Saturday, June 7, 2014

Realpolitik


I used to have quite a bit of respect for the ACT Party.  They had principles and their policies reflected their principles.  The principles weren't ones I agreed with, and the resulting policies were ones I was vehemently opposed to, but I could respect the facts that the policies were grounded in principle and ACT Party members could advance rational arguments for them without resorting to the hypocritical partisan weaselry required to be a Labour or National supporter.

Enter realpolitik.  Once ACT became dependent on National to gift it an electorate seat, thanks to the undemocratic and just plain unreasonable threshold rules the major parties imposed on MMP (fuck, don't get me started on that), principles became a luxury as unaffordable as they always are to someone dependent on a patron.

It didn't take long for the patron organisation (National) to find it more convenient to just mount a full takeover and put their own people in charge - Don Brash and John Banks.  Brash was at least vaguely credible as an ACT member, sharing the same principles as the party - which meant he was soon given the elbow and lifetime Nat loyalist John Banks put in sole charge.  The 2011 election must have been a cringeworthily embarrassing experience for ACT members, as bog-standard conservative Banks largely ignored the party's principles and told all who would listen he was aiming to help install a National Party government.  For a party whose main branding point is its commitment to a set of principles, this would have been a low point for members equivalent to Labour ca 1990 or National ca 2002.  ACT's share of the party vote reflected that - Banks was the only 'ACT' MP returned in 2011.

I'm sure ACT still has a great many members committed to its principles, but this dependence on National for an electoral seat has introduced the corruption associated with the major parties.  That's something we shouldn't lose sight of - the MP just found guilty of electoral fraud is, was, and always will be, a National Party man.  He's currently an ACT MP only because it suits the National Party for him to be one.  This clusterfuck is one imposed on ACT by the National Party.  It's something that the smaller left parties should keep in mind when considering how dependent they should let themselves get on the Labour Party - assistance always comes with a price tag, and there are always a bunch of hidden charges.


12 comments:

Edward the Confessor said...

That post was overly generous. You're talking about a party whose MPs have almost universally been either profoundly hypocritical (Douglas, Hide), criminal or otherwise bent (Garrett, Awatere-Huata, Banks, Jennings, Coddington), just plain creepy (Eckhoff, Calvert, Newman) or umm Richard Prebble. The current leader considers incest should be permitted, and that's the most sensible thing I've heard him say. What principles are you talking about?

Psycho Milt said...

If you don't think libertarians don't have principles, you can't have met many.

Re, their MPs, as a supporter of minor parties myself, I'm aware of their tendency to attract dubious characters. As an Alliance voter, I got to congratulate myself on having helped Alamein Kopu to a seat in Parliament, and no it wasn't a pleasant feeling. Likewise, when people characterise the Greens as deranged hippies, it's not hard to find a bunch of example MPs to back it up. I don't think it's worthwhile to get too partisan about these things.

For all that Garrett and I abuse each other on Kiwiblog, I find the lefty partisan stuff about his 'criminal' background ridiculously overwrought. The hounding of Hilary Calvert I found as enlightened as Paul Henry's 'lady with a moustache' comments about Stephanie Mills. The attempts to associate Jamie Whyte's name with incest is in the same league - he had a rational, and I thought unremarkable, view on it in that he doesn't see it as a matter for the criminal justice system. Those who find that view outlandish and worthy of ridicule should ask themselves what form their rational argument for incest being a criminal offence takes. So far, all it seems to consist of is "Ha ha he likes incest."

smttc said...

Nice re-writing of history there. Banks was no chosen by National. He was chosen by Brash who as you admitted aligned with ACT's principles.

Brash chose Banks not because he was a former Nat but because he was well known in the Auckland region as a right wing politician. He was not chosen because he was a conservative.

Edward the Confessor said...

"If you don't think libertarians don't have principles, you can't have met many."

Act MPs have never been libertarian. They're mostly fiscally conservative crony capitalists and often socially conservative to boot. Their defining features, other than a tendency towards criminality, are a distaste of poor people, and a hang 'em high attitude to criminal justice (which is odd given where most of them end up).

Psycho Milt said...

Banks was no chosen by National. He was chosen by Brash who as you admitted aligned with ACT's principles.

You are correct - the ex-National cabinet minister Banks was chosen as ACT Epsom candidate by the ex-National leader Don Brash. It's conceivably possible that National had no hand in it, but I'm thinking that in this case, the waddling, quacking thing is a duck.

smttc said...

Then how do you explain that the very reason Brash tried to takeover ACT was because he did not like the Nats policy direction and wanted to change it.

What you saw, heard and assume had nothing to do with ducks and everything to do with your partisan hackery.

Edward the Confessor said...

It's true the Nats needed a right wing flank to give them cover to do some of the things they wanted to do but didn't have the guts for, so in that respect Brash left them to perform that role. Not sure whether that's what you meant though smtcc.

smttc said...

EtC, PM is suggesting the takeover of ACT was a National conspiracy. What bollocks.

Psycho Milt said...

I'm not sure a takeover that happens that publicly really qualifies for the term 'conspiracy'...

The Veteran said...

PM ... with respect, I disagree with elements of your analysis.

As a right winger Don Brash was never comfortable with the National Party as being too broad church. His natural home was/is ACT.

His mistake was to recruit JB to stand in Epsom. Banks was/is tribal National and his views were always to be at odds with the libertarian wing of ACT.

I suspect that if Brash had persuaded one of ACT's 'Young Turks' to stand in Epsom that Party would be in a much healthier position than it finds itself in today.

But there was never any National takeover of ACT. Brash come home to a Party in tune with his vision and the ACT Board, memorised by him, said 'how high' when he said 'jump'.

ACT at 1% doesn't add a lot of value to National. ACT at 3% does. Not sure the events of the last few days with ACTs Leader and Campaign Manager seemingly at odds with each other have helped but at least Bank's departure should allow ACT to focus on their task ahead.

The real question has the ACT brand been fatally damaged ...
guess we'll know in just over 3 months time.

Nick K said...

Brash come home to a Party in tune with his vision and the ACT Board, memorised by him, said 'how high' when he said 'jump'.

Nope. I was round the table and voting and we weren't mesmerised at all. None of us wanted it. I'm not saying we didn't want Don, I'm saying we didn't want what had happened. But we had to take it. Hide had stood down and said he wouldn't fight Don's takeover. If we'd said "no", we had a party without a leader; and a key seat without a candidate - a few months out from an election where we were trying to keep National in power.

ACT at 1% doesn't add a lot of value to National. ACT at 3% does. Not sure the events of the last few days with ACTs Leader and Campaign Manager seemingly at odds with each other have helped but at least Bank's departure should allow ACT to focus on their task ahead.

I'm constantly amazed how the Nats completely fail to understand that National needs Act more than Act needs National. For me, I don't care if Act fails this election. I want it to have a "no guts, no glory" attitude and just go for it with our "extreme" policies like: reducing government spending; reducing taxes; getting tough on burglars; and saying everyone should be treated equally regardless of their skin colour. If Act fails, the Nats have to rely on Winston and the Maori Party, if they survive. Feel free promoting them both!

The Veteran said...

Nick ... of course National needs ACT. But I would far prefer ACT at 3% rather than 1% +/1 the margin of error. At that level there exists the possibility that the good burghers of Epsom might just decide that enough is enough and go back to their natural home.

I think John Boscowan, an ACT man through and through, would have been a far better choice than Don Brash especially if he had promoted some of your up and comers to 2/3 on the list.

You are doing that now. Hope for your (and our) sakes it's not too late and the ACT brand hasn't been fatally damaged.