Judith Collins has been fighting back. Last week she was under attack from all quarters over her decision not to implement the recommendations of the MMP Review. Now she’s taken to Twitter (@JudithCollinsMP) and is shooting with both barrels at anyone and everyone, often with wit and verve – see Lloyd Burr’s Collins goes on tweeting spree. Collins’ sudden twittering prompted initial questions about the authenticity of her tweets, which led Danyl McLauchlan (@danlymc) to initiate the Voight-Kampff test of the day. This is also covered by Toby Manhire in Judith Collins fails replicant test [watch the original test in this Bladerunner snippet - CK].
The criticisms of Collins over the abandonment of the MMP Review recommendations have certainly been severe, most suggesting that democracy is being disregarded. Law professor Andrew Geddes has complained about the process in his blogpost, Stop wasting our time
, John Armstrong says it reflects that Naked self-interest rules
, political scientist Janine Hayward bemoans that it is Politicians' duty to implement people's will
, and Patrick Gower says the decision means that National's dirty MMP deals are back
. The newspapers have also given a furious response – see the Herald’s Collins fails electoral review test
, the Dominion Post’s Facile justification just doesn't wash
, and the ODT’s A cynical electoral move
. For a more lighthearted, but equally critical satirical response, see Scott Yorke’s A day in the life of Judith Collins
. (Collins herself has advertised the mocking post to her Twitter followers, saying ‘This is very funny Scott. Think it's your best yet’).
But does Judith Collins really deserve the contempt and outrage of her critics? After all, she hasn’t broken any agreements, nor is she really acting any differently to any other politician. As Graeme Edgeler points out, nearly every party involved in wanting the recommendations implemented or rejected seem to be acting out of self-interest – see his blogpost, On Consensus
which is one of the best discussions of the issue.
He outlines some major inconsistencies with National’s ‘consensus’ approach to electoral law reform but, despite this, also says that ‘I do not think that the Electoral Commission having made these recommendations means that National should support them’. He also points out that the ‘recommendations of the MMP Review would have the effect of decreasing diversity in Parliament, and increasing disproportionality’. In fact, the MMP Review’s recommendations were extremely conservative and arguably anti-democratic – especially the recommendation that the threshold be retained (albeit at a slightly lower level).
Although many of Judith Collins’ critics think she should be implementing the Electoral Commission’s proposals without obtaining consensus, that would perhaps be even more outrageous. For example, the Constitutional Review Group is currently considering all sorts of controversial ideas about how our political system should be run, and no one is expecting that the eventual recommendations ought to be binding on the Government. Just because appointed experts recommend something, doesn’t automatically translate to a Government being required to accept and implement those recommendations. This should be even more so with electoral law.
Perhaps the problem was not so much Judith Collins not implementing the recommendations, but rather Simon Power’s process in which he set up a review without indicating what would happen to any recommendations. Indeed if the review process had been set up to be binding – in the way that critics seem to be (incorrectly) suggesting it was – then there would have been a very different approach taken to the whole review. Certainly the public would have applied much more scrutiny to the whole Electoral Commission process, which was hardly robust enough to deliver binding recommendations.
And ultimately if changes are going to be made to electoral laws, then there’s a good argument that the public should decide, not governments or political parties – see Vernon Small’s MMP proposals need referendum
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