ACT and The Greens – some thoughts
I’ve been thinking…
Throughout this election campaign – and even prior to Don Brash’s coup d’état - ACT has been polling well under the 5% MMP threshold, that permits a Party to win seats in Parliament.
With such low voter support, ACT has relied on the electorate seat of Epsom, which Rodney Hide won in the 2008 General Election with a handsome 21,102 electorate votes. National’s Richard Worth came a distant second with 8,220 electorate votes.
Since then, ACT has suffered several set-backs;
- A very public coup, which saw Don Brash seize the leadership of ACT – despite the fact he was not even a member of that Party when he took over.
- A serious mis-calculation in advocating legalisation of marijuana. Whilst this would be reasonable policy for a quasi-libertarian Party – it did not go down well with the conservative folk of Epsom.
- John Banks reportedly “reigning in” his own Party leader on the cannabis issue.
- Deputy leader, John Boscawen, resigning under circumstances that were less than clear.
- Brash attempting to resuscitate anti-Treaty sentiment with a newspaper advert attacking “maori privilege“.
- Brash not focusing on core, economic issues, as he said he would at the time he took over from Rodney Hide.
- Nominating John Banks as the new candidate for Epsom – something that Epsomites seem less than enthusiastic about.
- John Key stating publicly that he was voting for the National candidate in Epsom, Paul Goldsmith.
With ACT practically falling apart before our eyes, it seems unsurprising that it barely registers in public opinion polls. It polls usually 1-3%.
Meanwhile, Banks is trailing behind Paul Goldsmith, despite the “unspoken arrangement” between National and ACT, the Epsom National Party supporters give Banks their Electorate Vote, and National their Party Vote. The idea being that if ACT scores over 1.2% of the Party Vote nationwide; and wins Epsom*; then Banks could pull one or two extra MPs into Parliament with him, as a Coalition partner for National.
So far there seems little chance of this happening. If current polling translates into votes on 26 November, then ACT is out of Parliament – another small party “bites the dust” under MMP.
One part of me views this possibility with a shrug and a “meh”. Considering ACT’s harsh right wing policies that most certainly favour the rich and corporate ‘elite’, it is hard to muster any sympathy for such a group.
But another part of me is… uneasy. Uneasy at the prospect of ACT’s demise.
Though I have no truck with that Party and it’s hard-line right-wing, neo-liberal, free market ideology – I cannot help wondering what will happen once it fails to return to Parliament.
What will happen to it’s supporters?
Where will they go, in terms of finding a new political “Home”?
Remember that ACT was founded by Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble – one-time Labour Party MPs. Douglas, Prebble, and other hangers-on had colonised a supposedly social democratic, left-wing party – and between 1984 and 1989, had managed to gain control of Labour. Like some parasitic organism, they had managed to take over the Host, and turned Labour into a precursor of the ACT Party.
A party of me shudders at the imminent demise of ACT.
Where will the ‘parasites’ end up? In which new Host?
The obvious choice would appear to be National.
If ACT supporters colonise National and become a viable, albeit invisible, faction within that Party – it will happen out-of-sight, and without the elecorate’s knowledge.
Voters in 1984 believed they were voting for a traditional Labour Party. They were badly mistaken.
National, with an agitating ACT faction vying for power and influence, could be a re-run of history.
Let’s not be too keen to see the end of ACT. Let’s keep the buggers where we can see them; out in the open.
+++ Updates +++
There has been some discussion recently about the (extremely remote) possibility of a National-Green Coalition, post-election.
The Green Party leadership seems frosty at the idea, and List candidate, Catherine Delahunty, has stated that she will resign if such a Coalition deal eventuates.
Most recently, this issue was canvassed during an episode of Statos TV’s “iPredict Election Show”, with Green MP, Gareth Hughes.
Personally, I have no great love for this notion either.
My first preference would be a Labour-Greens-Mana-(Maori Party?) Coalition. (And yes, I think such a notion would work. They all want similar things for their constituents, and despite some asteroid-sized egos at work, their party policies are not as divorced from each other as they like to make out.)
In saying that…
Part of the rationale for MMP is that small parties act as a “brake” on the executive power of governments. Most recently this worked well when ACT voted – along with Labour and the Greens – to seriously amend National’s outrageously draconian, Police Video Surveillance Bill.
MMP is not just an electoral system – it is an extension of the Will of the Voter to prevent any one party from having total control over Parliament. The days of unbridled power by the likes of Muldoon, Douglas, Bolger, and Richardson, are long gone.
If the Greens can act as a “brake” on National – should it win the largest number of seats in Parliament – but not sufficient to govern on their own – then this option should be explored. With all due respect to Ms Delahunty – a principled person who does not appear to brook political shenanigans easily – let us at least look at what the Greens might achieve in Coalition with the Nats…
- No asset sales. Not 49%. Not 25%. Not 1%. End of story.
- No more demonisation and attacks on unemployed and other beneficiaries. Enough of the victim-blaming of this recession.
- Re-focus the next government’s attention on job-creation policies. This has to be a priority. Without jobs, we are sentencing a couple of hundred thousand of our fellow Kiwis to rot on welfare.
- Raise the minimum wage. Yeah, I know this is Labour Party policy – but somehow I dont think they’ll mind if you nick it and use it.
- Begin the re-building of Christchurch, in earnest. Enough with the messing around. As a famous sweatshop-operator-and-maker-of -footwear sez, Just Do It!
A Green-National partnership would be handy to achieve all of the above. But more than that – much more importantly – the Greens could pull National away from the Right, and back to the middle ground in politics.
That, in itself, would be a worthy achievement.
If a Party wins an Electorate Seat, then they are not bound by the 5% threshold, and can win as many seats as their Party Vote allows them, regardless of whether or not they are at 5%.