Farrar’s non-solution to a non-problem

David Farrar has written a blog post for Stuff suggesting that we should have a term limit (three terms / nine years specifically) for list MPs…

This would mean that you could only spend say three terms or nine years maximum in Parliament as a list MP.This would reduce the power of political parties to keep putting back into Parliament someone who is not wanted by their electorate.

The thing is, this isn’t really a big issue.

The only Labour MP who has entered a 4th term as a list MP is Moana Mackey. And given her 1st term was only partial, entering Parliament in 2003 following the resignation of Graham Kelly – I’m sure the rules would be designed to only count complete terms.

The Green’s longest serving MP, Metiria Turei is entering her 4th full term – so presumably would be dumped under David Farrar’s rule. I’m not sure this situation is what he was really thinking of.

National has also has one “offender” – long serving cabinet minister David Carter is now in his 5th term as a list MP. He did try for the nomination in Selwyn in 2008, but internal party machinations forced him to pull out.

So it looks like David Carter is the only person that David Farrar is really opposed to (unless he wants to see the Green’s co-leader dumped, which isn’t implausable). The thing is, very few list MPs last more than three terms – and given we’re now in the 6th MMP parliament, I do think we have enough history to judge this.

Farrar does also touch on the topic of long standing electorate MPs…

You could argue why not have term limits for both electorate and list MPs. I happen to think there is some merit in that. But the argument is that electorate MPs are directly elected by the people, and can be directly sacked by the people. List MPs are indirectly elected, and hence term limits are more appropriate.

There are a number of MPs on both sides of the house who have held their seats for decades, and this is hardly a new problem. David makes a good point though, the electorates could dump their MPs if they wanted to. Labour’s longest continuous serving electorate MP, Ross Robertson, elected to not stand for the list.

That said, not only can electorates dump their MPs, but parties can too, by electing not to re-select long standing electorate members (of course though, then you get into the quagmire of the electorate selection rules the various parties use…)

At the end of the day though, what we really need is a politically aware voting base – who have a good idea of who they are voting for. The media have a very important job to play in this. While I don’t always agree with the Trans Tasman’s MP rankings (2011 Rollcall) – I think it plays an important part in our democracy. More of this please!

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4 Comments on “Farrar’s non-solution to a non-problem”

  1. I think there’s a good way to solve this “problem” – make parties hold primary votes for the list ranking. Of course, I think the caucuses should decide their own rankings and leader, once they’re in, but if people voted in primaries, it would get rid of dead-wood MPs (or make them prove their worth, at least), and it would encourage democratic participation and party membership at the same time. I agree that Farrar’s comment on this matter was fairly nonsensical.

  2. This is just dog whistle for his followers to rail against List MPs. It is quite idiotic. I always thought that experience was a good think for an employee to have.

  3. David Farrar says:

    I didn’t even look up whom it would impact. This reminds me of 1993/4 when as a Young Nat I advocated a six term limit for MPs, which the Herald reported. They also reported that the only two MPs it would push out of Parliament would be Bolger and Birch :-)

    The next day the Herald even had a cartoon of two giant pine trees with Bolger and Birch’s faces on them and down the bottom a small Young Nat with a chain saw called term limits :-)

    Anyway consider my idea in the context of taking the heat out of the issue I described. There is a real disquiet still with many about List MPs. Sure you can be arrogant and ignore it and say they don’t understand MMP. But the term limit idea is something which could please a lot of people.

    Incidentally I have long advocated term limits for all MPs.

  4. Daran Ponter says:

    Agree with you comments Patrick.

    May be more applicable to local government. What about term limits for really piss-poor MPs and councillors! Would requite an adjudicator of some sort. Maybe a panel of adjudicators. Maybe a panel of ex-MP and councillor adjudicators (but not the really piss-poor ones)! And then of course it could not apply to regional councils! Ah, where will this all end!


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