ACT tearing itself apart

Written By: - Date published: 1:38 am, March 4th, 2010 - 25 comments
Categories: act - Tags: ,

ACT policies are electoral poison, and the inevitability of that growing realisation seems to be creating strains that are tearing the party apart.

Reading the speeches of Hide and Roy to the recent party conference is like reading bad Randian fantasy fiction from another planet. Hide describes the highlight of the past year as passing the three strikes legislation. This bill has been significantly watered down from ACT’s original form, but even so it is so bad that it is opposed by criminologists, prison guards, the Justice Ministry, Treasury and – ahh – the Police. And that is Hide’s pick for achievement of the year. Yes really.

Interesting that Hide didn’t pick restructuring Auckland for his top spot. In fact, Auckland is glossed over very quickly – one brief mention (three sentences) in the whole speech, compared to frequent fantasising over three strikes. Perhaps Hide is starting to realise how deeply unpopular the Supercity process is. Apparently the strain is showing on the ACT MPs on the Supercity select committee, with bizarre attacks on members of the public submitting. Mind you bizarre behaviour is by no means limited to Auckland issues, with ACT MP David Garret publicly calling for a programme to sterilise undesirables, regular madness from irrelevant relic Roger Douglas, and even former deputy Leader Muriel Newman launching into random racist tirades.

But ACTs malaise goes well beyond the erratic behaviour of its individual MPs. The party is literally tearing itself apart at the highest levels. Douglas and Roy led an attempted coup against Hide late last year, with Audrey Young reporting that Hide survived as leader only because of the direct intervention of and threats made by John Key. This creates the kind of instability in government that is anathema to voters.

Now it looks like the failed coup is still bubbling beneath the surface. John Armstrong reads the tea leaves of Roy’s conference speech, and finds poison in the dregs. Roy reminds the audience that “Each and every one of us has to face the challenge daily of ensuring that we are not cast as representing something other than the founding principles on which ACT was formed” – a clear rebuke to Hide for his costly abuse of ministerial perks. Roy notes the need for succession planning in leadership, and stresses that “Holding an electorate seat and a couple of percentage points of Party Vote is not good enough”. Ouch.

I think Armstrong is right – the coup is far from over. ACT is in a death spiral, the pressure showing on its MPs and in leadership struggles that will slowly tear the party apart. Good. The sooner this boil on the backside of the body politic is lanced the happier I will be.

25 comments on “ACT tearing itself apart”

  1. lprent 1

    Good post. I think that Act are just now realizing exactly how vulnerable they’ve made themselves in Auckland, and especially in Epsom over the super-shitty.

    They seem to have been reaching so far out of their core ground for voting support, that they are politically fractured internally. Now that they are actually getting some legislation in under the coalition agreements – those internal divisions are getting pretty visible as parts of the party disagree. Much of their support intensely dislike some of those bills.

    Good riddance is what I’m expecting to say to this strange political party next election…

  2. Mach1 2

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  3. Jenny 3

    After a dressing down by Heather Roy, ACT bravely try to expand their political brand beyond their narrow constituency of venal plutocrats. (Sneak preview of an ACT political broadcast prepared for the 2011 elections).

    Tired of slaving away for 12 hours a day at your factory job in East Tamaki.

    Or finally stopped celebrating being one of the lucky ones to land that prized casual grave yard shift at Countdown in Otara. (after patiently standing in queue with hundreds of others for three days)

    How about live on your own luxury island.

    But not the common old fashioned type of island where anyone can walk across your beach front, and the view never changes.

    Now you can own your own mega artificial island.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/3401808/Floating-island-luxury-yacht

    What? Got no money you say.

    That’s your own fault.

    You just need to get off your butt, work harder, spend less on food and be more entrepreneurial.

    You should save more of your income, now that you are getting that generous income tax cut from the kind Mr Key.

    What’s that? You intend to squander it all on expensive groceries. You ingrate. After all the trouble we have gone to, to get ol’ Roger’s GST raised to 15% to dissuade people like you, away from consumption and into savings.

    Well, if that’s what you want to do. As we here at the ACT Party, always say, it’s all about giving everyone more choice.

    And don’t forget on electoral day vote ACT.

    Yeah right.

