What to make of Epsom? I haven’t so far had a strong opinion on the topic, but I’m starting to come down on the side of “if you can’t beat them, join them”.
I’m sure we all know the background. The Nats are standing the oddest of patsies in Epsom, and “campaigning” for the party vote only. In other words they’re gifting the seat to ACT (Nats in drag) in the hope of getting a coalition party (with all its funding and resources). It’s likely that more deals will follow:
Act look for deal to leave marginal seats alone
National and Act are working on a deal under which Act would not stand candidates in marginal seats, including New Plymouth and Waimakariri, to increase National’s chances of winning them.
The deal would be in return for National again gifting the Epsom electorate to Act by having its new candidate Paul Goldsmith campaign only on the party vote.
It would give National a greater chance of wrestling Canterbury’s Waimakariri electorate from Labour’s Clayton Cosgrove and holding on to New Plymouth against a strong challenge from Labour’s Andrew Little.
Labour has called this a stitch up and a sign of ACT’s desperation, which of course it is. Some commentators call it duplicitous, absurd, a “naked and shameless power grab” and a “grubby transaction”. Others have the opposite view, that “It’s a perfectly sensible arrangement if you want to eliminate certain MPs, and I’m surprised Labour and the Greens don’t pursue such arrangements (e.g. in Ohariu)”. In my view the theory can be argued either way, but the practice has already been decided. Nat / ACT are going to use this as a tactic, so Lab / Green would be handing them a significant electoral advantage if they didn’t explore their own possibilities.
As a complicating factor, however, John Pagani raises an issue I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere:
Since National and Act are colluding over Epsom they begin to get into some tricky territory – especially if the deal takes the form of ‘endorse Act in Epsom and Act endorse National on the party vote.’ Collusion is not illegal, but it comes at a price.
Parties are limited to spending just over $1m plus $25,000 per constituency candidate Candidates in an electorate are limited to (another) $25,000. If Act and National collude, they are at risk of breaching the spending cap because huckstering on behalf of someone else still counts towards the limit.
Well worth keeping an eye on. In the mean time, well done David Parker for putting himself forward to represent Labour in Epsom. Epsom voters will dutifully elect the turnip in the borrowed blue ribbon, but they’ll know in their hearts that there was a much better man in the race.