ACT 2008 Annual Conference

Note: this post originally appeared on ‘Douglas to Dancing’, a blog I maintained from 2007-9 on the ACT New Zealand political party. The blog was an extension of the thesis I wrote about the Act Party in 2007, From Douglas to Dancing: explaining the lack of success of ACT New Zealand and evaluating its future prospects (PDF).

Early notice of the 2008 ACT Annual Conference has been in the member-only e-mail newsletter ACTion! for a couple of weeks now. It will be on March 14/15, at the Waipuna Hotel & Conference Centre in Auckland. Funnily enough, I happen to be coming to Auckland that weekend, so I hope to be able to go along at least on the Saturday to cover it for Douglas to Dancing.

I’m expecting something bold and new at the conference. I think it will be the first of the election year party conferences, so ACT has a good opportunity to get itself set-up early. The novelty will have to come in the form of a new (appealing!) policy, logo or perhaps a stellar new list candidate. Here’s a thought: imagine if Don Brash was announced at number 3?! With the direction ACT is now taking, I seriously doubt that would happen, but it’s the kind of publicity-generating event that the party needs if it is to get above the dismal 1.5 per cent support it recorded in 2005.

Another talking point for the conference will be membership levels. Earlier this year, Hide launched a membership drive with the aim of 5,000 new “supporters” for ACT by the time of the conference. Although ACT has always had two distinct joining options (i.e. become a member or “supporter”), I wonder whether he will fudge the 5,000 target if it is not achieved by the time of the conference, as it almost certainly won’t be. In My Year of Living Dangerously, Hide was very careful to say supporters, not members, and this has the potential to turn into something as vague as website visitors. Several years back, ACT was cagey about its membership levels and preferred to point out the number of subscribers to its e-mailing list for The Letter, a weekly newsletter cum gossip-sheet. Expect John Armstrong and other journalists to pounce on the membership levels at the 2008 conference, if they remain low.

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