Sunday, 4 December 2011

Project ACT is over, bar the shouting [updated]

Former ACT candidate Stephen Whittington has now said what was obvious as soon as the good ship ACT crossed the finish line last Saturday with only party hopper John Banks inside the boat: that Project ACT is over.

On his Facebook page Mr Whittington called Mr Banks "economically ignorant and interventionist", in response to the Epsom MP's comments opening the door to Conservative Party leader Colin Craig…
    "Banks' post-election comments [on Mr Craig] certainly clarify that there is no liberal future in the Act Party.”

And nor is there, as Whittington himself made clear enough in his election night speech to his own supporters:

The media will report that the ACT Party has hung on.  In reality, John Banks, with the resources of the ACT Party thrown behind him in Epsom, has hung on.  ACT, a liberal party now represented by an MP who has such questionable views on homosexuals and ethnic minorities, and sees it as his personal mission to suck up to National as much as possible, exists in name only…

This is hardly just Whittington’s opinion, it is the opinion of many others as well.

And it’s not just opinion: it’s a simple statement of fact. 

Sure, now it can hold its caucus meetings on the back of John Banks’s Harley the ACT caucus is going to be free of all its traditional infighting. But a party-of-one represented only by a bigot and a spendthrift (an overspending mayor, he left the Auckland council nearly one billion dollars in debt) is not a natural  repository for social and economic liberalism.

The ACT Party is now the Banks Party. Having failed to get a second MP into Parliament, the brand of ACT will be the brand of Banks.

Which leaves long-term ACT supporters having to ask themselves what they were in politics for, and what they are loyal to:

  • are they loyal to liberty and the ideas of social and economic liberalism, and they voice they thought promoted them?; or
  • are they simply loyal to the ACT flag, regardless of who is carrying it and what that flag flies over?

Whittington’s own answer seems to be that those loyal to liberty and the ideas of social and economic liberalism need to recognise reality and find (or make for themselves) a new home.

Which leaves feral ACT flag-flyers like Cactus Kate incensed. On her blog yesterday, she threw a tantrum. She attacked former hero Whittington (who only weeks ago she was talking up) and told former colleagues “if you don't like where ACT is headed, stay around and be constructive and work with John Banks.”

But why would you?

With the captaincy of Banks, ACT is already dead and buried. It has no unique voice, and no more fundamental reason to exist than the Peter Dunne Party.

And with Banks at the helm, ACT  is already on the the rocks as a vehicle for social and economic liberalism. So the only reason to stay around and work with Banks is to support Banks. Which means to help bury both ideas.

That might be okay for ACT tribalists like Cactus who just like waving a yellow flag. But for those who got into ACT because they value freedom and responsibility and who saw ACT as the repository for those values, then the time has come to confront reality. Time to move on.

Time to find (or build) a new vehicle.

UPDATE:  No surprises about Cactus’s tantrum. As a one-time deputy leader of ACT once observed,

Act sees [politics] as primitive combat, with a need to destroy a colleague's reputation to justify an otherwise inexplicable decision.

Or as I’ve often said about those in politics who eschew ideas:

…For them, politics isn’t  a battle of ideas, it is a battle of warring political tribes.

Time for intelligent people to put the toxicity, tantrums and tribalism aside, and focus on the bigger goal.


  1. You mean ACT will be joining the Libz on the scrap heap?

  2. How about all you Libz idiots wake up and think that your party is finished too? After more than 10 years, you guys haven't got a fucking single MP into Parliament. Your party is finished. Its a waste of time to hang on to the party as if you're going to get into Parliament in the next 40 years or so. At least ACT is still there in Parliament even with a single MP.

  3. Why do you focus so much of your time on this blog to a party that is "dead"?

  4. I love Cactus's blog, and she can do some stunning analysis, plus with her job description, she's bright, but I do not understand her, and others', to use your term, tribal loyalty to brand ACT, rather than the only thing about that party that is important, the classical liberalism it was based on (and which is now gone)

    Cactus will undoubtedly read this post, I hope she edifies us.

    The other one I don't understand is Whale, who looks down on Libz for being 'pure' ... I'm sick of all that bullshit.

    Anyway, hopefully some version of Tammett's alliance idea will get off the ground.

  5. @Nick K:

    Simple: Because the party is dead, but the good people who are/were members are not.

    And neither is their thinking apparatus.

  6. @V/ACT Youth et al: Yes, bring on the tribalism and tantrums.

    Which, too, hasn't worked.

    Time for intelligent people to put the past and unimportant differences behind us, and put the toxicity, tantrums and tribalism aside, and focus instead on a bigger goal.

  7. @PC
    Hardly a tantrum. Just a statement of fact.

    If we were to focus on bigger picture goals why you don't just come out and endorse the ALCP?

    They get many times the votes of the Libz get and as far as one can tell have at least some issues in common. Surely that vote could at least be cannabilised to some extent? Or else bring them inside the tent.

  8. ACTiods....PC's right. Let the dead dog lie...its over.

    The ACT brand is tarnished and exhasusted and not worth bothering with...time for a new beginning.

