If we're gonna go that way you're gonna need a bigger knife

David Seymour says he may take Winston Peters to court if he wins the Northland by-election. He doesn't really mean it.

From TVNZ:

Act leader David Seymour says he's looking at challenging the result [of the Northland by-election] in court if Mr Peters wins.

"We've got a situation where there is no legal precedent for a seat to change hands from being a list seat to an electorate seat," says Mr Seymour.

If Mr Peters takes Northland, National will only have 59 seats in Parliament. Even with Act's one vote, National wouldn't have the numbers to pass legislation.

NZ First would gain an extra MP if Mr Peters resigns from the list to become Northland's electorate MP.

"If he really thought he was going to do something for the people of Northland, he would resign now then contest but ultimately it's the court's final say," says Mr Seymour.

Mr Seymour's yet to decide whether he'll take Mr Peters to court.

Three predictions here, in ascending order of confidence.

One, I don't think Peters will win in Northland. Whatever the Sabin effect may be in that locale, or the frisson of transgression that some past National voters may be experiencing by flirting with the idea of voting for him, come election day and actually casting a ballot there'll be enough true-blue foot soldiers surfing to the polling places on a wave of taxpayer cash to send Mark Osborne to Wellington.

(OTOH, you really ought to read this first prediction through the lens of this post declaring Labour's decision to choose Andrew Little as its leader to be disastrously misguided ... I really am pretty hopeless at reading politics.)

Two, if Peters does win, Seymour won't be taking Peters to court himself. The only way to challenge the result in an election is through an election petition. And the only people with "standing" to bring election petitions are those who had a right to vote, or were candidates, in the relevant electoral district. Seymour was neither ... so if Act wanted to bring the challenge, then it would have to do it in the name of its Northland candidate Robin Grieve (or other sock-puppet front person).

Three, if Peters does win and Act can find a person to front an election petition, it will not be successful. I don't really need to explain why, because Graeme Edgeler has already written a fulsome and (to my mind) entirely accurate post on the topic of the Northland by-election and how it fits into MMP. You should read it ... but if you are too lazy (shame on you ... shame!) the nub of the matter is that there is absolutely nothing in the Electoral Act that prohibits a sitting list MP from standing as a candidate at a by-election. Nothing. Nada.

The only qualifications for being a candidate for election are that you are a NZ Citizen who is on the electoral roll. Then all you need to do to become a candidate for a by-election is fill out the right set of forms, get the signatures of two registered electors from the relevant district and pay a $300 deposit by noon on nomination day. There is thus nothing at all in the Electoral Act that can be read as saying that sitting list MPs are somehow legally disqualified from standing as candidates at a by-election.

Nor, I should point out, is there anything new about this happening. Melissa Lee ran in the Mt Albert by-election, and Hekia Parata in the Mana by-election with nary a skerrick of complaint. 

So what is David Seymour up to in raising the possibility of a court challenge now? Well, I guess with all the political attention turned to Northland at the moment, and that attention focused on the "big three" parties, it's tough for the little guys to noticed. And the claim "if Winston wins, we'll go to court!" probably can't be ignored by the gallery journalists - if for no other reason than that it promises to prolong the whole "what will the result be?" drama for a whole longer.

But is it something that serious people should regard seriously? Not at all - which is why I shall waste no more of your time on it.