GMan asked the question, "Did ACT really win?" It got me thinking--a dangerous thing.
I think the answer has to be: "No." ACT has lost seven MPs out of nine, a huge loss by anyone's standards (although the loss of ACT's conservative wing is long overdue, and will perhaps follow this loss). But there's something in the numbers that shows, I think, a greater loss, and which Rodney's against-the-odds victory in Epsom has somewhat obscured.
Rodney received 13,661 electorate votes to win the Epsom seat, 44% of the total votes cast. A tremendous personal achievement, and a tribute to him and his enthusiastic team in the face of naysayers everywhere, including myself. He and his team has earned the right to gloat (feel free to do so below).
But across the country, with all its profile and all its advertising and money, ACT itself received only 31,074 party votes, and of those only 1,078 were from Epsom. Compare that to Rodney's 13,661. Rodney's personal support in Epsom then was just under half that of his party's support across the country, and even in Epsom--awash with ACT campaigners--the ACT party vote failed to even reach the 5% 'threshold.'
So Rodney won, but ACT lost.
This wasn't just the collapse of the minor party vote that all minor parties experienced; this suggests to me at least that the support for Rodney is largely personal support, rather than support for ACT's principles and policies, and the support for ACT's principles and policies themselves is largely down to its rump. Who after all could even name some of those policies, or the principles?
What that means for ACT's future then is unclear, but it seems to me that if it does want to pick itself up then it needs to become principle- and policy-driven, rather than being just another of Parliament's 'attack dogs.' That Rodney is the man who would need to drive the party's change of direction is perhaps an interesting irony.