By Alex Tarrant
Prime Minister John Key has finally decided to have a 'catch up' with ACT's Epsom candidate John Banks to signal to voters there considering giving their electorate vote for National's Paul Goldsmith to switch their vote to Banks.
Whether or not Key would invite Banks for a cuppa in Epsom has been widely discussed in the lead up, and through, the election campaign. They will meet at the Teed Street Larder in Newmarket.
On current polling, ACT's only chance of survival after the November 26 election is to win the Epsom seat, as it is far below the 5% general vote threshold required for a party to enter Parliament without an electorate seat. See the ACT Party's policies in our Election 2011 party policy section.
Winning Epsom means Banks may be able to bring more ACT MPs into Parliament on his coat-tails if ACT gets above about 1.3% of the general vote. See the ACT Party list in our Election 2011 section here.
ACT currently has five MPs in Parliament - with four coming in on the back of former leader and Epsom MP Rodney Hide. All five current ACT MPs are leaving Parliament this election. New party leader Don Brash would be the first into Parliament on Banks' coat-tails, followed by former party president Catherine Issac and former Federated Farmers head Don Nicholson.
For National, having given up one electorate seat, that turning into two or more ACT MPs would mean there was support for National if it did not get over 50% of the general vote, meaning it would have to form a coalition government. If ACT did not make it back into Parliament, and National received less than 50%, it may have to rely on the Maori Party, or even some kind of agreement with the Greens, for it to be able to govern.
The move also signals to right-leaning voters that they can safely give their party vote to ACT without it being a 'wasted vote' - ie if ACT did not win an electorate seat, and received less than 5% of the general vote, then those party votes would effectively be wasted as they would not be represented in Parliament. See Stephen Franks' opinion piece earlier this week on the wasted right vote.
This wasted vote scenario is one of the issues being debated in the lead up to this election's MMP referendum, where voters will be asked whether they want to keep MMP.
If voters choose to keep MMP, a review of that system will take place, with the 5% threshold one of the issues at the fore. If voters choose to swith election systems, they will be asked to vote in 2014 for the type they would prefer, such as Supplementary Member or back to First Past the Post.
Will they do it?
Labour's Epsom candidate David Parker said he was still unsure National's plan to get ACT back into Parliament would work.
“I think it’s by no means clear that it will work. Rodney Hide was popular, John Banks is substantially behind in the polls," Parker told interest.co.nz.
“There are a number of things that are different now compared to last time, including the fact that ACT’s own polling is so low that he doesn’t bring many passengers with him,” Parker said in relation to ACT's party vote, which this week's Herald digi-poll put at 1.5%.
Parker would not tell left-leaning voters to give their electorate vote to the National Party candidate Paul Goldsmith, to try and stop ACT from winning Epsom.
“I’m not going to do that because I’m there to try and convince the voters of Epsom that there are some structural changes that need to be made to the economy, and if they believe that, then they should be voting Labour," he said.
“The voters of Epsom increasingly know that when Banks was mayor, he tripled council debt. So if they’re worried about fiscal responsibility, which I think they are, then why would they be voting for John Banks?”
Are you an Epsom voter? What will you do with your vote now Key is signalling he wants National voters to give their electorate vote to Banks?
Would any Labour voters in Epsom consider voting for the National candidate to try and keep ACT out of Parliament?
If you are not an Epsom voter, how do you feel about the situation? Is this manipulation of the MMP system, or is it OK because it's technically within the rules?
(Updates with comment from Labour Epsom candidate David Parker)