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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hide capitulates

If you can't beat 'em - join 'em, eh. Rodney has resigned as leader. He was shrewd enough to have himself named personally in Act's agreement with the Nat's so he can't be removed as easily as a caucus vote. So it's business as usual for him. [Some media are speculating Rodney will not stand in Epsom or that he won't be deputy leader of Act. I don't think he's built that machine up, and offed Richard Prebble, and got into bed with his arch nemisis Roger Douglas, just to end up resigning everything. That's not Rodney Hide. He will stay on in Epsom, surely. And will plot to return as leader. Brash is 93 isn't he?] And now someone else can take the blame/credit of leading the country's foremost right wing party into this particular campaign.
I heard that old duffer, Don Brash, on the radio this morning trying to talk up his bizarre extra mural leadership coup of the Act party. He hadn't quite got around to resigning from National... or joining Act though. Who does this? How desperate would the party be to accept this? He said he was still waiting on (what I presume is David Farrar's) opinion polling on whether Rodney or Don would best lead the Act party. It's not as if Brash is going to commission anything that would say anything other than his leadership is vital, so it's obvious how that exercise will turn out. Brash had given another optimistic account of his leadership bid including a reference to "when I rolled Bill English" on Cambpell Live last night and I remembered how Don was prone to these beautiful moments where he just blithely says exactly what he thinks. I hope there are many more.

Rodney's survival instincts are still intact even if his leadership has been ceded to an outsider. The caucus - the other four - see their survival more likely with Don than with Rodney (facing possible defeat in his seat and therefore ending their careers). The inner Act organisation will be pleased to have Don Brash as its new/old poster boy, but the way in which it has played out and will play out will be met with ambivalence and skepticism from the Actoids centred around Rodney's party machine bastion based in Epsom - they will still control the party while Brash remains outside. Brash will attract big money, some big names and hopefully for them a bigger vote - above 5%. Any threat from the right to run a candidate - "Reform" or otherwise - against Rodney is short-circuited so I guess Rodney has bought some relief. What a maneouvre! If Brash runs for somewhere logical like Tamaki or North Shore then the dynamic will change if he should become an electorate MP.

As a trick - a gimmick, a campaign salvo, it's more dramatic than Roger Douglas' political resurrection in 2008. Douglas' reappearance lifted the Act vote - no doubt about it. Brash will likely have a similar impact, probably greater than just 2%. But one wonders how his role as Act leader will work out when he goes head-to-head with the other leaders esp. John Key. Brash's negatives like age and ideological rigidity will paint Key as young and moderate in comparison.

National will be comfortable with this new arrangement, they have lost only a single party member: Don Brash. This isn't a party schism and they won't figure on losing any more than a few members (back) to Act. As a lifeline to keep Act's slither of the vote on the radar - and to keep the Tories on the right side of 50% in the House it is, what it is - Brash. In fact it's beyond Brash - it's audacious. Brash can hardly believe it either, can he. It's an eternal twighlight Christmas for Don. One minute he's Rodney's bestest friend, taking a Crown hand-out consultancy on this 2025 gig - ironically just the sort of wasteful government/bureacratic patronage that Act and Rodney in particular used to bitterly complain of when in opposition - and then the next minute he's Rodney's newest bestest friend taking an Act Party hand-out consultancy on this election gig.

It's not as if Don will have to change any policy position to fit in. He's more Act than National - partly why he lost the 2005 election.

And what happens if Brash actually manages to get in? To get over 5%? To take out an electorate? If even the Labour Party seem resigned to a National-led government later in the year - and with their Maori Party partner imploding - Act may be the only option on the table. And it could be take it or leave it and it could get Act a lot of say. The hue of the beam that Act creates from the executive prism across social assistance and policy will be all the more dark. They may even be in a position to demand a chunk of the cabinet... who knows how much effect this will have? Mass redundancies and massive cuts to social services to keep the government spending within Don's red lines in Year One just to start. Year Two - now you're talking real pain. Don didn't flinch once when he pushed unemployment (and interest rates) through the roof in order to get the inflation figure to ≤2%. That was Don's single by-all-means-necessary target as Reserve Bank Governor, what will his similarly fanatical target be as Treasurer/Finance Minister in the next ministry? "Balance the budget"?

Alternating bands of the radical and conservative elements within Act (and within their new intake) will coat the National leviathan in very sharp scales.


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