It’s a big call, I know, but I’m pretty sure we’re seeing the end of the ACT party happening right before our eyes.
Let me be clear, I don’t mean the end in a shifted-so-far-from-their-values-it’s-as-if-they-are-gone way and I don’t mean in a taken-over-by-the-National-Party way. I mean gone from Parliament and gone from the political landscape.
And I should know – I’ve had the misfortune to have had far too much to do with ACT and its members in my time. Which is why I was able to announce their mystery fifth MP for them and why I was the only political commentator who knew Calvert would be the one who flipped on Hide.
So when I say ACT is in its death throes there’s a bloody good chance I’ll be right.
The launch of the party’s racist anti-Maori ad campaign only underscores how desperate ACT is to get a poll hit – any kind of a poll hit they can. There was a chance that their new leader could have brought the party around but it’s clear the usual loopy suspects have their hands on the controls – and they’re steering the plane straight into the ground.
Here, for example, is ACT’s number one PR man John Ansell commenting on Kiwiblog today:
It seems to me that there are Four Big Cons being perpetrated in New Zealand, of which the Maorification of Everything is just one.
The John Key Con – the notion that Key cares about his country and will implement core National policy, when the evidence from three years of incompetent management makes it blindingly obvious that he doesn’t, and he won’t.
The Global Warming Con – the notion that we need to pay higher prices for everything and punish our farmers in the name of an unproven theory based on dodgy computer models.
The Teachers Union Con – the notion that the PPTA and NZEI care about children, when their real agenda is to keep the worst teachers teaching those children for life.
There may be more. All of these four would be fertile ground for a party to campaign on. But don’t expect much enthusiasm for telling the truth about St John.
It’s wacky wacky stuff but it’s also exactly the kind of claptrap the leadership of ACT are telling themselves at the moment. Combine that out-of-touch fringe thinking with a leader that is not in the house and some truly awful political marketing such as Ansell’s appallingly wordy and unattractive advertisements and you’ve got yourself a party that’s heading toward polling under two percent.
And a sub two percent showing is bad news for ACT in Epsom. Right now everyone thinks the Nats will run a soft campaign to let ACT in but if ACT is only worth one or two seats then the difficulties of dealing with a small party of nuts might no seem worth the extra vote. In fact if ACT can only guarantee one seat with an Epsom win then the Nats are far better off keeping Epsom themselves.
Then there’s the fact the party’s support base is drying up as the business world shifts away from a free market focus to a more sensible position. It’s telling that at the same time the climate-change denying ACT party runs its backward racist ads, a group of high-flying Kiwi business people are running their own ad-campaign promoting green growth and innovation. Perhaps equally symbolic is the fact it happened in the same week Alisdair Thompson got sacked for similarly Jurassic views.
Not only is the corporate support abandoning ACT but they are also struggling to attract quality candidates. Their latest new face being none other than Cactus Kate. Her blog makes for amusing reading in the same way watching Hilary Calvert in action in the house can bring a giggle but while that weirdly naive unpleasantness both of these ladies of ACT specialise in is fascinating (in a train wreck kind of a way) it’s hardly the kind of thing that attracts votes.
Of course there may yet be some respite for ACT, perhaps ex-Federated Farmers President, Don Nicolson, will join and bring enough farmers’ votes with him to keep them afloat (I can’t understand why Don would do that to himself however – he may be a bit batty but he’s not got the nasty streak that seems to be compulsory in ACT nowadays). Or perhaps National will decide it is in its longer term interests to keep ACT alive as a ginger party to its right (but I wouldn’t bet on it).
Whatever happens it’s going to take a hell of a miracle for ACT to survive past this election. If I were Brash I’d be worried.