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ACT’s demise bad news for neo-liberals

Written By: - Date published: 6:33 am, August 20th, 2010 - 37 comments
Categories: act, national/act government, nz first - Tags: , , ,

I’m enjoying watching Rodney Hide and ACT get a good kicking. They deserve it.

Rodney Hide’s political hypocrisy and poverty of leadership ability have been obvious for all too long. He will forever be the perk buster who couldn’t wait to get his own hands on the till, remembering Hide and his partner’s “work” trips to Europe and Hawaii.

Perk buster gone wild.

Now the egotistical Hide is reaping what he sowed. He has selfishly torn the ACT Party in half and may very well have ruined his own political career.

No wonder arch-nemeses Winston Peters was smiling on his visit to Victoria University:

Asked if he would consider joining a National-ACT coalition if his party got enough votes next year he said; “That’s not going to be a possibility at the next election.”

Mr Hide’s party would “slide apart” following the conflict exposed by the dumping of Ms Roy and his reluctance to account for it, he predicted.

But does Peters have another reason for an ear to ear grin? Who really wins from ACT’s demise? National of course will gossip and whisper around the Beehive “National wins of course. ACT’s vote has nowhere else to go“. Right?


If ACT does go down in a ball of flames, the centre of political gravity is bound to re-align. And the common left-right political spectrum lacks the depth needed to explain such a complicated shift.

The way “the demise” will effect voting patterns will depend on many factors: How badly will ACT’s problems damage the government as a whole? What demographics currently support ACT? Will the opposition manage to turn this into an issue to hit the government around the head with? How do ACT’s core liberal voters feel about Key’s support for Rodney Hide over Heather Roy?

The result of all of those factors may be debatable. Yet they are clearly all significant.

My guess is, I predict this episode will damage the government. And if obliterated, ACT’s support would splinter between National (the Hide supporters), NZ First (the hang em high supporters), and the non-voters/libertarians (the economic purists). At current polling that’s little more than 0.75% max each way.

If that were the case. That’s 0.75% for National, 0.75% for NZ First, and 0.75% lost. With the loss of ACT in the House, who is more likely to benefit from their marginal gain? National or NZ First?

National certainly wouldn’t need any more support to reach the 5% threshold. And the loss of ACT in Parliament means no one on the right to help get neo-liberal legislation through.

Of course those figures are abstract and are drawn from generalised premises. But I hope merely to have illustrated the point of the factors at play and who might really seek to gain the most from recent events. Because it won’t be the economic neo-liberals.

37 comments on “ACT’s demise bad news for neo-liberals ”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    Hopefully, the biggest losers will be that virulent strain of NZ Business that backed them. The like of Alan Gibbs and co – men who hate democracy and hate New Zealand – heavily funded ACT as a vehicle for their fascistic views. Now their last vehicle has collapsed, a blow for them and a necessary precursor to a revanchist left wing in New Zealand.

    • Bored 1.1

      I once thought that the best ideas would triumph over the dismal, now I know that is wrong. Whilst ACT may perish the overly simple ideas that brought them into being will find a home elsewhere. These venal and mechanistic views of our social and economic relations will always find a home where ever somebody wants to “justify” their comparative advantage, and to entrench their means of achieving what they aspire to at the cost to the rest of us. These ideas are the real basis of the Nats, dont be too fast to be happy with any demise of ACT

      • Frank Macskasy 1.1.1

        I tend to agree. As much as I despise the simplistic, selfish policies of ACT – having them as a viable entity in Parliament means we can keep an eye on them. Think of keeping a recalcitrant child in plain sight at all times.

        If ACT perishes as a distinct Party, the membership are liable to attach themselves, like parasitic worms, to a new entity. Just as they infested Labour in the mid-to-late 1980s, they could colonise another Party (most likely National) and take control of policy-making.

        ACT – best kept under our watchful gaze at all times.

    • Rex Widerstrom 1.2

      men who hate democracy and hate New Zealand

      Hyperbole alert. I doubt they “hate democracy” when it’s so easily and cheaply purchasable.

      And I am almost certain they don’t “hate NZ” any more than, say, a multinational miner hates Australia. It’s simply a resource, to have the bits that are worth something exploited and the hollowed-out shell left when those resourcse are exhausted.

      Claiming “hatred” as a motive carries the risk of sounding risible, and thus detracting from an argument that is otherwise perfectly valid.

      Perhaps more importantly, if you don’t understand the motives of those you oppose your capacity to devise a strategy against them is severely diminished.

    • jaymam 1.3

      Alan Gibbs and ACT are just good friends. There’s no money involved!

      NZ Herald 3 Feb 2001: [online article now deleted]

      Locals at Port Fitzroy on Great Barrier Island were suprised to see [Reserve Bank Governor] Don Brash and former finance minister Sir Roger Douglas chopper in to their bay early last month and head for multimillionaire businessman Alan Gibbs’ yacht Laissez-faire (nudge, nudge).

      “Onlookers say the two came armed with heavy briefcases for the five hour meeting. Reserve Bank spokesman Paul Jackman begged to differ. ‘The visit was a social one, and not work related. Dr Brash’s so-called heavy briefcase contained togs, a towel, a beach hat and sun lotion.’

