Monday, November 21, 2011

An idiosyncratic guide to voting for abortion law reform: Part 2 - Electorates

So yesterday I looked at the party vote at this election.  Today some thoughts on the electorate vote.

It's fairly easy to vote on principal when it comes to the electorate vote.  All you need to do is find out where your various candidates stand and then decide how you're going to vote accordingly.  Which obviously isn't that easier because many candidates are not particularly willing to tell you where they stand on abortion.  But if you can get information (and do share in the comments anything you have) voting on principal isn't complex.  If you live in Rotorua choosing between Steve Chadwick and Todd McClay is clear - McClay has only voted on abortion once and voted reactionary.  Although choosing what to do in Invercargill where Lesley Soper - known SPUCer, runs against Eric Roy would require careful inquisition of the minor candidates.

What I'm going to concentrate in this post is how to vote tactically pro-choice in this election.  For example, even if you know that Andrew Little has better politics on abortion law reform than Jonathan Young (which seems likely) - the reality is they're both probably going to be in parliament anyway.  So you can vote on a principal basis on that occasion - but it's going to have very little tactical effect.

This post is going to focus on marginal electorates where the local vote may have an impact on the make-up of parliament.  A basic assumption is that the make-up of parliament is more important than whether a paticular MP has a label as the local MP.  I know this is an assumption many in parliament don't share (see the ridiculous focus on New Plymouth or Auckland Central).  But I think the make-up of parliament is what matters when it comes to abortion law reform.   So what are the marginals seats where voting can make a difference to the make up of parliamentary support for Abortion Law Reform?

This is the simplest and most obvious - if you support abortion law reform vote Charles Chavel (I believe Katrina Shanks is also liberal for a National MP on abortion law, but she has a lesser chance of getting in).  Peter Dunne is not as bad on the issue as he once was (the rumour is that in 2002 no move on abortion law was an unwritten part of United Future and Labour's coalition deal - this is ) and amusingly right to life are mad at him.  However, he is not a reliable on the issue, and likely to vote conservatively on incrementalist legislation.  Charles Chavel is an advocate.  Getting rid of Peter Dunne would be a victory for abortion law reform - and supporters of abortion law reform can vote for Charles Chavel with a clear conscious.

I would vote for Charles Chavel and I can't bring myself to vote for the Greens because they're too right wing  (and because of Russel Norman).

The same principle applies in Epsom as John Banks is a known reactionary and Don Brash is completely incoherent on the matter.  This applies even though Paul Goldsmith's position is less clear than Charles Chavel's.

Te Tai Tokerau
My understanding is that Hone is broadly supportive of abortion rights.  He would bring in other candidates who are more likely to support abortion law reform than the rest of parliament.  Kelvin Davis will be in anyway.  From an abortion politics point of view, this is the reverse of Epsom.

This one is also simple for another reason: Jonathon Fletcher is incredibly reactionary on abortion (see the smiley faces on Value your vote).  He is number 67 on the National party list - and so won't get in unless he wins the seat.

Chris Hipkins' ability to enter parliament is also looking shaky - Labour need to do better than the polls say for him to be in on the list (but not by much).  I don't know where he stands on abortion (and would like to know), but he's not going to be as conservative as Jonathon Fletcher.

West-Coast Tasman
Here is where things start to get nice and complex.  Both Damien O'Connor and Chris Auchinvole are conservative on abortion.  However, Chris Auchivole is 43 on National's list and looking pretty safe, whereas Damien O'Connor is not on Labour's list.  Therefore, in terms of abortion law reform there is definitely a reason to not vote for Damien O'Connor and a reason to vote for Chris Auchinvole to keep Damien O'Connor out.

