The Herald editorial writers weigh in the future for ACT and its members under John Banks, concluding “a new liberal party seems the only viable solution”:
Act's lone MP, John Banks, has been making all the right noises about the party's negotiations for a confidence and supply deal with National. There would be gains for Act in the areas of "choice, responsibility and private enterprise", he said after a second round of talks with John Key. The wording was designed to emphasise Mr Banks' affinity with Act's founding principles, and to draw attention away from his previous existence as a Cabinet minister in two National governments. He was, in effect, trying to persuade Act's dwindling number of supporters that he was one of them. It would be understandable if few were convinced…
His true colours were revealed when Dr Brash backed the decriminalisation of the personal use of cannabis. This advocacy tallied with Act's promotion of individual freedom and personal responsibility. It was to be expected from a party that embraced classic liberalism. Yet Dr Brash's initiative was rejected out of hand by Mr Banks, confirming that he was very much a social conservative.
A social conservative who only joined the party to get National across the line. Now that it has …
Act exists in name only….
The party's brand has been badly tarnished by a succession of scandals.. Now its only MP does not fit the Act mould. There appears every reason for the supporters of its principles to call it quits and establish a new liberal party. They could do so in the knowledge that there will always be a niche constituency for their core philosophy…
It has been suggested that Mr Banks, for his part, would fit far more snugly with the Conservative Party… If Mr Banks were to leave Act and join the Conservative Party, it would, in many ways, serve the interests of both parties…
[In any case, as Stephen] Whittington has intimated, Act appears beyond repair. A new liberal party seems the only viable solution.
I agree. And I’m prepared to be part of it.
Because the ideas and principles that powered both Libertarianz and the ACT Party* are too important to die—as they will do under Banks. Members of both parties, me included, now need to accept that we’ve done a poor job in our respective parties of promoting those principles.
But this is the low point. We can learn from what went wrong with both parties, and from their ashes commit to doing a better job this time.
Who’s with me?
* * * *
* That powered both parties? Well, yes. The ACT Party’s principles were written by Ian Fraser, who left the ACT Party before its first election to found Libertarianz (where he expanded on them). Those principles are as important now as when he first wrote them:
- that individuals are the rightful owners of their own lives and therefore have inherent rights and responsibilities; and
- that the proper purpose of government is to protect such rights and not to assume such responsibilities.
If a new party can’t coalesce around those principles wHile learning the lessons of the past, there’s something wrong.