James Griffin 's Opinion

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: The initial stages of the election

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James Griffin. Photo / Dean Purcell
James Griffin. Photo / Dean Purcell

Meanwhile, back here in the real world, life goes on. We've all had a nice rugby-related holiday, now it is time to get on with business. And one of the matters we must be getting on with is the matter of government. And, specifically, we must be getting on with the matter of getting our heads round how we want to be governed.

One of the few fun aspects of the forthcoming election is that we also get to have a referendum. Even better, we get to have a referendum to choose whether we get to have another referendum. Genius. First we have to decide if we like MMP as our voting initials of choice. Then we have to decide which of four other sets of initials (FPP, PV, STV or SM) we'd prefer if we decided to hate MMP. What fun.

But what I want to know is why the Electoral Commission chose those four sets of initials for us to choose from when I'm sure, with just a smidgeon of lateral thinking, there are heaps of cool electoral systems, just a letter or two (or even no letters at all) away.

FPP stands for First Past the Post, but what about OPP? As well as being a song by the rap group Naughty by Nature, OPP is also a form of government we should really consider. Old Person Parliament is where 120 grumpy old people who think they know everything because they're old are selected (via some kind of Codger Idol television programme, perhaps?) and then shipped off to Parliament where they live together retirement village-style. While they're there they argue about what is wrong with the world these days and pass laws between naps to make everything like it was back in the "old days". Sure, nothing will ever get done, but in many ways that may not be a bad thing.

STV stands for Single Transferable Vote. What this means is not important compared to the fact that another form of STV is the Single Tyrannical Vote, which is where you vote once and the winner stays in power until they are killed in a bloody uprising and their corpse is defiled in the street. John Key has been known to joke that this would be his preferred option "except for how it ends" - but then John Key has been known to joke about a lot of things.

PV stands for Preferential Voting and is where you have to rank the candidates in order of preference. Is this seriously a form of government? The Electoral Commission knows that these are politicians we're meant to rank, not "who is your favourite All Black?" Most of us looking at a list of politicians would struggle to come up with a preferred list of one.

Surely a more honest form of PV would be LPV (Least Preferred Voting - or Least Preferred Villain if that feels more apt), in which we get to rank candidates in order of how much they suck. Then, when the votes are counted, the candidate who gets the lowest number of "you suck" votes would get to be declared the winner, probably not so much to rousing applause as to a more traditionally Kiwi chorus of "aww, yeah, I s'pose they'll do". With LPV it would be certain that New Zealand would get the government it deserves.

SM stands for Supplementary Member. There are those who might argue that most members of any given parliament are supplementary, but we won't go there. We also won't go down the easy route of slipping an "&" between the "S" and the "M", to describe a parliament where the whips have actual whips and the speaker's chair is used for unspeakable things. That may very well be how parliament actually functions, but it is not something the nation needs to consider - even during a referendum.

SM, if we really wanted it to, could also stand for Simulated Member, which is an electoral system where we create virtual MPs who embody all our hopes and dreams and then work together in peace and harmony, towards achieving those hopes and dreams in a virtual parliament we can all carry round with us in our phones. Instead of passing laws this parliament of simulated members would send out texts and Tweets and blogs telling us what they're up to, while we just carry on doing real stuff. The main problem with SM as a system of government is that it is so good that the politicians will never allow it.

Of course the alternative to all these forms of government is to simply elect Richie, Sir Ted and the rest of the boys, as they know how to get the job done.

- NZ Herald

James Griffin

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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