On top of that there is another way of looking at the make-up of parliament.  As well as looking at who we're bringing in on electorate seats, we also need to consider which list seat candidate they're replacing.  Now this gets super complicated - but I think from the point of view of abortion law reform the people who are looking tantalising close but not close enough are Steve Chadwick and Kate Sutton - at number 34 and 35.  Every electorate seat that Labour wins from someone who is further down the list than they are makes it harder for Steve Chadwick and Kate Sutton to get in.  If you're voting in marginal electorates consider where the Labour candidate is on the list before voting for them (note that Chris Hipkins is further up the list than Steve Chadwick and Kate Sutton, otherwise I wouldn't be as supportive of voting for him in Rimutaka).

Voting against Damien O'Connor doesn't just keep an anti-abortion voice out of parliament - it also makes it more likely that abortion law reform advocates will get in.

I think there is both a principled and a practical reason for voting for Hekia Parata in Mana.  The first is that my understanding is that she is more liberal than Kris Faafoi on the issue (who was both incoherent and reactionary when he talked about parental notification in May- does anyone have the link - I ranted about it on facebook but didn't keep a link).  The principled issue needs more research and I think it's important to hear what they say when asked specific questions.

But the practical choice is clear.  Hekia Parata will be in parliament anyway, and Kris Faafoi is higher on the list than Steve Chadwick and Kate Sutton.  Voting for Hekia Parata also makes it more likely that abortion law reform advocates will get in.

Palmerston North  Ōtaki & Christchurch East

So how far do you take this approach?  In Palmerston North, two people whose position on abortion is unkinown are running, in Otaki the National candidate is Nathan Guy, an arch-reactionary (who will get in anyway) and in Christchurch East the Labour candidate is Lianne Dalziel who is a known supporter of abortion law reform.

I think it's counter-productive to vote against supporters of abortion law reform to try and get better supporters of abortion law reform in.  There are too many variables, and I think MPs are such cowards on abortion those who are prepared to say their position should be rewarded in a pavlovian kind of way.  I also wouldn't vote for Nathan Guy myself - partly because it's not necessarily - there's no way Labour is picking up that seat.  But I would  probably avoid voting for the Labour candidate.  And I would seriously think about voting for the Nat in Palmerston North.

Te Tai Tonga
The same argument about Labour applies when it comes to Te Tai Tonga as Rino Tirikatene is higher up the list than Steve Chadwick and Kate Sutton.  However, there the effect is more complicated because Rahui Katene won't get in on the list anyway. I don't know about Rahui Katene.  Without knowledge that she supports abortion law reform I think it's risky to vote for her on the basis that she might bring in advocates on the labour list.

Tamaki Makaura
Here the key piece of information is Pita Sharples position on abortion - which I don't think we can judge on his very limited voting record.  Pita Sharples won't get in unless he wins Tamaki Makaura (whereas Shane Jones is in no matter what), so if enough information could be found about his position it would be a relatively simple decision.

There are many other arguments you could make.  For example, there is probably a case for voting Paul Foster-Bell in Wellington Central, since he is not guaranteed a place and a support of abortion law reform in National's caucus would be useful.  However, given that Grant Robertson is demonstrably better on the issue than Foster-Bell, and Foster-Bell isn't really borderline because National are polling at a gajillion, and Wellington Central isn't actually marginal - I don't think the argument is very convincing. But I think talking and thinking about electorate seats in this way is useful.  I'd be really interested in hearing where people's analysis, judgement and information differs from mine.

Of course the line is somewhat subjective.  Could I get up in the morning and look myself in the mirror knowing I'd voted for a Nat - even for the best reasons?  I'm not sure, but I do know that I'd vote for Paul Goldsmith if I lived in Epsom.  And abortion law reform is more important to me than keeping ACT out of parliament.

Updated: I got Kelvin Davis's place on the list wrong so I've edited that.  On top of that I've realized that on current polling (things have changed a bit since I started writing this post) more pro-choice women are in hazardous positions further down the list - on what Curia says today Carmel Sepoluni and Carol Beaumont are only just in if no marginals change hand.  The bottom line is that in the labour party the people who most vocally support abortion law reform tend to be on the list rather than in winnable seats.  Therefore, supporting Labour electorate candidates does not necessarily support the abortion law reform voices within the party.

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