Green electorate candidates did not cost Labour in 2011

Here’s another old chestnut I’m really bored of hearing:  that the Green Party is somehow obliged to stop standing candidates in seats which Labour wants to win (i.e., presumably, all of them).

Stuart Nash rolled this one out two weeks ago – and don’t worry, Stuart, I’m just going to quote you again:

There is no doubt that an effective candidate improves the party vote: it’s the reason why the Green’s refuse to stand candidates aside in general seats, when to do so could well mean that Labour wins the seat; because they know that without a candidate their party vote drops.

Nash wants to act like this is just a terrible bit of self-serving puffery on the part of the Greens, who are denying Labour its god-given right to keep ignoring how MMP works and win all the seats.  And I say “act”, because Nash is a former MP and former senior adviser to the Leader of the Labour Party, so I think it’s quite fair to expect him to understand our electoral spending laws:

206C Maximum amount of party’s total election expenses

(1) If a party is listed in the part of the ballot paper that relates to the party vote, the total election expenses of that party in respect of any regulated period must not exceed—

(a) $1,091,000 (or such other amount as is prescribed by the Governor-General by Order in Council under section 266A); and

(b) $25,700 (or such other amount as is prescribed by the Governor-General by Order in Council under section 266A) for each electoral district contested by a candidate for the party.

My admittedly-not-legally-qualified reading of that is that parties get to spend an extra $25k for each electorate candidate they stand.  Any list-only candidates have to come out of the first million.

So of course the Greens are going to run candidates in a number of electorates where they know they don’t have a chance of winning – it affects the amount they’re allowed to spend campaigning.  And of course it raises their profile and of course it helps build activist networks and gives candidates valuable campaigning experience.  And sometimes people are going to vote for the Green candidate and not the Labour one.

This is an MMP world.  Labour candidates should win electorates if the electorate wants them to be their representative.  Not because Labour thinks it’s owed a guaranteed number of seats (and terms in government.)

Yes, this does create some annoyances for the left in odd electorates like Ohariu.  But we cannot treat voters like they’re too stupid to understand what their electorate vote means.  People in Ohariu who in 2011 voted for Gareth Hughes – or Peter Dunne – instead of Charles Chauvel had their reasons.  They may not be reasons I like, or reasons you like, and certainly whatever they are they’re not reasons Stuart Nash likes, but … that’s the lumps of democracy for you.

Labour can do better.  But it won’t start if it, its leadership, or the people its leadership listen to, persist in stomping their feet and laying the blame everywhere but at their own door.