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Alliance won’t accept defector’s proxy vote

The Alliance will not accept a proxy vote from Frank Grover, Alliance leader Jim Anderton said today.

Mr Grover announced last Friday that he would break his pledge to remain an Alliance MP during this parliamentary term and seek recognition in parliament on behalf of the Christian Heritage Party, which is registered with the Electoral Commission as the Christian-Heritage-Graham-Capill-Leader Party.

“The Christian-Heritage-Graham-Capill-Leader Party has no mandate to be in parliament voting for anything and the Alliance is not going to exercise parliamentary votes on behalf of it,” Jim Anderton said.

“Mr Grover hoped that if the Alliance exercised his proxy vote it would seem as though he was still voting as an Alliance MP. He insisted on unspecified conditions in exchange for his proxy, which would have meant that his promise to give his proxy to the Alliance was worth about as much as his promise to remain an Alliance MP.”

The Alliance is preparing its own draft anti-defection legislation so that MPs who leave their parties have to resign from parliament.

“It is essential to change the law to end the grotesque and unscrupulous head-hunting of MPs,” Jim Anderton said.

“It is perfectly plain that the Christian-Heritage-Graham-Capill-Leader party only wants to claim Frank Grover as an MP so that it can get its hands on extra public broadcasting funding, to which it believes it would be entitled if it had a sitting MP.

“They are no better than the money-changers in the temple, and they should be treated with the same contempt as were the money-changers.

“Only two months ago Mr Grover came to a very firm agreement with the Alliance that would enable him to continue as an Alliance MP until the next election but have increasing autonomy in both parliamentary and campaigning matters. For example, he was free to vote how he wanted on the Sale of Liquor Act, since the Alliance did not have a policy at the last election on lowering the drinking age. Mr Grover’s outlandish claim that this issue was behind his decision to leave is false.

“On 7 April 1999 Mr Grover finalised arrangements until the election which firmly stressed his intention to remain as an Alliance MP. These arrangements were made at his request and he promised personally to uphold them as a matter of honour. Yet last Friday the Christian-Heritage-Graham-Capill-Leader Party disclosed that it had been holding discussions with him for two months. So almost immediately after promising to stay, Mr Grover set out to break his word. Mr Grover is a lawyer and a former magistrate in Hong Kong so he should know something about honouring agreements.

“The day before Mr Grover’s press conference, Mr Capill came to see me in my office without giving me any indication that he was there to talk about Mr Grover. At the end of the meeting he suddenly tried to raise the issue of Frank Grover’s status. I refused to discuss an Alliance MP without that MP being there. The next day, Mr Capill and Mr Grover both tried to give the impression that they wanted to negotiate. In fact, by the time Mr Capill made an appointment to see me, Mr Grover had already contacted the Speaker and informed him of his decision to leave the Alliance.

“The Christian-Heritage-Graham-Capill-Leader party tried to buy the silence of the Alliance - they said they would make available Mr Grover’s share of Parliamentary funding if we promised not to criticise him for switching parties - something, of course, that they had no power to do.”

Jim Anderton said Frank Grover’s behaviour emphasised the need for a law to require defecting MPs to leave parliament. The Alliance is supporting a Labour Bill on the topic, but it has prepared its own legislation to deal with specific issues arising from its own experience.

“Clearly the word of an MP is no longer enough. Honour cannot be relied on. Trust can no longer be taken for granted. It must be required by law.

“Frank Grover wasn’t elected because of his personal charisma. He was elected to sit in parliament from a dedicated vote for the Alliance list and policy manifesto.

“Both Mr Grover and his new party say that it’s impossible for him to be a member of the Alliance and campaign for the money-changers-in-the-temple party. If he can no longer be an Alliance MP then he has pledged himself on his word of honour to leave parliament. He should do so immediately and then he would be perfectly free to campaign for his new party.

“What we are seeing is the result of the National Party’s deliberate manipulation of Parliamentary Service Commission rules, so that individual MPs would be targeted to betray the voters who put them into parliament in the first place. It’s a cynical perversion of democracy,” Jim Anderton said.

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