  4. andy (the other one) 4

    Rodney tries hard to sell the super city in a herald Advertorial editorial today.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10629699

  5. Pete G 5

    Yes, Act is going through the small coalition party wobbles. Yes, a certain city restructuring could have a major impact on their chances. And yes, some members do have some radical ideas.

    But I think it is healthy for our democracy to have strong minority voices and strong minority parties. Act, Greens, Maori Party all make useful contributions on behalf of parts of the electorate, and I’d like to see that continue.

    I guess many of those affiliated to a party wish that their party dominates and all other parties wither. But for our democracy as a whole that would be a bad thing.

  6. I think I have a long term solution to the problem posed by Act.

    Extend Garret’s “voluntary” sterilisation programme to Act MPs. After a while they should become extinct.

    • Clarke 6.1

      I’ve got an even more vicious and effective mechanism for completely destroying ACT: hand David Garret a microphone and then diligently report every word that comes out of his mouth. The party will be toast inside 30 days.

      • Pascal's bookie 6.1.1

        The LP really should have at least two backbenchers on ACT related noise making activities.

        That little “if I ruled the world” shindig at Gibbs’ funpark, with 1/2 the profits going to Muriel Newman’s little freakshow of a website, didn’t get nearly enough public pointing and laughing.

        There are some seriously deranged people around ACT, and pointing out that National is in cahoots with said fruits is perfectly legitimate, indeed necessary. I don’t want nuts at the centre of our governance please thank you ta.

  7. tc 7

    It was only a matter of time for them to wake up to the fact that Wodneys’ shovelling Nat’s supershitty and they’ll pay the price….unless the nats rollover Epsom to them like in 2008 with a worth(less) candidate.

    That it’s taken them this long shows how self obsessed and out of touch they are but hey if you consider garrett a worthy MP then thinking things through’s not your strength is it.

    I hope the collateral damage through Nat’s is substantial….woo hoo.

  8. This bill has been significantly watered down from ACT’s original form,

    True. But then you link to a laughably bad TVNZ article to back you up. The bill has been significantly strengthened from its original form.

    • r0b 8.1

      Yeah sorry, was in a bit of a hurry last night and that was a throw-away. Got a better link for me?

      • I’m not sure that you need one. But my blog post was reasonably good, I think =)

        I think Garrett, and ACT, will be pretty happy with their win over three-strikes. It’s much harsher than National’s pre-election pledge, and also significantly more than National promised ACT in its confidence and supply agreement.

  9. ghostwhowalksnz 9

    WHat a travesty of journalism when Hide appeared on Q+A and wasnt asked ONE question about the super city. Of course it was another lapse of professionalism by Paul Holmes- one of Hides mates from way back.
    Is that Hides stategy not to appear when he would be asked about his Frankencity?
    Or does Holmes still have Mayoral ambitions so cant ask anyway

  10. Heaton 10

    But we have only got to blame for who voted for ACT and National and majority of people wanted the Super city etc and thats what we ended up with. People dont seem to have very good memories of last National Govt when Muldoon got in and stole everyones Super Scheme.
    Then Keys had some possibly slippery deal with Lord Ashcroft which he refuses to comment before election. Remember Ashcroft came out on private jet to see Keys,? Did Ashcroft have a suitcase full of cash so money wasnt traced in system?
    I recall ACT hired some offices from Bob Jones or were they free and nothing ever came out about that.?
    The sooner ACT goes the better.

    • lprent 10.1

      I have no qualms about supporting a Auckland super-city. It has been needed for a long time. Government should have made the responsibilities and funding for the old Auckland Regional Authority clearer decades ago rather than disemboweling it.

      The recommendations offered by the Royal Commission were largely doable and would have provided a good basis for the regional governance with a few of the rough edges worn off. However the government under Rodney Hides guidance in cabinet essentially dumped those in their entirety to put their own scheme in place. I just don’t support Rodney Hides vision of an undemocratic corporate city. It simply looks to be totally impracticable.

      As Minister of Local Government he seems to think that most of the asset and service provision should be provided by Council Controlled Organizations where most of the power to direct them appears to lie in the Minister of Local Governments hands. His view of the democratic organization is that there should be a super-city council elected on gerrymandered boundaries with essentially few abilities to change anything significant, and no effective representation at a local level.

