The Association of Consumers and Taxpayers (A.C.T.) have announced that they are going to rebrand as a political party. But as the yellow submarine in the right field of N.Z. politics seeks to find – presumably – a better name and message, it is questionable whether it will surface again as a credible force.
The rebranding of A.C.T. might be just the medicine that the right-wing of New Zealand politics needs. It was a party that made the mistake of trying to be everything to everyone – even if a bit of environmental and social common sense was welcome – and as a result its message to New Zealanders became convoluted. This sense of being convoluted might have been a result of the backlash caused by A.C.T.’s experience in the 2008-2011 term of the New Zealand Parliament. During that time its reputation as a perk buster came unstuck; List M.P. David Garrett was made to resign in disgrace after having been found to to have used a dead child’s identity to gain a passport.
Following the 2011 election where a five M.P. party became the sole M.P. party that it is today, A.C.T. had a leadership clean out. Dr Don Brash had lead the party at the election, announced his resignation on the night, clearing the way for Jamie Whyte to be elected leader. David Seymour was made the new candidate for Epsom.
The party that was launched by Richard Prebble and Sir Roger Douglas in 1996, veered across the political spectrum between 2008-2011 to become a more corporate party. It shed its image as the perk busting outfit that relentlessly pursued politicians accused of misusing Parliamentary perks. The accountability that it demanded of other parties was missing in action. The David Garrett saga gave it a dirty tarred image that made voters walk away in droves.
Come 2014, A.C.T. decided it needed a younger leader, and David Blair Seymour became leader after winning the Epsom seat at the election that year. Since then he has spent time as an under secretary for education under the National-led Government of former Prime Ministers John Key/Bill English. Mr Seymour also pushed a Bill of Parliament on euthanasia that is called the End of Life Choices Bill, that by my own admission might be the only time I ever support something that A.C.T. is doing.
The near complete decimation of A.C.T in 2017 outside of the Epsom electorate reflected a general shift in public opinion away from conservative politics towards what was described as more compassionate policy making. Concerns about mental health, education, the environment, social welfare as well as – surprisingly – a lack of action around justice and law enforcement with a surge in armed robberies, methamphetamine fuelled attacks and other violent criminal behaviour, combined with a resurgent Labour, meant there was little room for A.C.T.
A.C.T. has indicated that the party will go back to its roots. When A.C.T. was born its primary goals weer to be a party that promoted small government and minimal taxation. If one looks at their early policies, they might also be going back to a significantly harder line on justice, more money for the military and abolishing the Resource Management Act (one thing that they have remained consistent on).
So, as A.C.T rebrand, we the voting public have to ask ourselves, whether we have a use for a yellow submarine in the right field of New Zealand politics, that may not achieve anything from changing its colours and the torpedo(es)in the tube(s).