Wednesday, April 27, 2011

ON NATIONAL, ACT AND BRASH

There is danger in commenting on what is clearly a developing political story from afar but for what it is worth here goes.

MMP is the bastard political system inflicted on Germany by the allies post WW2 designed to make it virtually impossible for no one Party to govern alone. Right now NZ is stuck with it and forget the stellar polling enjoyed by National. National needs political allies if it is to govern in the medium to long term.

Labour has the Greens and NZ First as natural allies. The Maori Party is undergoing its own inner turmoil and cannot be counted on as a natural ally of the Centre Right. It is unlikely the Dunne Party will survive the election and even if it were to make it over the line it would remain a one seat wonder with its vote available for purchase by the highest bidder.

So all that National is left with is ACT. I am not privy to our internal polling but the advice I have from several sources is that right now ACT is mired in the 1-2% margin of error stuff. Their Leader is not polling well in Epsom, particularly among female voters, and without Epsom ACT is out of Parliament.

It has to be remembered too that in both 2006 (under Brash) and in 2009 (under Key) National sent a deliberate nudge nudge wink wink to its supporters to support ACT with their electorate vote.

A large part of politics is about perception and right now the perception is that ACT is damaged goods.

Enter Don Brash. From where I sit I have to say my assessment is that if he were to go with his own Right Wing Party (as he has threatened to do) he would bury ACT. The problem for ACT, in deeding him the leadership, is that while Brash sits squarely with the Douglas/Richardson economic faction, he is a social conservative. It is a moot point how that would play out on their declared liberal/libertarian tradition.

For all his good points Brash remains politically naive. A case in point is his championing of John Banks for Epsom. JB is a political Peter Pan and yesterdays man who managed to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory. Is he to be the bright new face of ACT going forward and is Brash saying he would prefer Banks over Boscowan as an ACT nominee for cabinet? (because you can be as sure a god made little apples, Banks wouldn't be going to parliament to sit on the back benches.

So there are risks for ACT and while Brash would certainly bleed off right wing voters from National he would also change brand ACT and move it way from its liberal tradition.

But to end where I started. National needs allies and right now I doubt whether ACT as it currently stands, and certainly in the face of a Brash lead alternative party, will be in parliament post November. So on balance, and unlike my good friend Adolf, the Veteran supports the bid by the Brashites to take-over ACT risks et al.

10 comments:

JC said...

Good post, but a couple of points..

Brash may be politically naive, but that doesnt stop the Greens from getting into Parliament every election.

I saw this exchange on NZ General:

">> Cos of his reasoning, logic if you like.
>
> What reasoning/logic ?
>
Economic rationalist style reasoning/logic.
The stuff your accountant talks about at the xmas party."

..and there you have it.. the almost perfect description of Brash's relationship with NZ. In the middle of an unsustainable party Brash is the accountant talking costs and consequences.. boring as hell but salutary advice to wastrels.

There is, and always will be a role and need for the non PC political player who employs reason as a first argument, and a minor party is the ideal vehicle for such a person in an MMP environment.

And I'm pleased to see your analogy of MMP as a system that is *imposed* on defeated nations. Its designed to split that nation into factions to blunt a resurgence of national purpose.

NZ didn't lose a war, but it showed it had already lost a sense of national purpose when it embraced MMP.

JC

Nick said...


So all that National is left with is ACT. I am not privy to our internal polling but the advice I have from several sources is that right now ACT is mired in the 1-2% margin of error stuff. Their Leader is not polling well in Epsom, particularly among female voters, and without Epsom ACT is out of Parliament.

It has to be remembered too that in both 2006 (under Brash) and in 2009 (under Key) National sent a deliberate nudge nudge wink wink to its supporters to support ACT with their electorate vote.


I despair when I read this stuff.

Firstly, Act was under 2% a few weeks out from the 1996 election and got 7%. In 2005, Act was finished a few weeks before the election and it survived. Act has always polled like this between elections and we are still in April! The argument just doesn't stack up. Anyone in politics knows a day is a long time in politics. Seven months is an eternity.

On the Epsom thing, I campaigned in the electorate in 2005 & 2008. There was no "nudge nudge wink wink" in either election. In 2005, Act presented a compelling tactical message that the voters accepted and one which almost made Don Brash prime minister.

