Why vote for ACT when it won’t be in government at all?

Audrey Young writes

The hybrid political animal Act has become – in government but not part of the Government – is not working for it.

Seymour’s outstanding achievement as the Act leader is that he is not reviled and he has not stuffed up but that is simply not enough.

Seymour’s decision not to take a ministerial portfolio but to remain only an under-secretary has allowed him more freedom to criticise National. But when he does so, he is only preaching to the converted.

Richard Prebble did not take Act to its peak of nine MPs by attacking National. He and his team did it by attacking orthodoxies and wasteful spending and coming up with new ideas.

Bingo. ?They got there by being polarising instead of popular.

The party has made pitiful progress since the caucus of 2008 – 2011 tore itself apart and Hide was replaced with Don Brash who was replaced with John Banks who was replaced with Jamie Whyte who was replaced with David Seymour in 2014 when Whyte, sadly, never made it to Parliament.

Whyte’s habit of saying what he believes rather than what he believes people want to hear would have made him immensely controversial if not a popular sidekick to Seymour.

But he is heading back to London to be director of research at the free market think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs.

ACT needs to appeal to 5% of the population only. ?But it needs to do so strongly. ?As it is, ACT is more like the National people hope National would be. ?Leaving people who need an adjustment to wards the right with no home to go to.

Seymour always had a Herculean task as a lone MP trying to reinvent a party with such a toxic legacy. So what should he have reasonably achieved after one term?

At the very least people should be able to think of Act without toxic associations, in order to be receptive to the new ideas that should be emanating from the so-called party of ideas.

Seymour has succeeded inside the beltway with a blend of humour and intelligence but his bigger challenge is to get voters thinking anything about Act.

Audrey is very perceptive. ? David has hit all his KPIs in terms of being visible, getting the messages out, and punching above his weight as a one-man-band.

The two areas in which Seymour is rewriting the Act playbook are in its approach to law and order and Maori issues, hot button populist issues in which he is taking a more measured approach.

Nothing could have illustrated the difference to Maori issues more vividly than Seymour’s visit to Waitangi this year. One of the most enduring images of Te Tii marae is of former Act leader Don Brash having dirt thrown in his face – although he was National leader at the time.

The younger Act leader, after he was welcomed on to Te Tii Marae, outlined connections to the Ngati Rehia hapu through his great great great grandmother, after which he was invited to sit with the hosts.

Instead of railing against the Treaty of Waitangi, he suggested annual celebrations should be taken around the country.

He opposes the latest reforms to the RMA because of the iwi participation clauses but on the grounds that the RMA already allows for iwi participation.

He opposes National’s proposal on the Kermadecs on the grounds it is a confiscation of a property right – fishing rights – with no compensation.

He opposes the co-governance arrangements in Auckland over the volcanic cones but his opposition is not dripping with inflammatory language. In that sense, Seymour represents a true generational change.

And because of it goes unnoticed. ? ?If ACT hasn’t learned anything from Winston or Trump, it is definitely too late.

It is a critical time for Seymour. He supposedly leads the party of ideas but he produced too few good ones yet.

Assuming Peters holds the balance of power next election, Seymour will be given the best and last opportunity to reinvent Act as meaningful party, in the wilderness.

Nothing left to lose. ?Go hard or go home.


– Audrey Young, NZ Herald