Prime Minister John Key has two allies in Parliament he owes the continuing success of his Government to, at a time when the rest of New Zealand is beginning to finally tire of Brand Key. These are two one man band parties who have stubbornly – often against their philosophy, and certainly against the pollsters views – supported National’s tenure in office, even when nearly every electorate in New Zealand has outright rejected them.
Much as Peter Dunne has completely sold out on his supposedly centrist platform, Ohariu Belmont seem to be keen to keep him in office. United Future began life under Mixed Member Proportional just before the 2002 election, as a result of the Future New Zealand party and a more liberal United New Zealand party merging. Mr Dunne’s strong performance in a televised debate during the election campaign that year drew away supporters from several other parties, and United Future increased its size to nine Members of Parliament. It almost immediately lost a Member of Parliament when Kelly Chal was made to resign after being found not to be a New Zealand citizen. In 2005 it was cut down to three Members of Parliament as a result of a resurgent National Party. Mr Dunne chose to support Labour in confidence and supply, enabling the Helen Clark led Government to last a third term. United Future was cut down to one Member of Parliament in 2008.
For the last 7 years United Future has been a one man band. Sitting on the cross benches, Mr Dunne has used his position to enable legislation that would have otherwise been defeated pass through the House of Representatives. It will be interesting to see how long Mr Dunne can hold out in Ohariu before another party rolls him there.
A.C.T. is a party with nine lives. It has survived oblivion in more Parliamentary terms than many of the current M.P.’s have held their current jobs. It was born just before 1996 election and picked up eight seats, which became useful for National when its coalition with New Zealand First unravelled over asset sales in 1998. From 1999 to 2005 it held nine seats in Parliament before internal ructions and the departure of Richard A range of scandals over the years from 2008-2014 slowly undid A.C.T. to the point where it was widely thought to be a party dead in the water – fraudulent use of a dead baby’s identity, failure to declare election donations (the charges for which have since been overturned), to name a few. Battered, bloodied and reviled by the majority though, A.C.T. continued to fight, first with Rodney Hide managing to hold on to Epsom until he resigned in 2011 in time for John Banks to take over before the election. Mr Banks resigned in 2014 because of allegations of failing to declare donations from Kim Dotcom and was charged before a court. Before Mr Banks resigned, Mr Seymour was selected as A.C.T.’s Epsom candidate for the 2014 election. He entered Parliament initially to fill the vacancy left by Mr Banks’ resignation, and then after the election as Member of Parliament for Epsom.
David Seymour, the solitary A.C.T. Member of Parliament has John Key to be thankful for in many ways. Mr Key could have – and if he had, many on the left would have been hugely grateful – told his supporters in Epsom to vote for Paul Goldsmith, but instead told them to vote for Mr Seymour. A.C.T. would have been out of Parliament had Dr Goldsmith won this seat.
Although I personally still hope to see the destruction of A.C.T., a party that I believe can only ever regain its values by starting over completely, I have come to accept that as long as Epsom wants an A.C.T. Member of Parliament when the rest of New Zealand does not, it shall survive. Although I think United Future has sold out on its supposedly centrist values by failing to check key pieces of legislation passed by National, it appears Peter Dunne has the support of Ohariu Belmont and a purpose as a cross bench Government supporter.