Two days ago we ran a piece called ‘If I were ACT’s campaign strategist‘ which suggested ‘ACT needs to lay claim to the true right, without going so extreme that National has to disown them, by articulating a series of classic right-wing policies including: tax cuts, spending cuts, asset sales, and deregulation’. I didn’t realise a) that ACT were such avid readers and b) they would take the advice so literally.
Yesterday, new de facto ACT leader, Roger Douglas, held a press conference where he promised to slash government spending by 10% to fund tax cuts (mostly for the rich), abolish Working for Families, privatise education, and rent out hospital space to private providers.
Roger! That’s what you should do but not how you should do it. You should have been more moderate and built the case more gradually. By going so extreme so quickly, Douglas has forced John Key to immediately react by disowning ACT to prevent Right voters going to ACT and moderate people making the obvious conclusion that a vote for National is a vote for ACT’s radical policies. Douglas has shown himself to be an FPP dinosaur in the MMP age and made his party politically irrelevant.
Or so goes the conventional wisdom. But it’s wrong. The mistake is Key’s. Yes, Douglas went too hard too quickly but he has said what a decent bloc of voters on the Right want to hear (the Herald loves it). ACT will pick up support from National, despite Key’s attempt to make voting ACT seem pointless. All it needs for ACT to take 3-5% of the Right vote and suddenly you’ve got National polling in the mid to low 40s, needing ACT (and probably other parties) to have a chance to govern. What then? National needs ACT but Key has just said he’ll ‘be buggered‘ if he’s going to work with them. Can National really afford to turn its back on a party that holds a hunk of the right wing vote? No, Key will be forced reopen the possibility of a deal with ACT, going against his comments yesterday. Another flip-flop, of his own making.
[next week: ‘If I were the Greens’ campaign strategist’ – let’s hope they don’t take it as gospel too]