Friday 14 February 2014

(D)ejected MPs, when the Speaker stamps down on playground behaviour

This week, Speaker David Carter ejected Winston Peters from Parliament after talking back to the Speaker disrespectfully. This sparked a 3am ponder about how many times MPs had been ejected from Parliament, who had been ejected the most times, and which party behaved the worst. Generally ejections most commonly happen when MPs argue back with the Speaker, or heckle/interject when another MP or the Speaker is to be heard in silence (as is the custom for Points of Order for example). Surprisingly, this record does not already exist. I only had (digital) access to the Hansard from 2002-2013, and had to go through it to find when MPs were ejected and identify the dates, parties, and speakers at the time. Quite a bit of reading had to be done to identify why MPs were ejected as well, which is harder to determine programmatically.

First of all, a disclaimer - be careful when drawing conclusions from the data. There are a couple of influences that can make the data seem skewed. Opposition MPs are by far and away more commonly ejected than those in Government, and this changes depending on who happens to be in charge at the time. Between 2002 and 2013, the first six years were Labour-led and the last five years were National-led. MPs are also in Parliament for different amounts of time, as are Speakers. MPs aren't always ejected for bad behaviour, and they get away with it more often than not. The amount that MPs are able to get away with is a topic of contention in the House of Representatives and comes up pretty much every other day during Question Time.  This data also includes MPs ejected by Deputy and Assistant Speakers. I've also dropped the titles (Hon, Rt Hon, etc.) for simplicity, and mean no disrespect. Lastly, no guarantees on the accuracy of the data.

In this time period, a total of 234 ejections were recorded in Hansard. Assuming 90 sitting days a year, that's one ejection every 4 or so sitting days. This is shared between 65 individual MPs. Which (political) parties are the rowdiest?

Here is the same data, split into 2002-2008 (Labour-led Govt) and 2009-2013 (National-led Govt):

Given that Winston Peters seems to get in trouble with the speaker a lot, you might expect him to be the most ejected MP. In fact, he only comes in at 3rd equal (although if we add on the one from 11/02/14 he would be 3rd outright). Another common culprit is Trevor Mallard (which was somewhat controversial when he was the Labour nominee to succeed Lockwood Smith). It turns out that the "naughtiest" MP is National's Nick Smith, who has been ejected 21 times in eleven years. Here's the top ten:

Nick Smith (NAT) 21
Rodney Hide (ACT) 18
Trevor Mallard (LAB) 15
Winston Peters (NZF) 15
Tau Henare (NAT) 13
Gerry Brownlee (NAT) 11
Chris Carter (LAB) 10
Phil Heatley (NAT) 9
Bill English (NAT) 7
Ron Mark (NZF) 7

Which Speakers either attracted the most ire from MPs or were the most trigger-happy?

The graph probably shouldn't be colour coded by party, since Speakers are meant to be impartial. It's also important to note that some National/Labour MPs serve as Assistant Speakers even when the other party is in power, such as HV Ross Robertson of the Labour Party who is currently an Assistant Speaker and often chairs bill readings. It's better not to think of Speakers being partisan, because for the most part they aren't.

However, it's interesting to see the current set of Speakers (and candidates) and how they behaved while they were sitting in the benches. David Carter had 4, Lockwood Smith had 3, and Eric Roy had 1. If Trevor Mallard one day becomes the Speaker... well he's been ejected 15 times so far.

Notable ejections:
Tau Henare on 26/06/2013 (David Carter, Ross Robertson) for being ejected twice in the same day for holding up a sign with the number 30 on it, making fun of Labour's poll numbers
Hone Harawira on 14/07/2011 (Lockwood Smith) for refusing to repeat the formal affirmation at his swearing in.
Clare Curran on 07/06/2011 (Lockwood Smith) for wearing a rugby jersey (below acceptable business attire standards)
Helen Clark on 21/06/2005 (Margaret Wilson) after she interjected while the Speaker was on her feet. Unfortunately, in the words of the Speaker, "the rules apply to everyone".
Chris Carter on 02/03/2005 (Jonathan Hunt) was ejected on the Speaker's last day before retirement.
Winston Peters on 24/06/2003 (Jonathan Hunt) after accusing the Speaker of running a "protection racket" and then refusing to leave the house, and was also named.

There have also been a couple of multi-ejections, with multiple people ejected at once (or very quickly one after another) - here's a list of when four MPs were ejected on the same day (by the same Speaker):
Ron Mark, Allan Peachey, Wayne Mapp, Bob Clarkson on 17/07/2007 (Margaret Wilson)
Bill English, Lockwood Smith, Simon Power, John Key on 27/03/2007 (Margaret Wilson)
Richard Worth, Eric Roy, John Key, David Cunliffe on 25/10/2006 (Margaret Wilson)
Bill English, Annette King, Rodney Hide, Heather Roy on 22/06/2005 (Margaret Wilson)
Steve Maharey, Lianne Dalziel, Chris Carter, David Cunliffe on 07/04/2005 (Margaret Wilson)
Winston Peters, David Cunliffe, Mark Peck, Phil Heatley on 17/09/2003 (Jonathan Hunt)

Also, a bumper day when Ann Hartley ejected five MPs (along with one by Margaret Wilson) during the debate on the Appropriation (Parliamentary Expenditure Validation Bill) on 17/10/2006, which included National's Paula Bennett, Phil Heatley, and Nick Smith (also named), and Labour's Harry Duynhoven, Damien O'Connor, and Dover Samuels. I always liked Dover Samuels' hat.

If you want my source data, just let me know via Twitter and I can send you the spreadsheet. Attribution is appreciated. If someone wants to, I'd be interested in seeing the number of ejections each party has per MP they actually have in the House at the time. This would be a little tricky because the number changes between terms, but we could at least get the order of the parties. I'd also like to see the number of ejections by a Speaker corrected for the number of minutes they presided for and the number of MPs in the room at the time. Again, very difficult to figure out and probably definitely not worth it.

In other news, it's Valentine's Day, also cynically known as Singles Awareness Day. Neither were "invented" by Hallmark to sell more cards between Christmas and Easter, because it's supposedly been around since the 1400s, but it is termed a "Hallmark Holiday" because it "primarily exists for commercial reasons, rather than to commemorate a traditional or historical event." The more you know!

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