The difference a year makes…

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).

Some highlights from the transcript of my interview with Rodney Hide, August 2007:

  • “I mean my view of Roger Douglas is, he’s a great guy, but he’s always bagged his own team, he’s done that his entire life in politics, and so he’s continued, he bagged ACT and me and Richard from the time we got to Parliament, so there’s nothing new in that.”
  • “So we’ve got to make ourselves relevant and new and also position ourselves better in an MMP environment, as compared with a tactical appendage to National”
  • “I think we have changed ACT totally, no longer a tactical appendage to the National Party, no longer an Opposition party, working with all the political parties”
  • “What I’ve found since 2005, and this was in a response to what members wanted, is I’ve presented myself as a warm guy, never attacks people, positive, Dancing with the Stars-type guy, I’ve never said a critical thing about an MP since, for over 12 months.”
  • “So it was pretty cool actually, just being yourself, and not sort of trying to be Richard Prebble, or trying to be Roger Douglas, because they were our mentors, models, and I went dancing and I was just me! And hey presto, people didn’t mind that, and it’s so much easier just to be yourself, so I actually couldn’t go back to the old style of doing things, even if I thought it was a winner.”
  • “The next success I need are 5,000 new members and supporters. So I’m starting a programme, a project to actually get 5,000 new members and supporters and I do that by March. I believe if I do that I’ll actually get to 2 or 3 per cent in the polls, in March. If I get 5,000 new members and supporters, I’ve got a great story to tell the punters that come to our conference in March.”[There was no mention of the 5,000 target at the conference in March and ACT had not reached 2 or 3 per cent in opinion polls by that stage, although as we know, it has subsequently done so]
  • “Well it seems to me that we need 8 per cent of the vote, 6 to 8 per cent of the vote at the next election. I also need at that point to have everyone understanding that we’re the free market party, so behind us has to be a good manifesto, and also one or two bottom lines, so that everyone is clear about what ACT’s position is heading into a coalition discussion. If I get 6 to 8 per cent, the ACT party is then in a position, it may have a new name, who knows, is then in a position to say well we campaigned on this, we sit down with John Key, we tell him, “you want to be Prime Minister, here’s the deal, no surprise”. [Seen in the light of today’s Fairfax poll, a scenario which is actually not as far-fetched as it seemed at the time]
  • “But here’s the thing that I want, I want to be able to say “it’s really nice, see you later John”, he’ll say “where’re you going”, I’ll say “I’m off to talk to Helen Clark, because she wants to be Prime Minister too””. [In light of ACT’s new slogan “Strengthen the Nats. Party vote ACT”, a scenario which now sounds ridiculous – but until 2008 this was Hide’s strategy!]
  • “So what I’m trying to do is get ACT into a position where we have options, choice and here we are way over here with our policies if you like, compared to the other parties, but actually in the centre talking to them all about how to advance our cause and work with them, and that’s why the significance of talking with the other parties is, and not bashing them up. So that’s where we want to get.” [ACT “in the centre”?!]
  • “So you’d be, let’s imagine that you campaigned on the health issue, transparency, I don’t know what the case is, you know “Health Transparency for Kiwis” or “Kiwis..”, you know whatever, something sexy and the Taxpayer Rights Bill, which is sexy, and you’d say, Rodney Hide, his job is, he’s minister outside Cabinet for Taxpayer Rights.” [We’re still waiting for the sexy bit. Note that Hide’s stated aim is now to be Associate Minister of Education, not Minister for “Taxpayer Rights“]
  • “And my goal on that is to have a good Select Committee process and to pass it and have the Labour Party vote for us [?], to pass it, because I know I put so much pressure on them, somehow, haven’t quite figured out, that they went “shit, to win the next election we need to pass this bill, because business is hounding our case”. So the pressure will go on them before the election I’m hoping, from business groups fed up with red tape. That’s a big win. And you’re standing there in the election campaign and people are saying, “oh well, you know Rodney Hide, can’t do this”, so hang on buddy, I’m the prick that won Epsom and you said I couldn’t do it. I’m the prick that got the Regulatory Responsibility Bill and you said I couldn’t do it.” [The Regulatory Responsibility Bill has not been passed and Labour later withdrew its support]
  • “You think this election’s going to be hard? Nah!”

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