In 2008, Hide won on his merits. He worked extremely hard during the three year period both on his physical appearance (to make himself more electable) and garnishing support amongst the electorate (left, centre and right). He did such a good job he increased his majority to 13,000, from about 3,000 in 2005.

That's what happened. Give us some credit. We don't get much.

Psycho Milt said...

MMP is the bastard political system inflicted on Germany by the allies post WW2 designed to make it virtually impossible for no one Party to govern alone.

Actually, it's a voting system designed to make Parliament match what people actually voted for. We couldn't resist fucking with it by putting in a 5% threshold and retaining Maori seats, but despite that it still does a pretty good job of creating a representative Parliament. In other words it's fit for purpose, and all the bullshit people spout against it is because they disagree with that purpose.

Labour has the Greens and NZ First as natural allies.

NZ First is more of a natural National ally, and Labour has shafted the Greens thoroughly and consistently since MMP was introduced, so in what sense they're natural allies isn't obvious. Both Labour and National have ruled out or shafted the smaller parties they need to be able to form govts - hubris resulting from their born-to-rule arrogance. If it comes back to bite you, too bad.

Anonymous said...

not sure brash is a social conservative.

I think he is more libertarian on social issues than is perceived.

Personally, I like him back. Don't always agree with him but he and Harawira are the only two politicians who actually have an identifiable, clearly defined, philosophical position.

You may not like it, but you know what you get with both of them.

I used to be a strong Act supporter but when they drifted away from their libertarian roots under Hide I lost interest. The last time they stood on a point of principle was when declaring Labours repeal of the Foreshore Act a denial of legitimate property and legal rights. Unpopular message, morally and legally correct.


The only logical reason for the existence of Act is as a consistent, transparent advocate of individual rights and economic rationalism. Often that might include the right to do things that many conservatives find abhorrent, but that is where Act can find a legitimate place in our political process.

Act has to be above the "normal" political process in order to be relevant.

The Veteran said...

Nick ... it is probably only of academic interest now but I can assure you that in both elections National decided to focus its campaign in Epsom on maximising the Party Vote.

National made a judgement call then that without Epsom ACT might not be around.

I am not sure they will make the same call this time as a revitalised ACT with DB as their leader should make it over the 5% albeit at the expense of National.

The dynamic has changed and National will not lightly deed Epsom to ACT and especially not if JB were to stand as the ACT candidate.

Interesting times.

OECD rank 22 kiwi said...

Congrats The Veteran, you backed the winner.

WAKE UP said...

Your opening premise is flawed: what on earth makes you think NZ First is a natural ally of Labour at this point in history?

If NZ First gets an over-the-threshold chunk of the vote -- which it well might -- I predict surprises (which commentators are skirting around at the moment, while they're obsessed by Brash and co)

Nick said...

National made a judgement call then that without Epsom ACT might not be around.

No. Without Epsom, National would not be around.

baxter. said...

"JB is a political Peter Pan and yesterdays man who managed to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory."

Not accurate. The reason he was defeated was because he campaigned on economic prudence while Loony Len promised the moon without raising rates. Act will also be campaigning on economic prudence. Apart from Rodney Act lacks a skilled campaigner with a common touch and a bit of charisma.

Anonymous said...

Previous anonymous is on the money. Brash's conservatism is an illusion. He's far more interested in economics than social policy and Orewa was pure-Nat vote-bait designed to appeal to the core Nat constituency. The Nats are only interested in procuring and holding on to power, and Orewa and everything afterwards was a cynical attempt to do that. More fool him.

In a minor party Brash can be true to his liberalist tendencies. Whether he will choose to do so is moot, but with the Nats, NZ First and United all taking very conservative positions, I wouldn't be surprised to see Brash present the party as a socially liberal alternative. That would put ACT to the far right on economy, but more to the centre on social policy. We could even see an ACT-Labour alliance: social liberalism is part of Labour's DNA (and legacy) after all and times are desperate enough to warrant another round of Rogernomics. He's in the right party for it, and Labour needs to latch on to something galvanizing if they're going to survive much longer. Why not fixing the economy? Someone has to, and the Nats don't have the courage. They're a nothing government.

The thing that doesn't add up, however is John Banks. If that's an indication that Brash is going back to the divisive bone-headedness of Orewa I'll be disappointed. I hope Brash sees the light and finds another electoral candidate, or has the guts to shoot for 5% without one. Either that or neuter John Banks as soon as the election's over, but that's a dangerous proposition.