      “Sir Roger told the Weekend Herald that he and Dr Brash probably saw each other once a year. Did they go fishing or swimming on Great Barrier? “No, we just sat and nattered.

  2. Carol 2

    And it will also depend on how much Hide gets away with spinning it that the split was a result of Roy’s failings – ie “she was ill-advised.”


    This may go down well with some on the right, but probably not with many women.

    • A post with me in it 2.1

      “This may go down well with some on the right, but probably not with many women.”

      What I find amusing about all this analysis is that they miss this point – stretched even further than the context you have used it in.

      Does everyone REALLY think that the sort of person who votes act will see Rodney’s actions as being a bully or being a tough leader. Do you think that their line of “robust discussion” will not be accepted?

      Straight shooter. In control. Etc.

      Time will tell. But honestly. Is this going to hurt them as much as everyone is ranting about?

      I am not so sure.

      • felix 2.1.1

        The only ACT voters who count are the ones who live in Epsom.

        A lot of them aren’t ACT supporters either – they vote ACT in order to secure a National govt. And a lot of them are women.

        Re-thinking your question in that context it’s not as black and white as you might’ve imagined..

        • A Post With Me In It

          Epsom will do what key asks and to fend of the dirty commies.

          Those same people you think vote for Rodney because he is not a bully did not vote for him last time because they liked him either.

          If his seat is in danger in epsom it would be of the suerp city not this.

          • felix

            Possibly, but you’re still thinking in terms of politically motivated voters, and most of them ain’t. (or ain’t only)

            Voting National is the default setting for the people ACT needs to appeal to. The more strategic among them will hold their nose and vote for Rodney – even if they find him personally distasteful – as you describe.

            Many others will simply revert to type and vote National if he pisses them off.

            People are complex things, motivated by many simultaneous drivers. The question is whether the motivation to keep National moving rightwards is stronger than the motivation to disassociate from someone perceived as a nasty sexist bully.

            ACT would be very foolish to ignore the latter sentiment among the women of Epsom.

            • A Post With Me In It

              Well I guess we will see in a year how it all goes down. 🙂

              I hope you are right of course!

    • bbfloyd 2.2

      @carol..it will be amusing to watch simon ewing-jarvie being burnt in effigy outside act national headquarters. the scapegoating process is well underway already.
      you have to wonder though, at what kind of moron wouldn’t see the insult to Roy’s competence and intelligence implicit in this strategy. act voters, i would assume..

  3. Carol 3

    Some of the street views of Epsom voters shown on TV3 last night indicated that there are some who are being put off voting for Hide in the future. And without Epsom, ACT are gone. The people who have so far voted for Hide in Epsom are more right-wingers than extreme liberatrians, and more inclined to support National than ACT.

  4. Whether ACT survives as an entity is irrelevant. Observers such as Matt Hooten believe that its founding purpose, to be a socially liberal and economically liberal (read libertarian) party, have in fact been betrayed.

    This is not necessarily all ACT’s fault however. In 2005, Brash moved National toward the right, attacking ACT on the economic front. And Key has moved in on the socially liberal front. So, National arguably, has adopted a milder softly softly approach of the ACT program.

    In response, ACT has pandered to the social conservative vote pursued at various times by Labour, National, NZ First, United Future. For ACT specifically, I was formerly of the opinion that these policies represented the equivalent of the Socialist part of the Nazi Party, i.e. policies that would attract the votes of relatively unsophisticated (politically) socially conservative voters, but that they would only pay lip-service to such policies if they gained a position of power, focusing on the economic front benefiting ACT’s founders, benefactors, and ideological base. Basically the Brash prescription.

    But, it seems that ACT has transmorphed into a corporatist party, destined to be an eventual singularity. Hooten is in agreement with the opinion of Roy/Douglas, that there is such a constituency for ACT based on its original principles, but National has muscled in on its territory.

    IMO, there is definitely space for two parties on the right (that make 5%), so the potential for a socially conservative, AGW, Coastal Coalition, economically status quo party exists. But whether ACT has the credibility to capture those voters from National’s increasingly disgruntled conservative rump remains. These voters at the same time are also wary of NZ First because of its potential to coalesce with Labour.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 4.1

      Not their fault?

      Whose decision was it to adopt flat earth climate change deniers, people who want to allow more smacking, people who want to deny the Treaty of Waitangi exists and people who want to fill our prisons to overflowing? If you adopt crazy popularist one-off positions how can you ever hope to have a coherent party philosophy?

      If anyone can explain how all that fits into the Liberarian philosophy let me know.

      • “All” – being the operative word. However, there is no doubt that they are in fact, the main authors of their own demise.

      • Bored 4.1.2

        I think “libertarian” gets bandied around by people who really believe “I will do what the hell I want regardless of the consequences to my fellow persons”. Its a nice catch all for externalising any costs elsewhere, and to get what they want a “libertarian” must do the rational, like buy votes from crazies with wierd agendas. In other words personal interest based upon “rationalism” trumps ethics, morality etc.

