Hide says List MPs become too powerful if they can’t be replaced

Rodney Hide writes:

Former Clerk of the House David McGee is recommending that resigning list MPs not be replaced by the next willing candidate on their party list.

He is suggesting the change to discourage MPs slipping in and out of Parliament outside of an election.

With trepidation I suggest McGee is wrong. I hesitate because McGee knows the rules and ins-and-outs of Parliament better than anyone. His experience is second to none. In the past, whenever I have thought he was wrong, he wasn’t.

But the change he is recommending is a big one that I think would have an unfortunate consequence – a consequence concerning less the rules of Parliament and more how politics actually works.

As it stands, if a list MP resigns from Parliament, the next willing candidate on the party’s list slips into Parliament. The balance of votes in Parliament is maintained.

To discourage list MPs bailing early McGee suggests a simple rule change: “Any vacancy occasioned by resignation should not be filled.”

His purpose is to “largely eliminate list resignations as they are almost always promoted by the parties themselves”. …

Now imagine if disgruntled MPs could resign and drop their party’s parliamentary vote by one. That has the potential to change a government and certainly to derail a government’s policy programme.

The result would be altogether too much power in the hands of wayward MPs. They wouldn’t have to resign but only threaten to resign to cause political chaos.

A sacked minister could bring a government down just by resigning Parliament. Party leaders would become beholden to the least loyal members of their team.

MMP would then be concentrating power into the party hierarchy and also into the hands of the maddest and baddest MPs.

McGee is the perfect gentleman. The shame of it is that our politicians are not so much.

Rodney is right that it would make the most lowly List MP very powerful as if they resigned the Government could fall.

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