Archive for the ‘ACT Party’ category

ACT

March 18, 2008

Sorry I haven’t been blogging much for a few days, but now that I’m back I’ll start with the biggest politics news item of the last few days: the return of Roger Douglas to ACT.

To give some background, ACT was co-founded in 1993 by Roger Douglas and former National MP Derek Quigley, but Douglas allowed Richard Prebble to take the leadership, while he took the party presidency. In the 1996, 99 and 2002 elections ACT had reasonable success, gaining 8-9 seats in each election, but never became part of a coalition Government. After leaving the presidency in 2001, Douglas left ACT altogether, after Rodney Hide was elected Party leader, despite Douglas’ opposition to Hide based on Hide’s perk busting history. They have only recently made up. Now Roger is not only back in ACT, he is going to run for Parliament as well in an unnamed electorate (there has been speculation about Hunua), and may even get into cabinet.

The news is good for almost everyone except National. Although bringing Douglas back has some risks for ACT, of confirming its tough right wing image, it does give it publicity, and may attract some right-wing voters who left for National to return. ACT’s vote plummeted last election when many former ACT voters jumped to National under Don Brash, who was seen as sympathetic to their strong right wing views. John Keys moving of National more to the center of the political spectrum has given ACT plenty of space to move into, but they have not improved their poll performance. This surprised me, and part of the reason may be the Party turning into a personality cult around Hide, more focused on publicity stunts than policy. This post summed it all up. Douglas’ return should help with this problem. ACT has plenty of potential, given it won 9 seats in previous elections, and John Ansell, the man behind National’s 2005 billboard campaign, has agreed to help them, which should help. However, traditionally ACT has been strong when National is weak, and vice-versa. ThisĀ is partly because ACT supporters may like to push national in front to ensure a right wing Government, even if their favourite Party suffers.

But a bigger part of the reason is that there is only one Party ACT will get votes from: National. Any ACT gain will be to National’s expense. Not only does National have to worry about loosing votes to ACT, but it may have to start defending itself from the right, something Key hasn’t needed to do so far. And ACT could make coalition negotiations for National post election more difficult. Imagine National trying to deal with Winston, promising stronger restrictions on foreign investment as part of a coalition, but ACT strongly objecting, and National needing both NZ First and ACT to govern.

Which brings me to the other party that may be pleased by Douglas’ return. NZ First now has the possibility of telling voters: “National is going to need a coalition partner. It can be ACT, with Roger Douglas, or it can be us” to get Labour voters to switch to NZ First to keep ACT out, in a similar way to how National voters switched to United Future to keep the Greens out in 2002. Labour, although it has this risk, can say (based on possible polls showing National can’t govern alone but can with ACT) tell voters: “NZ First won’t be there as it is polling below 5% and/or will go with us, Greens and Maori party won’t go with National, therefore National’s only coalition partner is ACT. A vote for National is a vote to bring Roger Douglas back in charge of the country” message to woo some National leaning voters scared of ACT back.

It will be very interesting watching how the election unfolds.

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