Bob Jones: Lunatic party fringe enlivens MMP election

Here's what's historically unique about this election. For the first time ever, there's no interest in individual candidates and likely close electorate contests. It's taken four MMP elections to shed the habits of the past. In the pre-MMP era, winning government could sometimes turn on half a dozen closely contested seats - but no longer, which is a pity as it's removed much of the interest from elections.

The only exceptions are in seats where, inexplicably, often high-profile candidates have opted not to go on the list. John Tamihere is a case in point. His Maori Party rival Pita Sharples will almost certainly enter Parliament on the party vote even should he lose to Tamihere.

If Tamihere loses, then not being on the list, he's out. It's quite possibly his best vote-seeking argument.

MMP has removed the former ground-level slog from politics, all of which has led to a plethora of parties.

Produce 500 names, call yourself a party and you're on the ballot-paper and entitled to free television time.

All elections flush up nondescript show-off types. They exchange the humiliation of receiving only a handful of votes for a fleeting place in the public eye, before returning to well deserved obscurity.

The Australians have a term, "the donkey vote" - because even a donkey would receive some votes through voter error or ignorance.

But now, with no media focus on individual electorate contests, that lunatic fringe candidate phenomenon has been replaced by lunatic fringe parties.

I watched in amazement, the one-hour free television time party broadcasts as the last 20 minutes were given over to the nutter parties, all allocated a minute each.

God help me if Social Credit, now calling themselves The Democrats, didn't re-emerge, regurgitating old film of their glory days a quarter of a century ago. Will they ever die off decently?

Still, they provided some comic relief in the 1970s, especially their annual conferences which drew the toupee-topped Waynes and moon-faced Sharlenes from small town New Zealand, turning up in their Crimplene safari suits and Skodas to listen to the demented ravings of wild-eyed monetary reform fanatics.

Then up popped the Alliance malcontents with gloomy film footage of what they represent - namely street protests and striking workers. These Alliance misanthropes don't need votes; they need pre-frontal lobotomies, or at the very least, a damn good flogging for having such a bleak outlook on life.


Next up, a couple of scruffs took turns chanting how they would wipe out the bureaucracy, taxes et al - these being the Libertarians. No lads, you won't do that, or indeed anything with your lives, unless you toss away your Ayn Rand bibles and get on with actually living.

After that, an elderly woman seated beside a piano quaveringly urged support for her 99-seat parliament proposal. Many would agree with her but not with their vote as it would be wasted. This is no way to achieve constitutional change.

Best of all was a Fat Buggers Party, or I assume that was its intended purpose as it consisted of group shots of obese supporters and there was no coherent rationale proffered.

Still, they were happy fatties, which you certainly can't say for the miserable Alliance losers.

They're wasting their time, though, as Parekura Horomia has the fat vote wrapped up for Labour, notwithstanding National's ploy in promoting Gerry Brownlee to deputy leader.

All of this raises a common misjudgment made by single-issue enthusiasts. Whatever their cause - be it hunting, fatness or left-handedness - they pin a naive faith on fellow hunters, fatties and left-handed people to vote for them.

But they don't. If they did, Peter Dunne would long since have started a two-legged people's party and would be Prime Minister by now.

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