Thursday, September 25, 2008

The King and Queen have decreed...

I just saw on the news that Helen Clark and John Key have teamed up to decline appearing with other party leaders in the traditional Leaders Debates on TVNZ and TV3. They have agreed to only appear in head-to-head debates, with the logic that they are the only two possible people who will be our Prime Minister after the election. I'm not one to swear, but I am seriously fucking pissed off by this arrogant decision. Despite the way the major parties and the increasingly personality-driven media try to frame it, our election is not a presidential race. Nobody will be voting for Clark or Key except the people who choose to do so in their respective electorates. It's certainly not at all likely, but any other party could potentially get enough of the party vote to score their leader the top job.

In MMP it's the party vote that determines the composition of Parliament. At the Leaders Debates, said leaders are there as representatives of their party, to convince you to give your vote to their team (and not them personally). All the parties should be prepared to discuss all the issues, not just those prioritised by the major parties - who, after all, fit increasingly closer together on the political spectrum. Each party should get an equal shot; not a showcase for the big boys and a sideshow for everyone else (this is of course problematic, as we won't see the Kiwi Party, ALCP, Democrats for Social Credit, etc, lining up alongside either way; and TV3 had to be forced to allow the Progressives and United Future into the debate in 2005).

We already know National would like to trample all over MMP, but they haven't had their referendum yet. Labour's complicity is even more aggravating, given their supposedly egalitarian values and also their reliance on the support of valuable minor party partners, particularly during their last term.

The perception that the choice is simply between Labour and National - apparent in the rhetoric of politicians, framing in the media, and polls consistently showing the minor parties currently in Parliament struggling to break the magic five percent threshold - is frustrating. Given the circles I tend to run in, many people seem to believe that a vote for anyone but Labour is essentially a vote for National. But there are other parties they can vote for that are essentially a vote for a Labour-led coalition; and there are equivalent parties for National.

I gather that support for minor parties tends to increase as we approach an election, but arrogant moves like this jawdropper from Labour and National certainly don't help us shake the FPP mentality.

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