BREAKING NEWS: A winning 2008 election strategy for ACT!
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).
“Kia ora, good evening. National leader John Key kicked off the political year today with his Burnside speech. And he had a shock in store: a coalition deal signed and sealed with Rodney Hide’s ACT party, ten months before the election even takes place. For more on this story, political editor Duncan Garner joins us now live from Parliament. Duncan?”
“Yes good evening Hilary, I can tell you that Key’s announcement took everyone completely by surprise, his advisers had been telling the media privately that Key would give a speech on education. Well the Burnside speech was certainly on education – a lesson in backroom political dealing.
KEY: “Well first of all I want to commiserate with you if you’re a closet Labour Party donor and missed out on getting a New Year’s Honour. Just let me know if so and I’ll send a text to Helen up in Oslo – just hope she’s not meeting the Norwegian royal family!” [laughter]
“But then, Key got serious and dropped his bombshell. National’s preferred coalition partner for the 2008 election is Rodney Hide’s ACT party. In fact, it’s more than preferred: National has stitched up a tango deal with the party leader now famous – or is that infamous – for his antics on the dance floor:
“To most voters it will come as little surprise that National would prefer to work with its friends to its right, long supporters of tax cuts and free-market policies born out of the 1980s economic reforms. But National doesn’t just want to work with ACT, it’s going to actively help it to survive.
“Currently, ACT remains in Parliament thanks to leader Rodney Hide holding the Epsom seat. In 2005, Hide had to fight every inch of the way to take the Epsom seat from National’s Richard Worth. This time, National’s withdrawing its candidate, giving Hide all but a clear run to victory in Epsom, and guaranteeing his party’s survival. In return, ACT’s sole other MP, Heather Roy, will withdraw from the Wellington Central electorate race, where she’s up against National candidate Stephen Franks – ironically himself a former ACT MP.
“In return for unconditional support of National, Hide will get a guarantee of deep tax cuts to be implemented immediately after the election, set down for November. And there’ll be more tax cuts as economic conditions allow. But there’s a gimmick: the more party votes Hide gets for ACT, the better a ministerial position Hide will get in a National Government. Key’s promising him an “Anti-Red-Tape” role if he remains in Parliament, but gets less than 5%. If he gets between 5 and 10% support, Hide will be Associate Finance Minister, with one other undecided ministerial post also assigned to ACT. If ACT gets over 10%, Rodney Hide will become the country’s Finance Minister, with 2 other ACT ministers in a National-led government.
“Funnily enough, Hide’s gone to ground this afternoon, saying he doesn’t want to spoil John Key’s moment. But plenty of others have been willing to comment: Deputy PM Dr. Michael Cullen has called it a “flip-flop” by Hide, who last year had begun to woo Labour.
CULLEN: “Voters don’t want to go back to the dark days of the ’80s and ’90s, in fact they’ve made it quite clear they want their tax dollars spent on providing quality health and education. They certainly don’t want a resurrection of Rogernomics”
“Whether voters agree with Cullen, or are willing to give what Key’s calling a “Coalition for Change” a chance, remains to be seen.
“And Hilary it’ll be interesting to see whether Labour is able to credibly portray ACT as the right-wing bogeyman as it’s done in the past. There’s a real generation gap with Key and Hide, compared with say the National leadership of Don Brash and ACT’s Richard Prebble. And any Labour talk of doom and gloom is really going to jar with those quite comical dancing shots of Rodney Hide and his new-found image as a slimmed-down weight-loss devotee
GARNER: “Well the key point here is that the deal makes ACT look like a serious player. Hide’s going to be a minister of some description, the question is only what. So voters will be more willing to cast their votes for ACT if they know they’ll be put to good use. And by not having to wage expensive electorate campaigns in Epsom and Wellington Central, ACT will be able to conserve valuable resources for a nationwide push for the party vote.
“The only question is whether the tactic could backfire for Key, if the deal cuts too much into National’s own support-base. But the parties are both on the same side, they’re fighting for the same team. Hilary?