Yesterday on politics from the left and the right on Radio New Zealand Matthew Hooton sounded what may be the death knell for ACT’s future. He mentioned how tens of millions of dollars have been spent over the past two decades on a failed political experiment. He suggested that there should be a summer reflection on the issue. When asked he pointedly did not want to rule anything in or out. He also spoke disparagingly about how the current Government has been highly interventionist. It is interesting that the left and the right are becoming incensed at this Government’s foray into crony capitalism.
Obviously National is in a very difficult predicament. Do they ditch the ACT brand and start again? Or do they try and resuscitate an increasingly morbid looking political corpse?
ACT’s basic problem is the quality of its more recent MPs. David Garrett presented one of the largest challenges. Selected as a tough on crime MP with links to the sensible sentencing trust his parliamentary career was trashed when it was revealed that he had previously stolen the identity of a dead baby. The fact that he was selected as an MP even though the hierarchy knew about this rather huge skeleton in his closet made things worse.
Rodney Hide carefully constructed a reputation as a perk buster but then got busted misusing the perks of office in a most egregious way. And Hillary Calvert’s presence in Parliament showed how shallow ACT’s talent pool was. It was clear even back in 2011 that ACT was all but finished as a political force unless something drastic happened.
National obviously became increasingly concerned at that time that the ACT party faced extinction as Epsom voters showed signs they were no longer willing to hold their nose and vote for the yellow jacketed one.
So National did what all good corporates do. It sent the receivers in. Hide went without a fight and Don Brash was installed as leader with John Banks installed as Epsom candidate.
This event showed how much of a National Puppet party ACT had become. When the former National leader and someone who had been a loyal National MP for decades become highly placed on another party’s list while holding no complaint with National then ACT was obviously an independent party in name only.
It sounds like National is prepared to send the receivers in again but this time ACT may be liquidated rather than allowed to trade out of its problems. Bank’s difficulty in reconciling an electoral return that he signed showing a large anonymous donation with a helicopter trip to the mansion owned by a 6 foot 8 german who personally promised the donation in question has resulted in Banks facing a charge of electoral fraud and is probably the last straw for ACT’s backers.
ACT’s and National’s predicament has been commented on by Tracy Watkins this morning in Stuff. She said:
Hooton leads the charge among right-wing thinkers who believe the Key government is dangerously interventionist and middle of the road.
Surprisingly, there are even areas where the likes of Hooton agree with Labour – corporate welfare and cronyism are labels both sides use to describe some of the Key government’s intervention on behalf of players like Warner Bros or Chorus. National would call that pragmatism. The free market purists would argue that if the economic settings are right everyone would flourish.
Whether there is enough life to fuel a new party in a movement which has struggled to find heroes since the heyday of Don Brash, Ruth Richardson, Sir Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble remains to be seen.
The only decision so far seems to have been to pause for thought over the summer break following the initial flurry of interest.
She also points out the challenge that coalition with the Conservative Party presents, pointing out that some of the party’s economic policies are left leaning and labelling the party as “decidedly flakey”.
So National’s difficulties are clear to be seen. It needs friendly parties in Government. The two most likely parties either have the potential of making National look stupid or are most unlikely to be returned to Parliament. And on the right are wealthy people incensed at the failure of National to abide by pure market principles.
I suspect that there will be a few barbecues over christmas where the funding of a new political party on the right will be discussed.