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.
…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.