Act: Hiding to nothing and MMP deals
Cactus Kate's post-mortem in the NBR points to a deep disrespect from former Act voters with what the party has dissolved into:
Dr Brash [...] led ACT to a record thumping. A 1% list vote and barely scraping through in Epsom in a tactically contrived win where Don and John managed to almost grab defeat from the jaws of victory.
There are all manner of faux excuses for ACT’s performance; poor media coverage being just one of those rolled out.
I will make it a whole lot simpler – the voters mocked Don Brash and with it ignored ACT.
Having your own core voters think the Leader is a dithering fool and with it ignore the Party as relevant is terminal.
ACT has ground itself down with obsessive branding labels such as libertarian, classical liberal and conservatives.
The over-indulgence has caused me confusion such that right now even I have no idea what faction I belong to.
John Banks remains as the last man standing after one of the most disasterous coups in New Zealand politics.
A poorly executed coup without an army.
A coup where short-sighted ACT MP’s Douglas, Roy and Calvert anointed Dr Brash but in turn the only reinforcements he dragged with him to run the Party were Lindsay Perigo and John Banks.
Dr Brash turned out to be the old duffer most of us all feared.
Rodney Hide not mentioned - not even once! Brutal. She has been with the party since university days before their first election, alongside Rodney stuffing enevelopes no doubt, so his exclusion from the narrative is just mean.
I know from talking to insiders that their internal polling had Rodney's chances of keeping Epsom as doomed after being caught perking with his girlfriend. I said it wasn't as bad as all that and the electorate would forgive him, especially since the election (at that stage) was about two years away. But no, they freaked out, dropped their balls (that is to say Sir Roger couldn't help himself organising a coup against the man that had become akin to a nemesis), adopted the old duffer as their champion and paved the way for John bloody Banks (of all people) to take over the show. A disaster of some making, but to obliterate Hide from the history is
wrong - Kate is not the sentimental type.
She looks forward in hope, if from a point of disarray:
A John Banks link-up with the Conservative Party would be terminal for ACT and with it ruin the Conservative Party.
ACT must remain separate so John Key and National can do a seat deal with them similar to Epsom encompassing the religious right and social conservatives.
This is smart politics for the centre-right.
Under MMP, even the most popular prime minister could only barely scrape a majority, which proves how hard it will be for the centre-right next time if we don’t work intelligently as a collective to structure coalition partners for National on a more coherent and friendly basis.
This is why the MMP review is crucial to the future make-up of parliament and whether in the long-term the right can remain competitive against a left bloc that is fractured, but probably always in a majority if the turn-out is high.
I argued before that Boscawen alone was the one Act MP that deserved to be returned - and if he had run a strong campaign in Tamaki (with the 'we are only seeking the party vote' sort of soft collusion we have come to expect from National in these Epsom/Ohariu scenarios) it would have been a better outcome all round for Act. But that opportunity was lost, as was that of doing the same deal for Colin Craig in Rodney.
The problem is that the local National members - and indeed the head office - is loath to concede any electorate that naturally aligns to them. Fair enough. That creates its own problems of forming government when these anomolies of gaming the system are not utilised. If the Nats had let Craig and his Conservative chequebook party in the gate in Rodney they would now have a comfortable cushion to their right on which to recline.
The MMP review will determine which way these chips stack up and how the cards will be dealt. The system we get after the review will be with us for maybe a couple of decades.
At the moment, because of the overhang provisions, encouraging - or installing - a conservative rural party to take the true blue provincial electorates and letting Act into the true blue urban seats is the smart move for National. Although Kate didn't mention it specifically it also means that the party vote must be uncontested by these smaller parties if they want to really help National. It means attempting to distort the proportionality at the heart of the MMP system and I'm sure the likes of Murray McCully have already run the numbers and have formed an agenda on how to get the best out of the review for National.
The fear has always been that gaming it like this will cause a backlash from voters who not only resent the "deals" aspect of which they have no control and see as a subversion of their democratic choices, but also of the enlarged parliament it would create - blowing out to 150 or more depending on whether Labour tried the same fix. This fear - combined with a reluctance to share power with other parties - has kept the major parties from scamming it, however with a clear few decades ahead and with the knowledge and experience of how close the right/left blocs are these deals may well come about and be evident at the next general election.
The question then is to what extent will MMP change? My pick is that if the overhang provisions remain then the temptation will be there to do the deals mentioned above and the creation of electorate-only feeder parties - the so-called "parallel parties" scenario that was spoken of as options when MMP was first introduced (by Maurice Williamson wasn't it?). The "coat-tailing"/"hitch-hiker" provision of winning an electorate to limbo under the 5% bar won't matter either with these potential electorate-only parties from what I can work out.
UPDATE: And speaking of large unweildy and unresponsive duopolies engaging in phony divisions to game the system I must note that Telecom has just split formally into two parts to get around the constraints of their particular market regulation:
The demerger sees Chorus become a public company to take part in the Government's ultra-fast broadband scheme and roll out high-speed fibre internet cables in 24 towns and cities over the next eight years.
Since the split, Chorus is now a wholesaler and own 130,000km of copper lines, more than 27,000km of fibre cables and more than 500 telephone exchanges.
Telecom is a standalone retail business but keeps hold of its mobile network.
It's all bullshit of course. The shareholding will be similar and ditto the awful corporate culture of disservice and ditto everything else. And as for that government-funded ultra-fast broadband that everyone thinks is so wonderful and will somehow miraculously "step-change" the nation's productivity, that is merely a gross subsidy for Telecom and Vodafone's private networks - more corporate welfare.