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Opportunistic Party Hopper Must Go

Opinion - by Daniel Newman, Auckland post graduate masters student.
I read the contribution of Frank Grover in the New Zealand Herald on July 6 with a significant degree of anguish and concern. Mr Grover appears to assert that his party-hopping antics are justified for a ‘higher’ cause. This linguistic manipulation leads readers of the New Zealand Herald to believe that there is something noble about Mr Grover changing political parties mid-term. However, I believe that it’s simply a case of Mr Grover being sick and tired of sitting in the Alliance Party caucus room but enjoying receiving his $80,000 Parliamentary salary.

There are some things which are patently obvious to most readers. Members of Parliament who leave one party to join, or start up, another after they are elected are abusing the outcome of the previous general election - plain and simple, indisputable fact.

Tau Henare, Ann Batten, Tukoroirangi Morgan, Jack Elder and Rana Waitai recently formed the Mauri Pacific Party, a quasi-satirical raced-based party, which holds the balance of power in the current Parliament. However, Mauri Pacific won 0.00 percent of the votes and 0.00 percent of the electorate votes at the 1996 general election. These five people were elected as New Zealand First candidates and defected mid term to try and advance their own ailing (and I suspect terminal) political careers. There is no nobility in that. Party-hopping is not justified by ancient quotations and cliches. These people are illegitimate party-hoppers and the parties that they purport to lead have no credibility.

Well over 20 Members of Parliament have swapped parties during the past five years. For most, the move has resulted in the destruction (or imminent destruction) of their Parliamentary careers. Why is that the case? It is because voters recognise that party-hopping Members of Parliament have sacrificed fundamental principles for personal gain. That alone casts significant doubt over their individual integrity.

Mr Grover is the latest party-hopper. I actually have a degree of sympathy for this gentleman. He endured 30 months as an Alliance MP. The shame of that particular title hanging like an albatross around the neck would force my resignation within 30 minutes, not 30 months. However, the resignation from a party by an MP who wishes to party-hop should be similarly matched by a resignation from Parliament. This is because the party-hopping MP is distorting the outcome of the previous general election - and that is intolerable.

Of course, the Alliance is in no position to moan and groan about Mr Grover’s party-hopping antics. After all the leader of the Alliance, Jim Anderton, was himself a party-hopper in 1989. Mr Grover is also correct when he alerts readers to the hypocrisy of the Alliance refusing his proxy vote but accepting his lavish salary tithe. But two wrongs do not make a right and the Alliance’s hypocrisy does not justify Mr Grover - or any other MP - party-hopping mid term.

National and ACT are not without fault. These parties oppose the anti-defection Bill in the name of Labour Party deputy leader the Hon. Dr. Michael Cullen. National and ACT (as well as Mauri Pacific) also supported Alamein Kopu receiving over $77,000 of tax-payer’s money to run the Parliamentary leader’s office of the Mana Wahine Party that she heads. National, ACT and Mauri Pacific actually reward party-hopping MPs like Alamein Kopu. That is also an undisputable fact.

Only Labour has any credibility regarding the issue. Labour has consistently opposed the antics of party-hopping MPs. Labour has given notice that it will pass anti-defection legislation which will force the resignation of Parliamentary party-hoppers if it wins government at the forthcoming general election. This undertaking in itself warrants a considerable degree of support and praise for the Labour Party and its various Parliamentary candidates.

Labour has not colluded with party-hopping MPs. National and ACT have embraced a colourful and peculiar collection of party-hoppers into the right-wing bosom in a forlorn attempt to cobble together a functioning pseudo-coalition government. But Labour has steered clear of such arrangements. This illustrates the integrity of Labour’s leadership which obviously has sufficient moral fortitude to not try and lunge for government at any cost.

Mr Grover is right, nobody is bound by an illegitimate pledge to a political party. But MPs should be bound by legislation which upholds the views and the collective wishes of voters at the previous general election. That is why it is essential that Labour’s anti-defection Bill is passed into law as soon as possible.

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