It is the sign of decay of any libertarian movement when it labels its Centre-right allies ‘Centre-left’ or ‘socialist’. The ACT Party has been on a gradual slipping slope now for the best part of a decade, not once reviving itself after the foolish decision to oust Rodney Hide as their leader.
And so began the gradual transfer away from traditional, libertarian policy focus to god-only-knows what. Don Brash’s new populist focus on ‘One law for all’ policy tactics disillusioned the foundations of the ACT Party.
John Banks added insult to injury, and began the rapid decline of ACT. More of a classical conservative than a classical liberal, Banks was merely a National Party puppet with very little independent thinking.
History says Banks was a no-hoper, and embarrassingly resigned as an MP as he dealt with electoral fraud charges.
There was a brief interim between Banks and new leader David Seymour which many of us may have forgotten already. The mysterious libertarian radical from the United Kingdom who flirted with such idealogical pursuits as legalising crystal meth and incestuous relationships before quickly changing tune back to the ‘One law for all’ sentiment – this was the chaotic term of Jamie Whyte.
But Whyte, although perhaps too ambitious in his radical liberalism, had a better idea of what the ACT Party stood for than Brash. Foolishly, instead of reverting back to the ideas of low taxation and decreasing the role of government which had made the party briefly successful under the leadership of Rodney Hyde, he tried to attract the ‘easy’ redneck vote. So disillusioned did the party become with its leadership and management, that a leading figure in the Dunedin ACT Party, Guy McCallum, fled to the Greens instead.
When the Greens are appealing more to those with libertarian values more than the so-called libertarian party that is ACT, you know the new leader has a big problem to fix.
So, on the plane went David Seymour from Calgary, Alberta to Auckland. His mission? To turn around the ACT Party, and turn the page on years of chaos, mismanagement and disillusionment with the party base and the New Zealand public.
It’s going to be no easy job for the 31-year old Aucklander. Offering the votes of Robin Grieve to National’s Mark Osborne was not the dream start the party would have been hoping for. What it proved is ACT is simply unwilling to go out by itself and seek to rebuild the party. The result? A shameful 66 votes, polling behind the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party for the second by-election in a row.
Polling since Seymour became leader has shown the party is somewhere between 0.0% and 1.5%. If anything, a likely sign of a decrease from its new record low of 0.6% at the last election. The fact a party which is supported by just 16,000 New Zealanders, totaling 0.6% of all votes is in parliament whilst a party like the Conservatives with 4% backing of all New Zealanders is not acts as a exemplar to the flaws with the system.
Although, admittedly, the 16,000 votes managed by ACT is marginally better than the 4,000 secured by the now totally irrelevant United Future. Peter Dunne’s task is far greater – attempting to rebuild a party which was never really there. And if Peter Dunne’s majority keeps falling at this rate, as it has been, he will be gone by 2017.
Seymour was on Q+A this morning arguing to Heather du Plessis-Allan his strategy for rebuilding the shattered movement. And to his credit, he did show signs of willingness to take the party away from Left-Right politics and back to its libertarian foundations. Where he faulted was cuddling up to National, and then the next minute pushing them away.
Multiple times in the interview Mr. Seymour compares the National government to Labour, Helen Clark and even Michael Cullen, stating there was virtually no difference between the “9 years of Labour” and the “7 years of National.”
You can watch the interview here