So, just as Irish predicted, Calvert was the swinging voter, and Brash has now achieved his hostile takeover of ACT. Goodbye Rodney, and good riddance. What happens next? Here are some preliminary thoughts.
In the short term there’s the possibility that Key will use the turmoil of his splintering support parties to go for an early election. Espiner G certainly wants him to. I don’t think he will. Key won’t want to look panicked and risk an electoral hit for it. He has set out the date for the November election and is probably pretty confident that he can win it then. Never say never, Key could go early, but assuming he doesn’t, how are things going to play out for November?
The nightmare scenario for the Left is that Brash reanimates the corpse of ACT without scaring the centrist voters. If ACT builds on its current loony right base and hoovers up the racist vote as well (goodbye Winston?), and if National continues to do really well at pretending to be centrist, the two combined could dominate the election. The Left might be looking at an awful result. Good luck, New Zealand, if that comes to pass!
The dream scenario for the left is if Brash manages to scare the centre. The prospect of a Key government shackled to Brash and ACT after the 2011 election is hardly an attractive one. Brash, let us recall, resigned in disgrace after his odious tactics in the 2005 election were made public in The Hollow Men. Since then he has been leading a “taskforce” on the economy with ideas so whacky that even the Nats are ignoring them out of hand. The public might (inexplicably!) love the Key brand, but how are they going to feel about BrashKey? An invigorated Left might just squeak in.
In either case look for National to start running the line that Labour voters should switch to National, give it a mandate to govern alone, just to keep ACT’s influence minimal. Of course the Nats wouldn’t mind a bit working with ACT, to give them cover for their true Right agenda. But if they think that they can prise loose some sucker Labour votes with this meme then they will certainly try.
Whatever happens the current political landscape is about as confused and as interesting as I can recall since the Labour / New Labour split. We have Labour, National and the Greens of course, but also a new and unknown ACT party, a disintegrating Maori Party, a new Mana Party, the possible return of the Peters Party, and that other guy with the hair. Anyone who thinks they can predict the outcome of that combustible mix is trying to sell you something! We live in interesting times.