The Act Party's problems are likely to turn people off MMP, Prime Minister John Key says.
There will be a referendum on MMP at the same time as the next election, when voters will be asked whether they want to change to another electoral system.He may be right. But what is behind his statement? Is this a throwaway observation, or does Key now feel National cannot work productively with small parties, and thus prefers to get rid of MMP altogether?
Mr Key was asked at his post-cabinet press conference today whether he thought "the Act debacle" would affect voter attitudes.
"I think it will increase the likelihood that people will vote MMP out," he said.
"I'm wondering whether the public might say 'look, very small parties are consuming quite a lot of time' and maybe they will take the view that MMP fundamentally isn't working so well."
But what difference would it have made if the last election had been a first past the post one? All of the parties the Nats currently work with, barring ACT, would have survived. You could argue that under a FPP election Hide would not have won Epsom, because arguably Hide only got in because of National supporters voting tactically. So it's likely that ACT would not have any parliamentary presence.
So is this all about ACT? If so, Key could simply not work with ACT any more. He seems to be able to get the Maori Party (minus Harawira) to swallow everything he serves up, and Peter Dunne can be relied on not to cause difficulties for anyone in government.
The very fact that MMP is making Key's life uncomfortable is a good reason to keep it. MPP requires consensus and co-operation between political parties. That's not a bad thing. Small parties may be a nuisance and a distraction, but we introduced MMP for a reason. They keep the bigger parties on their toes.