Parliament has voted down a bid to close the loophole that allows MPs to enter Parliament on the coat tail of someone who wins an electorate seat.
A bill promoted by Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway would have implemented the recommendations of the Electoral Commission following a review which called for the removal of the single electoral seat threshold and a corresponding reduction in the party vote threshold from 5 per cent to 4 per cent. Lowering the party vote threshold would make it easier for smaller parties to win seats in Parliament because they would only need to win 4 per cent of the vote, not 5 per cent, the current threshold.
Ironically if this had been implemented at the last election, as Labour wanted, Colin Craig would almost certainly be an MP and hold the balance of power. The Conservatives got 3.97% and it is inevitable they would have got 4% if voters had seen them so close to the threshold.
The coat tailing rule is seen as unfair because it means parties that win only a small number of votes can still get a number of MPs in Parliament so long as they win an electorate seat. It also can allow larger parties to do deals that would help smaller parties into Parliament, which happened with ACT and National in the Epsom seat in Auckland. In 2008 ACT won just 3.6 per cent of the vote after then-leader Rodney Hide won Epsom, in contrast with NZ First which got voted out of Parliament with 4.1 per cent of the vote.
I think the coat tailing rule should go, on balance, but point out that in 2011 there were no “coat tail” MPs and in 2014 there is only one.
But ACT leader David Seymour said the Opposition were “so wrong on every count” about the coat-tailing rule.
He said the only benefiting from the coat tailing rule in the current Parliament was the Maori Party, which got an extra MP thanks to Te Ururoa Flavell winning the Wairiki seat.
Other parties had benefited in other Parliaments including the Greens, NZ First and the Alliance.
“If you take the entire history of MMP, for a period the coat tailing rule benefited the Left and then it benefited the Right. There is no more to it than that; there is no more sincere motivation than that it has politically disadvantaged [Labour] recently. I’ll be opposing this bill because there is no sound principle, only self-interest.”
Labour, the Greens and NZ First voted for the bill, but National, United Future, the Maori Party and ACT voted against.
Seymour has that dead to rights.