ACT campaign launch

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’m sure most readers will be aware that ACT launched its election campaign with an event at Alexandra Park in Auckland on Sunday. Political party election launches in New Zealand do not give off “bounces”, as is always hoped for after the Democratic and Republican conventions in the United States. Indeed, while the US conventions are technically necessary, in order to nominate the candidate, the NZ affairs are pure show.

Perhaps the best that a small party like ACT can hope for from its launch is to rally its supporters into working extra hard for the next four weeks. With so many parties launching their campaigns at the same time, a post-launch “bounce” in support is not in prospect.

Unfortunately the ACT website does not provide any video of the launch, so all I have to go by is the transcript of Hide’s speech to the event. Much is the usual grist for the mill which you can read at the ACT website. But there are a couple of talking points for analysis here. The first made me chuckle, even if it relies on the written word, rather than the spoken form in which the speech was delivered. Referring to ACT list candidate John Boscawen, the transcript reads:

Party vote ACT and let John lose [sic] in Parliament. They won’t know what’s hit them.

Ah, the perils of the Microsoft Word spell-check. The second point is a more serious one. Hide says:

I often get asked what the number one issue of this election is. I say crime.

Hide might “say” this, but I wonder if he really believes it. Crime is a legitimate issue. But for a party of economics in the first country in Asia to fall into recession, I think the genuine number one issue for ACT can only be the economy. And it was precisely that issue on which ACT was focusing up until the last month or two – the “biggest pledge card ever” was, after all, about how to make New Zealanders $500 better off per week.

However, I’m not saying that Hide is stupid for saying crime is the number one issue. Far from it. A hardline stance on crime is a populist, proxy issue for winning over hardline voters. In other words, the voters on National’s right.
If voters had been convinced by ACT’s economic plan, they would have said so by now and support for ACT would have filtered through to the opinion polls.

But as I’ve said before, the time is over for convincing voters on policy detail. ACT needs a “soundbite” issue.

And crime is perhaps the one topic that is capable of whipping up something resembling a fervour and putting some quick runs up on the board in the final weeks.

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