategy which means he is trying to engineer a non-proportional result to allow the left to govern despite getting less party vote than the right.

Maori Party supporters

These are the crucial voters. If you are enrolled on the Maori electoral roll, it’s a no-brainer. You give your electorate vote to the Maori Party candidate so it wins all seven seats. Ironically, Clark’s only hope of being returned to power is if her Labour candidates are defeated by the Maori Party.

Even if Labour lost all their Maori seats, it has no effect on the total number of MPs that Labour gets. The total number of MPs a party gets is determined by the number of party votes they get – not the number of electorate seats they win.

If the Maori Party wins all the seven electorates it will still need 6 per cent of the party vote to get an eighth MP from its party list. That won’t happen and in those circumstances their list votes are wasted.

Therefore it’s better for the centre-left if the Maori Party gets a smaller party vote total provided it wins more electorate MPs than it would be entitled to from their party list vote. This would create a “parliamentary overhang”.

Therefore, if the Maori Party won all seven seats but only won 2 per cent of the party vote, it would have five more MPs than its list allocation. This would result in 125 MPs in a new parliament, rather than the usual 120. Clark or Key would then need 63 MPs rather than 61 to have a majority.

It is one thing to have an accidential overhang as happens from time to time. But to try and deliberately engineer an overhang is quite simply wrong. It will result in a crisis of confidence in the Government, destory MMP and provoke a nasty backlash against the Maori Seats. Matt should think about the long-term game. Here is why he supports it short-term:

If National got 48 per cent of the party vote it would get 58 MPs. Assuming its allies Act and United Future got four MPs between them, that would give the centre-right combo 62 MPs, making a majority in a 120-seat parliament.

But if there was an overhang parliament of 125, Key would be one seat short. That would mean if the Maori Party supported Labour, Clark would win a fourth term.

So Matt is saying that even if National/ACT United get 51% to 52% of the vote, a deliberate overhang strategy could allow a Government of the left to be formed.

Now under FPP sometimes a Government did get elected with fewer votes than the main Opposition party. But FPP was not a proportional system, put in place primarily to stop such a situation happening. If the public has chosen to have a non-proportional system (such as FPP or SM) then it is quite in order that there will be non-proportional results. But if the public have chosen to have a proportional voting system, then a deliberate strategy to produce a non-proportional result should be condemned.

It isn’t smart politics – it is desperate politics. Years ago people advocated National should do the same – have a rural party that contests rural electorates only and wins say 15 overhang seats, and a National Party that contest the party vote. People calculated this would give National a permament majority. And it would have. Until Labour did the same. Eventually you’d end up with both major parties splitting into list and electorate parties and a Parliament of 190 with 70 overhang seats!

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