Friday, 9 April 2010

A suggestion for Labour and/or Phil Twyford

There has been much angsting online about Mr Phil Twyford, List MP for Labour, not being selected for a safe Auckland region electorate seat. He was considered a shoe-in for Mt Albert's by-election nomination until all that palaver about Judith Tizard coming in if he won, and then it was assumed he'd go for Auckland Central but Jacinda Ardern has, and finally a few weekends back he, and two other nominees, were beaten in a hotly contested selection for the candidacy in Waitakere. Twyford's work opposing the Auckland Super City has been pretty good, and he seems to be quite respected, with the exception of what is perceived as a failure in the area of getting himself an electorate spot to be comfy in.

Contrary to opinion in some parts of the blogosphere I don't think Mr Twyford missed out on Waitakere because he has a penis and not a vagina. But this post isn't about that.

I think Labour are missing a real opportunity here. One that not only could big up Phil T but could also strengthen them in the Auckland region, and show an understanding of MMP politics as it moves into (hopefully) its next phase.

There is an imho unhealthy obsession with the concept that only Electorate MPs are Real MPs (TM). It's rubbish. One of the most powerful ministers in Cabinet is a List MP (Steven Joyce), and for goodness sake for most of the time he was Minister of Finance in the last Government Michael Cullen was re-elected on the list, not in an electorate. Let go of the Electorate Supremacy, Phil.

So keep Phil a List MP. Embrace his flexibility as a List MP. Make him a List MP with a coordination role across the group of Auckland-based MPs, both list and electorate, with a particular brief to lead the attack on the Super City issue. Without being tied to a local constituency Twyford could range across the entire region, build relationships for Labour with a cross-section of Auckland-based community groups, find common ground between communities with potentially conflicting interests, and generally be all over Auckland for his party.

Not only would it be an exciting role, and an effective way to coordinate a large group of MPs and their activities around the Super City, it'd also be good practice for building coalitions around issues for when Labour is back at the heart of Government again.


gingercrush said...

Nice idea in theory. I think he should go for Northcote personally. A seat that when the tide changes will go to Labour.

Also it would appear to be that Twyford doesn't have a lot of clout within the party as Trotter also seems to be pointing to. If that's the case. Then him going for an electorate he likely sees as securing himself a seat for the long-term.

Anyway, Goff needs to do some minister shifting and start getting the likes of Twyford, Robertson and others on the front bench.

Hugh said...

Great idea Julie. I think this proposal would potentially do a lot to expand the role of list MPs. The only potential downside is that some of the Auckland electorate MPs might resent being seen as having Twyford put in a supervisory role, but if he can't manage that sort of sitution, he probably won't be a very good MP anyway.

Unfortunately, while it's hard to put one's finger on exactly why electorate MPs are seen as having so much more legitimacy even within political parties, it's a pretty indisputable fact and seems unlikely to change any time soon.

Azlemed said...

some of the percieved legitmacy of being a electorate mp has to do with the remnants of the old system, but also to do with it being seen as a safer option, unless you are high up the list it can be a precarious place to sit.

I like the concept and its sad that there is a hierachy on list vs electorate seats.

Julie said...

Thanks for the feedback - to clarify I didn't necessarily see Twyford in a "supervisory" role, more in a leadership role, which he is partly already doing anyway so shouldn't ruffle too many feathers I would hope.

I grew up in the predecessors of the Northcote electorate, and still have family living there. Yes it is a tidal electorate, and Twyford does have ties to the Shore (although I think the Bays rather than west of the motorway?) But again he may run into troubles with selection. And again, we are saying that electorate MPs are more real than list MPs, when that's something we need to grow out of imho.