27 September 2005

why the PR-is-evil snowclone lives on

Via Make My Vote Count

MMP: saner and safer, but don't you miss the blood?
Yes, the spectacle of the two major parties slugging it out brought to mind the old system. And yet, curiously enough, the result looks like precisely the kind of outcome MMP encourages a shifting balance of power around the notional centre, where all must take into account the position of the other, not dismiss them as irrelevant. To paraphrase another commentator, this is the opposite of Geoffrey Palmer's famous 'unbridled power'.

If First Past the Post lingers anywhere it is in the mindsets of certain journalists and politicians. Elections are still reported as though they are rugby tests, and there is an almost tangible desire for a close result to mean instability or potential chaos.

Perhaps this is due partly to the journalistic instinct for avoiding boredom. Where Helen Clark plainly revels in the Scandinavian torpor of policy negotiation and strategic alliance building, we hacks would prefer it all to descend into bitching and scratching because it makes better headlines and obviates the need for anything more than superficial analysis.

Attempts now to blame MMP for delivering a supposedly unjust outcome, as Richard Prebble has argued, can perhaps be attributed partly to the Right's lingering distaste for a system that by design precludes absolute minority rule and 'reform' by decree. As Prebble also observed, Brash fought a good First Past the Post campaign. It's just that history has moved on.

The other snowclone well past its meltdown date is the alleged considerate conservatism of Barnaby Joyce. The senator from St George seems to spend an awful lot of time waving his sword at the dragon but somehow always whips it back in the scabbard just before it's time to vote.

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