Behind the Curtain at Vote for Change

Guess who is sitting centre stage of the new campaign to defeat proportional representation?

Vote for Change is the new "grassroots campaign" “for fairness” and “against MMP.” It wants New Zealanders to join their society and help decide what electoral system would be best for New Zealand.

Vote for Change is an incorporated society, with a set of rules you can download from the Companies Office. I read the rules (pdf) to see how well they are putting into practice their high-minded democratic goals for New Zealand.

Vote for Change says it wants New Zealanders to help it decide what electoral system to support. How will that consultation with members work under its rules? It is democratic? Is it fair?

Well, Vote for Change has a Committee that is in charge of absolutely everything between Annual Meetings (more on those shortly). The people on the committee are: (1) Peter Shirtcliffe; (2) Jordan Williams; and (3) nobody else. This committee needs a majority to do anything, which means that Peter Shirtcliffe has personal veto over everything Vote for Change does, including over which electoral system the group will campaign for.

The next Annual Meeting will be held in… wait for it… May 2012. Which is maybe just a little late for any meaningful discussion about the upcoming 2011 referendum.

There are no meetings at all scheduled in the mean time.

If enough members do want to discuss the electoral system at a meeting, however, they can ask for a Special Meeting. But up to 123 days can go by, after the members formally call for a Special Meeting, before the meeting itself. Who decides how long members will have to wait to have their say? And also decides where and when the meeting will be? Peter Shirtcliffe and friend.

In the mean time, Shirtcliffe’s two-person committee can boot out as many members as it does not like, without giving any reason.

So much for “listening to NZ” and “helping us decide.”

This is just another personal Peter Shirtcliffe crusade against proportional representation, tarted up as something else.

Vote for Change is misrepresenting itself. Its initial press release says it is a membership-driven, grassroots campaign. But its’ own rules say different. Not a good start.