  9. PC is correct in his astute observations regarding the ACT party. To a man a group of right wing haters and wreckers determined to seek and destroy each other when they could and should have been a unified force. Rodger and Heather must be having a good ole belly laff.

  10. ""How about all you Libz idiots wake up and think that your party is finished too?""

    ..and who will continue the ideas of individual responsibility and freedom. Politicians to a man have been self-serving weasels with no ethics, morality or philosopy over the 40years I've seen. Where will NZ be wih only Socialist ideas around?

  11. Destroying reputations of those that didn't agree with them was one of the key "tools of trade" of the Rodney tribe in ACT. I am told by an impeccable source that he even had two members of Team Toxic trawling ACT members and staffers Facebook pages for anything they could leak to the media and hence destroy their reputation on, if they dared to step out of line.

  12. Hal Incandenza4 Dec 2011, 18:05:00

    I note Perigo is thoroughly unapologetic for his pivotal role in destroying Brash and what remained of Act's support and having Banks elected as Act's only MP. All the while getting paid handsomely from the coerced earnings of the productive. And he abuses others as braindead. It's all too fabulous.

  13. Perigo was being paid by the party when he worked for Brash, not the taxpayer. Unless you are implying ACT donors had been coerced somehow?
    And btw, Perigo did not destroy Brash, the inept campaign management did, and that includes the inept Board. Why they didn't become his "army" and get in behind him is beyond me.

  14. Hal Incandenza4 Dec 2011, 20:09:00

    Perigo was appointed as Boscowen's press sec. That's a taxpayer funded position.

    He destroyed Brash by making Act unelectable. Did you read some of those press releases?

  15. Richard McGrath4 Dec 2011, 21:34:00

    @ACT Youth: Why do you assume that a political party can only exert influence from within Parliament? Could you explain for the benefit of readers the ways in which ACT has stood firm as a bulwark of freedom from within government? We still have minimum wage laws, the ETS and the RMA after ACT's 17 years as a party and 15 years in Parliament. Yes, ACT is "there" in Parliament, represented by a homophobic anti-drug shill for the National and Conservative Parties. Wow. I'm underwhelmed.

  16. Destroying reputations of those that didn't agree with them was one of the key "tools of trade" of the Rodney tribe in ACT. I am told by an impeccable source that he even had two members of Team Toxic trawling ACT members and staffers Facebook pages for anything they could leak to the media and hence destroy their reputation on, if they dared to step out of line.

    Wrong person. That was Heather Roy who did that.

  17. Act Youth - *slow clap* yep you must be so fucking proud right now. Auckland Supercity now John Banks, remind me again why I should have voted for that? A man in a nearly burnt down house that others threw a fortune at shouldn't be pissing on a neighbour's shed that is small but actually in good condition.

    I'd quite like many of the people who built both to move on and built something new.

    Grow up and start talking to people who share most of your values and goals, or go polish John Bank's shoes and follow him wherever he goes.

    and I'd suggest that while ACT supporters (and methinks others) can engage in shit-flinging post-mortems, it is more useful to start from scratch.

    Especially since ACT has nothing to start from now, other than some good people.

  18. At least his press releases had some insight and forethought, and actually made sense, unlike those of Bumhole Bradbury

  19. You said it was toxic in the party because of a "leaked" document from Mrs Poisonous herself, Heather Roy. And it was she that got her pals to trawl through members Facebook pages to incriminate them.

    I never subscribed to the belief that Brash and the Nats he bought into ACT were the answer to the problems inside ACT.

    I'm unashamedly in the pro Rodney faction - but that's because he was the best at pushing our barrow within the party. You couldn't trust Heather or Hilary with anything. ACT on Campus are also bloody naive for getting sucked into doing Heathers dirty work as well.

    I hear loads of rumours about some New Liberty Party and I'm all for it. But there seems to be a bit of a scramble for it and I'm concerned there will be a few popping up at once and all about personalities not policies.

  20. The reality is that coming back in three years (in whatever form) is going to take some huge effort. People need to be intelligent about where to direct their energies.

    I'd suggest leaving ACT and starting a new "purer" party, or even bolstering the Libertarianz, is going to be a lot of hard work. And almost doomed to fail, unless you get some top people involved, and the backing of some independent organizations or think tanks. You may be able to look yourself in the mirror better, or sleep more soundly at night, but if you are in politics to change things, that would be the wrong road to choose.

    It would be easier, but still a lot of hard work, to just stay in ACT, pick a new leader (not Banks - allow him to go into Cabinet where he can't do any damage), and reform the party back to where it is credible. This is going to be tough, because it may involve compromises and pitched battles, but it is by far the better option.

    My view, quite frankly, is that both these options would be a waste of time. People concerned with freedom should look at forming a think tank (you could even call it the "Association of Consumers and Taxpayers" if you like!) and work with existing parties - especially National - to get good people nominated and into parliament. The reality of politics in New Zealand is that people vote on brands, and it is a lot easier to take over an existing strong brand than start your own from scratch.

    Or here's an idea: Maybe all the libertarians in Auckland should move to one electorate, join National, and nominate their own candidate for selection? A bit like the Free State Project!


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.