DPF over at Kiwiblog today, among others including Jane Clifton, has traversed some of the issues I also discussed yesterday about Brendan Horan and his expulsion from NZF.
Yesterday I queried, “Winston has to prove wrongdoing to justify the expelling. Horan can challenge that ‘due process’ has not taken place. Did the NZF Board meet, for instance? or did Winston just make an arbitrary decision? Likely. Lawyers will look at that.”
DPF posts today. “But Horan is still a member of the party. Now you can argue that these rues don’t stop the caucus suspending an MP, or even expelling him. But it seems the caucus has not made any such decision on Horan. It is unclear if they have even had a discussion on the issue. Also Horan claims no allegations have even been put to him directly…”
Jane Clifton writes, “The Horan case does indeed raise questions on many levels. Is it fair for Winston Peters to have summarily dismissed Horan based on information he had only received 45 minutes previously, and without giving Mr Horan the opportunity to respond. Certainly the laws of natural justice would suggest not, but then again politics is not a place with a lot of natural justice.”
DPF again. “It is very unclear that Peters has the power to unilaterally declare Horan has been expelled from caucus, or even that he will be expelled from caucus. However the only people with standing to challenge this are other members of the caucus.”
This is totally unlikely, as Winston Peters runs his caucus like a potentate; really his MPs are simply bolt-ons to his North Harbour bridge. No one will in caucus challenge his misuse or lack of process. Horan’s lawyers will do that, just as Winston challenged National’s clear right not to de-select him for Tauranga as their candidate years ago.
As DPF has pointed out, rank hypocrisy.
As an aside, DPF says, “Amusingly the party leader is also the only MP exempt from paying a 10% tithe to the party!”
But a Leader expends significantly more of his/her own funds than any ordinary MP, so that is not so galling. Except if it was National or ACT, it would be evidence of “corruption” in Peter’s eyes, such is his inconsistency politically. “Yes” is literally “No” to cite the famous Peters meme.
“But there is an important point here. Leaders should not have the power to unilaterally expel MPs from caucus. I think it is good that Winston has acted swiftly against Horan, but I assumed he had at least put the issues in writing to Horan…”
I agree, and made this clear yesterday. With falling memberships, even in large parties like National, candidate selections are being determined in more and more electorates by coteries of party officials. This gives Leaders inordinate power to bring in mates and loyalists to them. This is wrong. Leaders already have huge influence over the construction of party lists. One of the few powers still left party members is the right to select or de-select a candidate. This power is lost them for List MPs already.
Party leaders should not determine solely, or with a few acquiescent officials, who NZ’s parliamentary representatives are. This is dangerous long term.
To this erosion of active democracy we cannot add unilateral Leader power to sack their MPs for reasons that are not subjected to an agreed process that is fair, regardless of any allegations. Even if they are accused of child abuse, they have a right in law to a defense and may be exonerated.
So, a few points:
1. Peters has not followed even his own (NZF) due process, this is a breach of natural justice against Brendan Horan.
2. Horan can challenge this and would probably win, regardless of the allegations which are a separate matter.
3. Peters cannot unilaterally expel Horan, but has done so.
4. Horan is no longer a member of the NZF caucus once a letter is received by the Speaker from the president or chief whip of NZF saying so. But Peters’ statement in the House yesterday has effectively done that, again, unilateral. That makes Horan a non-NZF MP but an MP nevertheless.
Something no one has yet discussed, and that is Horan’s right to go and join the Maori Party, and lend his lobby vote to them under their Whip. Horan is Maori, so this is a possible fit. Horan’s departure alters NZF’s percentage of questions in the House, speaking time etc., which if Horan reconnects somewhere else, is transferred to them. I think this is correct, because allocations are based on Party Vote percentages. This has not actually changed for NZF, but they have expelled an MP, so surely cannot retain the same allocation. This makes Peter’s unilaterial action yesterday quite serious.