Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Conscience voting

I've been reading various discussion on Left & Lefter and elsewhere regarding the right of electorate (as opposed to list) MPs to take a stance on "conscience" issues that differs from generally accepted party policy.

Some have argued that an electorate MP gets elected (to some extent) as a result of their own personal policy stance, rather than that of their party, and that gives them a right to vote independently.

I thought it might be useful to look up (on www-ref.electionresults.org.nz) how the election panned out last time for each of the 6 MPs who opposed the Civil Union Bill:

All votes in thousands

MPMajorityVotes castPersonal vote - party vote
Cosgrove11 (31%)34+3.2
Duynhoven15 (49%)30+8.3
Field15 (61%)25+0.4
O'Connor8 (25%)30+6.0
Robertson11 (39%)27+1.3
Tamihere9 (58%)16+1.4

All these MPs have substantial majorities, and it can be assumed that they will be re-elected (except for John Tamihere, who faces opposition from the Maori Party next election). They all get more votes than their party (I assume this is the case for every electorate MP?).

However, it is fairly certain that any Labour candidate would hold the seats above in most circumstances (again excepting Tamihere).

Thus, I don't see the argument that these MPs are in the house because of a personal following as holding much water.


Asher said...

You slightly missed the arguments being made as to why electorate MP's should be allowed greater freedom in conscience votes.

It was not because they were elected for their personal beliefs, as I agree with you, generally speaking, they werent. The only electorate MP's elected for personal reasons are high profile ones such as Jim Anderton or Winston Peters.

The reasoning given was because as electorate MP's, they have a responsibility (to some extent) to reflect the wishes of their constituents.

While I can understand that reasoning, I don't neccessarily agree with it. I favour the abolishment of the conscience voting system.

Rich said...

I don't really buy that - an MP is traditionally a representative, not a delegate. If they were elected as a Labour MP, then you'd expect them to follow Labour party policy.

I'm sure there are quite a lot of voters who disagree with 90% of the Labour party's ideals, but still vote Labour because they consider that a National government might cost them their jobs.