Sunday, March 6, 2016

Gerry Eckhoff: Of your own free will

The disturbing news that some candidates in Dunedin are likely to stand under the Labour Party banner at the local Government elections this year is of real concern to those who believe in true representative democracy. 

It is of little or no consequence as to the colour of the banner; whether the blue of National or red of Labour. What is of real importance however is that such candidates immediately loose their independence (real or perceived –it makes no difference) once a particular affiliation is made.

One of the greatest strengths of Local Government is –for the most part - councillor’s are  voted for  according to their personal beliefs as to what is in the best interests of the region and not because of any affiliation to any interest group.

Once a candidate accepts the protective cover of a wider grouping, there is an undoubted expectation that such candidates will bend to the will of the collective rather that maintain the independence voters expect from Local Government politicians.

The task then becomes one of being a “team player” within the collective and is a rather meagre objective. Conformity with the conventional wisdom of the day is a relatively simply task. Sometimes that conformity includes some personal difficulty of having to swallow a dead rat or two but the really hard task is to speak against the conventional wisdom and vote no.

Central Government party politics does not allow for the so called peoples representatives to decide issues for themselves. The party effectively chooses the candidate who must then follow the party line or start looking for a new job. (There is a very similar system operating in Communist China) Under our system of MMP the placing on a list decided by the party bosses ensures virtually all comply. Do we as really want to extend that system to Local Government? Where does a genuine representative democracy sit within such a system?

Traditionally within Local Government, candidates funded their own campaigns rather than seek assistance from a political party’s organizing committee. The now defunct Citizens Association in Dunedin once vetted potential candidates to determine whether of not they were of “suitable standing” to represent that grouping. Some were of course invited to stand under the Citizens banner so where did that leave their perceived independence.

The reason why the current  “Ugly American” Donald Trump is doing so well in the race for the Republican nomination is probably  that the public are tired of the political party machines of either hue dominating politics in the USA.  

The fragile shards of a true representative democracy continually groan and crack under the strain of elected representatives not fully understanding their only allegiance must be to up hold a truly democratic process for and on behalf of the people.

1 comment:

Wellington Haiku said...

I do see the point you are making, but at the same time I have found it difficult to know who to vote for in local elections precisely because candidates don't give a party affiliation. They all say that they are in favour of motherhood and apple pie and that they are determined to do their best to eliminate waste, deliver value for money and to make (local area) a better place to live, leaving it impossible to differentiate them or to know how they are likely to vote on controversial issues. Party affiliation provides a useful shorthand to assess that