Conference 2008: Douglas number three on the list?

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).

The main news to come out of the conference was that Sir Roger Douglas is to stand in a constituency seat, probably south of Auckland. The Herald on Sunday suggests Hunua, which is the renamed Port Waikato electorate with slightly altered boundaries. However, I think it possible that ACT will put Douglas in the entirely new south Auckland electorate of Botany – which is without an incumbent MP. But remember, this is an MMP parliament. Constituencies might be important, especially as the “lifeline” for a small party, but it’s the party list which matters. Indeed, even if Douglas goes into the Botany electorate, I am doubtful that he would win.

History shows us that only “good local MPs”, such as Peter Dunne, Jim Anderton and possibly now Rodney Hide can win and hold electorate seats. Winston Peters and Richard Prebble both lost their electorates, arguably because they polarised their constitutents. Douglas would also fall into this category, to put it mildly. Bearing this in mind, however, it is interesting Hide told delegates that he wanted to bring “Roger back to Parliament” by the end of this year. The tone in which Hide said this suggested to me that Douglas won’t just be a “figurehead”, as I had previously suspected. If it is seriously intended for Douglas to come back to Parliament, he must be going to be given the number three list placing, traditionally reserved for a “stellar” candidate.

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