A Problem with Policy
I believe there is a flaw in the New Zealand* political system with the slim range of policy that gets enacted. We end up with a dominant party in Parliament due to the major issues of the the electorate at election time and lose the input of the other parties.
On the face of it, possibly this doesn’t seem to be a bad thing. But what happens is that one or two issues cause the election of a party and/or the failure of another party’s representatives politically .
If you look at the 2014 General Election in New Zealand these both happened. The National Party won the election due to the failure of Labours leader politically and the economy being the prime concern of the electorate due to the Global Financial Crisis.
Nearly all the policies of Labour, Green, and New Zealand First were lost in a single day. Not the major policies. That was after all what New Zealand decided on. We chose Nationals economic policy over Labours. But nearly all the other policies were lost.
To show you what I mean (and I admit this isn’t the best issue as it is usually voted in a conscience vote) a survey done by Massey University in 2003 showed that 73% wanted assisted suicide legalised if it was performed by a doctor. Another in 2015 showed almost the same level of support yet because this is not a National Party policy the Prime Minister stated,“There is no chance of it being a Government bill,”.
This seems insane. On an issue that seven out of every ten people agree on the government of the day will not enact legislation? Why? Because National was not elected on the entirety of its policies. It was only elected for one or two of them.
The same point could be made using the legalisation of cannabis, or the TPPA to a lesser extent. Policies that New Zealanders want are not being enacted due to the other objectives of the government of the day.
There seems to me to be a simple solution to this. We need a party that doesn’t create its own policy but instead allows New Zealanders to vote for each parties separate policies and then is bound to back them in Parliament.
This party would only be on the “List” and would not stand in the electorates. It would in no way represent its own political views but would instead exist to enable a wider range of publicly backed policy to be entered into law.
Some Problems and Possible Solutions
What would happen if the public voted for two policies that conflicted such as increase tourism and protect the environment?
I would suggest in this case that the party should vote for both. If they are economically nonviable then it would be the job of the Finance Minister to “veto any parliamentary bill which would have a significant impact on the government’s budget plans”.
What would happen if this supposed party held the balance of power?
OK, this would be an incredible achievement for a party that doesn’t even exist yet but, I would suggest that they not enter into any agreements with any other Party (such as confidence and supply). If the election results in a hung Parliament then it will have to be held again.
If the government enacted binding referendum then wouldn’t that have the same result?
Yes, in some ways it would. However, referendum are only held a few times a year and only where the government of the day has been forced to hold them. They are also very expensive.
How would this party get any votes?
There is a position both the major parties try to hold in New Zealand. The centre. This is actually part of the problem as because everybody moves to the centre on a few major issues to get votes they appear to do so in order get enough power to enact their non central policies. The true centre of New Zealand politics isn’t just one issue though. It is a wide range of views that cut across party lines.
Isn’t making MP’s in this party just vote for other parties policy wasting input into Parliament?
In one way yes. They would have no other input into legislation except supporting what the party members had voted for. However, as up to 51% of the elections total set of policies may be rejected by the current government. This would hopefully improve the situation.
To further improve participation I would suggest that MP’s in the party should be able to stand for only one electoral cycle and should be taken from the ranks of the young in proportion with ethnicity and sex. It would be a good training ground.
*Your usage of New Zealand throughout this proposition was insulting
Possibly. It is reader dependant and I vacillated on it for a while and then decided to call it it’s European name instead of Aotearoa. Personally I don’t think of it that way. To me it is a series of landscapes and people…with a fair amount of mud at this time of year.
This is a possible suggestion and would rely on peoples support. There would need to me at least five hundred members of any such party before it could register with the Electoral Commission and that, if it ever happened, would be a long way off.
I would like to ask for your views though and start a discussion about it so if you have any input or questions please ask them
in the comments below. If you would like to support such a party, and you are registered to vote or can be, then please email and if there are enough people interested I will take it to the next stage. at the website we have set up to investigate the viability and possible effects of a policy party.
Image provided by Michal Klajban under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.