Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Another decaying corpse

What is it with ACT and the political undead? Last election, they pulled the stake out of Roger Douglas, allowing a whole new generation of New Zealanders to learn what a demented old fool he is. And now, they've attracted the unwelcome attention of former National Party leader (and Hollow Man) Don Brash, who is demanding to be made leader even though he is not even a member of the party. And in typical Brash style, his campaign is based on threats: threats to funding (echoing his 2002 "no Brash, no cash" campaign), and to start a new ultra-right vehicle to contest ACT's tiny share of the vote. To an outsider, it doesn't exactly seem like a way to win friends and influence people. But maybe ACT people like being threatened and parasitized in this manner.

Its also a potential discomfort for National. The prospect of coalition with an even more radical racist Brash-led ACT is unlikely to appeal to the moderate voters National is relying upon for support. And Brash's platform of pushing harder for those policies means (in practice) instability and regular coalition tantrums. While John Key says he is relaxed about working with Brash, I doubt he'll be so relaxed when Brash is threatening to withdraw confidence and supply to extort unpopular policy concessions.

But its not just a short-term problem. ACT is now looking like a party in its death throes, with various loonies fighting over the corpse. The Maori Party is being seriously threatened by Hone Harawira. They've ruled out working with Winston. Which means their list of potential post-election coalition partners is looking very thin indeed. They're betting on majority government, which means not having to worry about any of that, but even on current polling, that's a big gamble. Voters balked at the idea of an unconstrained government in 2002, and I expect a similar reaction this time round. And even if their gamble is successful this time, they'll still be facing that problem in the long term. If ACT goes under, who will National work with in 2014? 2017? The future? Peter Dunne isn't going to be around forever...