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Opinion: John Banks already has National's prudent nod for ACT because this election could see more wasted National leaning votes than ever before

Opinion: John Banks already has National's prudent nod for ACT because this election could see more wasted National leaning votes than ever before

By Stephen Franks*

Media keep asking John Key whether John Banks will get the "cuppa tea" endorsement to nudge him past Paul Goldsmith. Read John Key's transcripts carefully and it is clear he already has, though wisely downplaying the idea that his wishes are decisive.

National wants John Banks in Parliament because National runs risk averse election campaigns. There is a real risk that National could rue the absence of even one friendly face in the new Parliament, despite current indications of a clear victory. This election could see more National leaning votes wasted than ever before.

Very senior National people recognise too that MMP politics requires parties outside the centre to float and push for necessary but unpopular reforms. Centre brand parties will strictly ration the number of allergy-inducing policies they can risk being branded with.

The "ideas parties" have to do ideas heavy lifting. Roger Douglas and ACT kept alive the debate on many important questions. For example, now that youth unemployment is topical, it is easy to forget that only ACT supported youth rates through long periods when neither major party was willing to risk debating it. Modern "brand-based" electioneering means that even an allegedly "broad-church" party will risk open intra-party debate on very few sensitive issues.

Such debates have to be conducted inter-party.

That does not mean the participants enjoy it. So there is some leading circle National sentiment to put a stake through ACT's heart if ACT has not reached 2% in the polls. They argue that most ACT votes just come from National anyway, and that wasting below 2% of the right vote would be worth the cost this election.

That is short term confidence at work, not rational calculation. It  owes something to primitive resentment at the apostasy of voters who should be "theirs" and years of irritation as ACT people have embarrassed them over National's centre-hugging departures from the founding principles of the National Party.

Saner counsel is likely to prevail.

If Colin Craig's Conservative Party does hoover up anywhere near the 4 % that supported the schismatic Christian parties in our first two MMP elections, and Peters gets his 2% (or more as he cranks up his false claim to be the only party against racist seabed and foreshore law changes - ignoring John Boscawen and ACT's consistent demand for colourblind law), and Peter Dunne his 1%, any extra member ACT can bring in could be vital. The wasted votes that would likely prefer a National-led government could otherwise go over 6%.

We could see more than one "cuppa tea". If Peters gets to say 2.5% and Colin Craig is getting over 3% in the party vote, and, and former ACT voters come to their senses to realise ACT is still needed, whatever their disappointment with Dr Brash, then John Banks will think about a tea party.

If Colin Craig is doing as well as he claims personally in Rodney, then he and John Banks could together invite John Key for tea.


* Stephen Franks is a commercial and public lawyer who represented the ACT Party in Parliament from 1999 to 2005 as its justice and commerce spokesman. He also stood for the National Party in the 2008 election as its Wellington Central candidate.

He writes his own blog at

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I and an awful lot of former National voters in Christchurch, will be voting ACT just to send a message to Key and co that they have done a lousy job.  I certainly am not concerned if the vote is wasted, as I would rather "boil my head in oil" than vote for more economic incompetence.

I am very much expecting a 1993 "bugger the pollsters" result on November 26 - National with only the slimest of margins, maybe giving ACT and Don Brash some real clout, or even a hung parliament?  (I would rather see a Government unable to do anything than continue to act in stupidity, it may just even rub away some of John Key's smugness and conceit).


agree with this blog.No vote is wasted .Just wonder if the "we don`t see NZ First so it isn`t there " from the 21st estate will  turn out like last election .If Craig gets elected in Rodney good on him,he chased Banks along up here in the mayoralty and seems to have the funds to surprise.Sad really that money can`t buy you love,or so the old song goes,but it may buy you electoral success.Do believe thta Craig would represent Rodney ,which is his first job.Pity that JK doesn`t see national politics that way.


Think Conservatives may do quite well. NZ wide mailouts. Clear on msg. May send msg to National to return to some trad values.


They say in business that you shouldn't blame your customers. I thought ACT was a business orientated party? If people don't want to vote ACT or if they want to vote National instead then it is better to fight out why. If National or the Conservatives beat ACT in the party vote then all is fair. If in business the more efficient companies force those less efficient into liquidation then the more efficient parties will do the same to the less efficient parties.

You talk about 'ideas parties' as an electronics manufacturer might talk about 'features'. If you stood back for a minute you ought to realise that people demand first and foremost people that they trust in government. There are a lot of people who support parties even though they do not support every policy.