        • Zaphod Beeblebrox

          I always sort of imagine it as an anti-Nation State agenda, sort of the situation that existed in medievil times when the law was the sword and you could do what you liked as long as you didn’t piss off the local knights or priests. Equality and fairness were foreign concepts back then of course.

          Of course that situation hasn’t existed for many centuries, though if people think we can return to that system of government I will respectfully agree to disagree.

          One thing about ACT is that they are stuffed in principle as well as practice!

          • Bored

            ZB, I think you are onto it, these buggers want to impose the modern form of feudalism by stealth, they just pretend to be “nice” libertarians as they do it.

            • jimmy

              The title ‘The road to serfdom’ sums it up

              • Bored

                Sort of ironic really for Hayeks kin dont you think?

                • Draco T Bastard

                  I noted that awhile back. Hayek’s description of hell brought about by socialism was, as a matter of fact, being brought about by what he said would prevent it (Capitalism). I really don’t know why anyone would think otherwise as capitalism really is just another form of dictatorial control.

            • Deborah Kean

              Nice and libertarian – oxymoron!

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      But, it seems that ACT has transmorphed into a corporatist party, destined to be an eventual singularity.

      Act was always a corporatist party. That really is the base of the neo-liberal paradigm that Douglas et al brought in during the 4th Labour government. It’s why the 4th Labour government got huge support from business.

      IMO, there is definitely space for two parties on the right (that make 5%),

      There’s space for 3 or, more likely, 4 parties on the right. Hell, there’s probably space for at least 3 just from Nationals voter base. National caters for 3 distinct political types but they all tend toward the authoritarian so I don’t think you’ll see it split as they tend to stick together for the power.

      National can also be described as functionalist, a party that sees governing as an end in itself rather than in service of an ideology or principles.

      Colin James, NZ Government and Politics 4th ed., page 369

  5. randal 5

    the right wing has always catered to a certain type of person.
    i.e. those who want to cause pain to others and take everything else.
    sad but true.
    anyway this time the right is set to implode.
    as JOhn Keys said they have beliefs and not principles.
    that sort of plank does not last in the face of social desire for a better deal for everyone and not just the few.

    • Ari 5.1

      Well, to be fair, if the other wing of the ACT party had won, they’d only be out to half-screw us- sure, they’d keep us in poverty and uneducated, and not address structural economic problems or pollution, but they’d at least not be voting against most of our rights.

      If it’s a choice between the same amount of seats voting to screw us and voting to half screw us, I’ll go with half-screwed. If this really does implode them though, that’s even better.

  6. Treetop 6

    Hide is not a bully he is bossy. Muldoon was bossy. Bossy people are domineering. Muldoon ousted Moyle by using a confidential document against him and invoved a third party (the police). Hide has used a confidential document against Roy and he has used a third party (Mapp) to do this. The PM needs to become involved as one of his ministers has lost her ministerial warrant due to being particular about the security of a confidential document which has been used against her. Had Mapp gone to the PM about Roy’s defence document this would have been appropriate as the PM appoints ministers. What would the PM have done?

    • bbfloyd 6.1

      @treetop… bullying/bossy… two sides of the same coin most of the time. playing semantics, and/or indulging in dissembling won”t hide that(no pun intended).
      what would the pm have done?…….. absolutely nothing, as usual…

      • The Voice of Reason 6.1.1

        Re: the bullying. The saddest part is that Hide thinks that because he doesn’t consider his behaviour bullying, it isn’t bullying. Actually, it’s the victim’s perception that more clearly defines whether it is or isn’t.

        Hopefully, the victim in this case, Heather Roy, will be backed to the hilt by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, who are no doubt keen as mustard to lock Hide up and throw away the key. Or not.

        • the pinkpostman

          @voice /reason.

          I dont know which is worse , being bullied by Hide or being supported by Sensible Sentencing Trust, Bloody hell they both give this old man the creeps

        • Ari

          TVoR, you’re pretty much right. So long as the victim is dealing in good faith, (and they get the benefit of the doubt on that because of how hard it is to fake good faith) we take their allegations seriously. If you’re bullying and you don’t know it, it’s still bad behaviour and you’re responsible for rectifying it, preferably before it escalates.

  7. I wonder how this is going to affect the Maori Party,will Turia and Sharples now cuddle up closer to Key and his mates? Thus becoming the main support party for the Nats. The way Sharples has been acting lately nothing would surprise me.

  8. Adrian 8

    I think that the demise of the ACT party is too big a call. It’s still got the dirty money behind it and the people who want it to have a presence will make sure it survives in some form. The optimists of the deluded right who think its paltry 4% of the vote will go to the Nats are wrong, that which was going to the Nats already has, Epsom PARTY-voted National ( it’s amazing that after all this time some still don’t understand MMP ) . At best maybe 1% will slide sideways but even more will go further right just on F&S. If Roy decides to stand in Epsom for revenge, I’d build a grandstand and sell tickets.

    • loota 8.1

      I hope she does. A bit of charm and softness will go a long way to swinging the vote her way.

  9. KJT 9

    Why is it bad news for Neo-libs. They still have the support of the two major parties.
    Having such obvious nut jobs on their side did not help their credibility.

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