8 August 2014
There has been a lot of commentary in recent weeks about so-called electorate deals – where one party gives a nod and a wink to its supporters to caste an electorate vote for another party’s candidate to boost its chances of being able to form a post-election governing arrangement.
A couple of things need to be remembered about these situations. First and most important, they are merely indications of a party’s preference, in the same way that a newspaper editorial might indicate support for a party or candidate, or a lobby group might encourage its supporters to vote a particular way. They are all just indications – part of the rich tapestry of information voters are entitled to have when shaping their voting decision – and therefore do not in any way compromise the integrity of the electoral process. The voter, in the secrecy of the polling booth, still has the ultimate, utterly secret say. As it should be.
The second point is that most people – apart from perhaps the most die-hard of supporters – want to caste an informed vote, and, if possible, their vote to count. A common question at every election discussion relates to possible post-election combinations, and which parties can and will be able to work with each other. And it is only logical that parties and their supporters will seek to maximise their opportunities in such circumstances. Voters have a right to know likely combinations and how they can be achieved before they go to vote. To suggest otherwise is to suggest elections should be some sort of lottery, a national entertainment game of blind man’s buff, or pinning the tail on the donkey.
Having said all of that, I am surprised at one election deal that has not been done, and which seems unlikely to be done. That is the particular case of the Te Tai Tokerau electorate. For differing reasons it is surely in the interests of both the Labour Party and the Māori Party to be rid of Mana and Hone Harawira. Yet the inability of both to work together to achieve this by doing their best to ensure Labour’s Kelvin Davis is elected is both extraordinary and dumbfounding.
To some extent, Labour has been hoist by its own hypocritical petard of professed opposition to such deals – because they do not benefit from them in the main – but the Māori Party’s opposition is much more difficult to understand. It is unlikely to win the seat in its own right, and the Mana Party is already proving to be a long-term threat. The incentives for bringing about Mana’s defeat in Te Tai Tokerau (and therefore its likely removal altogether from Parliament) must surely be overwhelming. But its apparent failure to want to take this opportunity to deal with that, is at best extremely puzzling and potentially self-destructive.
After all, as Disraeli famously once said, “A successful politician learns early on that when he sees a back, he must either slap it or stab it – his mistake is to ignore it.”