ACT’s “harsh feel” – the name change debate

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).

I think ACT has got that harsh feel to it for me, like I find it quite a hard word to say, oh it sounds German, with the greatest respect to the German people. It sounds like “Achtung!”- “okay!”, whereas we want something warm – Rodney Hide, 30 August 2007*

The one major fault I would have if I were one of Hide’s advisers with his on-air performance on Radio Live today was that he scarcely mentioned the word “ACT” in his programme. Now, maybe he was trying to be fair and not use the air-time as a campaigning vehicle, but given the tax cut sermon he gave each listener I seriously doubt he had any qualms about talking politics. Hide mentioned Labour and National more than he did ACT. Indeed, at one point he said “vote for me!” to a caller. Great if the caller came from Epsom, but bad if he was from any of the other 60 or so electorates who can only tick “ACT New Zealand”. Some people might immediately associate this with Rodney Hide and tick the box (if they like him), but I think for many this will be lost in translation.

Therefore, I think ACT needs to seriously consider changing the formal party name at the March 2008 annual conference to “Rodney Hide’s ACT”. Of course, this action will be tantamount to admitting ACT has become a personality party, but this is merely what most people think already. Hide has previously said that he doesn’t want the party to be renamed after him, but there is already a precedent set for doing this in “Jim Anderton’s Progressive Coalition”. This worked well for Anderton at the 2002 election, but on visiting the Progressive website, I see that “Jim Anderton’s” appears to have been dropped from the party name, leaving just “Progressive Party”. I’m not sure if this is officially registered with the Electoral Commission, but it gives ACT an option. Quietly add Hide’s name to ACT’s registered title at the Electoral Commission in time to appear on ballot papers this November. Then next year, rename the party properly, as ACT has been strongly considering since the 2005 election. Who knows, this time next year ACT may have a couple more MPs, which would make it easier to announce a fresh start with a new name and with less of a personality-driven focus.

*In an interview with me for my dissertation, see the transcript on p. 131 of the PDF

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