Does He Jump, conclusions

February 21, 2006

The weak form of the conjecture has now failed, even with the contrivance of Presidents’ Day invoked to extend the weekend. Down in flames! Of course, all that really could have made it happen was public outrage, and if there wasn’t enough of that in Belindagate there was no real reason to think it would carry here.

In an attempt to make something useful out of this frivolous series of posts, I’ll try to get briefly at one or two nuggets, in the context of floor-crossing and party-leaving generally.

Clearly it’s a spit in the face of the people who elected you. Even if you cross with the best of intentions (i.e., not chasing opportunistic bribes), there will be those in the electorate who disagree with you. They deserve final judgement.

The question is often asked: Do people vote for the person or the party? For any specific voter, the answer is usually not clear, and it could be one or the other. But my gut feeling is that most times it’s the party that wins. After all, if you consider all the political candidates for 300+ national ridings, how many of them are any great shakes, or really well known? Probably around 10%. Even for those, there will be voters who don’t really know much about them. It seems reasonable then that the significant majority of voters really don’t know much about their local candidates, and so, if they vote, they vote for a party. There are only a few parties, their general platform tendencies are well known and their promises well advertised.

From this, it follows that if the MP leaves the party they ran under, it is a refutation of the crucial condition that got them elected. Hence the need for a by-election to test voter approval. Further, if there is to be a reward for floor-crossing, such as a cabinet minister position, etc., this needs to be disclosed before the by-election so that voters can judge the full circumstances. Conversely, if such a reward is not disclosed, it should be prohibited for a reasonable period (1 year?) if the by-election does re-elect the MP. Of course, it probably isn’t possible to rule out all forms of reward, but at least the usual ones should be spelled out in law requiring pre-disclosure.

Finally, an important nugget: In discussions of this topic, I’ve seen otherwise sensible people suggest that a by-election should be required for a true floor-crossing, but not if  the MP leaves his party to sit as an independent. This is ludicrous. For if this were the case, anyone who really wanted to cross the floor (to another party) would just have to pretend to become an independent, while in reality being a de-factor member of, and voting with, the new party. Abstractly, an independent is a new party, even if not in name.

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