The ‘Goldilocks’ formula has been used by the Electoral Commission to come up with its controversial proposals to change MMP. This is the age-old process by which politicians and authorities decide on compromise policies on the basis of them being ‘not too hot and not too cold’ – i.e. something between the extremes of opinion on any one issue. This is how the Electoral Commission has come up with its recommendation to abolish the so-called ‘one seat rule’ that helps small parties get proportional representation in Parliament, and reduce the 5% threshold slightly to 4%. This Goldilocks method is both explained and approved of today by John Armstrong (National faces tough decision on closing door to cosy deals) and Andrew Geddis (Should the government dissolve the people, and appoint another one?) The danger, however, of trying to please everybody by choosing a middling and mild approach is that you end up satisfying very few, and you make poor choices.
Today it is clear that there is a lot of disagreement about the Electoral Commission’s ideas. Certainly the smaller parties in Parliament are far from happy about the Commission’s proposal to reduce their representation via the abolition of the one-seat rule – see Kate Shuttleworth’s Commission paper ‘woeful’ – John Banks. Banks has not just criticised the removal of the rule, but also predicted that National will not back the recommendation – see Radio NZ’s National won’t back MMP change, says Banks. As Robert Winter blogs in What National must think of Mr Banks… , he may not be doing himself any favours by arguing ‘that National will not accept the proposals because it elected him (thus pre-empting the National decision-making process, and basically challenging National to disagree with Mr Banks – and put the final nail in ACT’s coffin)’.
The New Zealand First leader is in classic form, insisting that his party can’t be accused of acting in self-interest because they are arguing for the same 5% threshold that saw the party ejected from Parliament in 2008. Although there is a risk that it could happen again, in contrast the potential for a high threshold to make NZ First the sole kingmaker will be very attractive. This is especially so for an aging leader who will want to go out in style (in a BMW limousine) as the centre of attention, not the third wheel behind the Greens or the Conservatives.