      You get the impression that he gets his ideas about governance for the people of Auckland from Italian politics of the 1920s and 30s. I keep expecting him to announce that he will make the trains to run on time.

  11. BLiP 11

    Even I know that one of ACT’s founding principles is for less government.

    Yet, the overwhelming paucity of intellect within the ACT Party is made abundantly apparent with Roy’s speech to the party’s national conference. In the peculiarly clumsy manner of a third former attempting their first debate, she seeks to answer her own question: Who are we? What is our identity as a group? That she even has to ask this question at a national conference is startling enough, but her attempt at an answer invokes both the United States Constitution and the Magna Carta, about which she goes on to say: “ACT’s principles align with those found in [such] documents . . . that transformed the world.”

    Does Roy genuinely not realise that by citing those documents she is celebrating the very establishment of government, of giving the “huddled masses” the right to have their own affairs protected against the ravages of corporatism and imperialism, that taxation means representation? Of course she doesn’t. In fact, if the modern equivalent of either of those two documents were to appear today, the ACT Party would be in the vanguard to see them burned, and the perpetrators hanged.

    It seems unlikely ACT voters will ever see this for so dense is the leadership that light actually bends around the caucus. As David Garrett, the MP who wants to sterilise poor brown people has it:

    I am an ACT member because, unlike Labour, we are not a party of idiots. ACT is the natural home for those who believe in common sense law and order policies.

    It would be funny if they weren’t also serious.

  12. Bagehot 12

    Did Jim Peron do a video link to talk about the evils of the concept of society and the controls that are placed over the true expression of one’s self (irrespective of the affect on others of course)

  13. tc 13

    Yes Ghost ‘travesty of journalism’ is quite right, TVNZ is NACT’s little sopabox to stand on and have good things said about them, Rick Ellis and Johno Coleman wouldn’t have it any other way…..another 100k bonus Rick….yes please, sorry about those losses….never mind Rick just keep the soapbox available.

    Holmes isn’t a journo, he’s a celebrity talkback host. I recall sitting in the control room watching his show go to air about 1992 and asked my TVNZ host is this what passes for current affairs now?……it’s all about ratings was the reply, ah the cult of personality.

  14. Bored 14

    It’s a rather amusing as a spectacle to watch ACTs narrow polity being cast upon stony shores as flotsam and wreckage amongst those other failed materialistic monotheisms, communism and laissez faire liberalism.

    What is not so amusing is that the theistic grip their ideology has gained amongst mainstream politicians (especially but not exclusively amongst National MPs). Their creed lives on in the “centre’. The triumph of ACT, Douglas and their acolytes an almost universal tacit acceptance of their corporatist agenda, their diminution of citizen based democracy in favour of individual “consumers’ driving market based decisions.

    Our enemy is not ACT as a party; it’s the acceptance by the general populace of the foundations of their theology in everyday thought. To defeat Hide and crew is a Pyrrhic victory. They have made a joke of us with their easy victory that resides between the ears of the “centre’.

  15. While I in no way support Act or right wing thinking I view ACT differently than most. I agree they are bad but they are like a dead animal tied around Nationals Neck which they just cant shake. Imagine trying to work with them my goodness wouldn’t that be a real piss off( which Key deserves). While I have to accept that the public fell for MR smile and wave KEY the voters didn’t exactly flock to vote for ACT policy( so there is hope folks).
    It would also be fair to admit that on the left we have some people who you wouldn’t exactly want to be given a microphone to to often.
    While Act are dangerous most people can see that and verbally say things like ” Act whoa they are scary”National on the other hand I think have always had the ability to do real damage to our country.Which do every time they are in power with quite deep social changes, things like the old employment contracts act just one of many examples. National are the real scourge as far as I am concerned.

    • lprent 15.1

      That has always been my view of Act as well – useful to have the nutters of the right contained.

      However the super-city affects me directly. All I can see from the system that they’ve put in is that they have arranged to raise all of my costs through corporations that are effectively unaccountable to me.

      That makes them dangerous nutters.

  16. SPC 16

    At least something at the conference was clever, a black swan circles overhead, whenever your party leader is dancing around the world with his girlfriend at the tax payers expense and gets his feet tangled in his mouth trying to explain his hypocrisy.

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