Further musing on last week’s budget has led me to consider just how this piece of electoral maneuvering changes the familiar political landscape.
Key can now reasonably claim National are a centrist party. Beyond throwing the leftier Labour into relief, this has the added bonus for National of opening up more space on the right flank of the party.
ACT have struggled for some time now. Not withstanding the laughably poor candidate selection (Banks, Calvert, Garrett), the sense that National have absorbed ACT’s ideologically-driven voter block has pervaded. So much so that even the 2008 parliamentary reentry of cult-hero Roger Douglas was entirely underwhelming. ACT fell to 1.07% of the vote in 2011 – those 23,889 votes entirely wasted as they were unable to shift the needle beyond the single electorate seat of John Banks.
Banks, along with being a former National minister, essentially ran on the (paraphrased somewhat) campaign slogan “vote for me: for PM John Key”. ACT clearly could not be seen to be presenting any alternative beyond the constraints defined by National.
Key’s wet budget changes this, especially when viewed alongside ACT’s alternative 2014 budget. For the first time in years there is now some daylight between the positions of ACT and National.
Granted, it is cigarette paper thin – ACT will still rely upon the proportional-gerrymander of a gifted electorate seat: ACT will not bite the National hand. But with political opposition hardening against the coat-tailing provision in our electoral law, it seems prudent for those on the right to ensure that their political spectrum does not remain monolithic.
Jamie Whyte must surely be pleased – ACT has found a raison d’etre.