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ACT's David Seymour looks to be fighting to stay relevant this election with National odds-on to need Winston Peters to govern; And could NZ First's personality mix put pressure on that 12 October decision deadline?

ACT's David Seymour looks to be fighting to stay relevant this election with National odds-on to need Winston Peters to govern; And could NZ First's personality mix put pressure on that 12 October decision deadline?

By Alex Tarrant

There may be only one thing more painful than Bill English’s Twitter feed this election campaign: watching David Seymour try to stay relevant as the shadow of Winston Peters looms large.

With the polls heading the way they are, and Peter Dunne gone, it’s looking ever more likely Bill English will have to turn to New Zealand First for support if National wants to lead a government after 23 September.

This will spell a term on the cross-benches for Seymour. If I had to highlight just one case of personal politics continuously on show during Question Time this year, it would be the Seymour-Peters love-to-hate relationship. This culminated in Seymour going as far as calling Peters “Mr Mussolini” in during Parliament’s adjournment debate - not very classy.

Having a go at Richard Prosser’s weight and appearance last week also went too far. And while I agree with the sentiment of Seymour’s response to New Zealand First’s SOE snatch-back policy, there were better ways to express this.

Seymour has found himself increasingly marginalised in the policy debate and has turned to the bandwagon of personality politics to get into the headlines for a bit. To be fair, we are debating policy a lot less than we should be.

ACT still has some valuable policy positions – whether on the RMA, the rural-urban boundary, congestion pricing or superannuation. Like any party there might be a few policies there you agree with even if you’re not an ACT supporter. Some of these positions have been taken over by others though – perhaps the most surprising being Labour on urban limits.

Seymour needs to find a way to become relevant again above and beyond ‘Epsom’. The best way to grab National’s attention back would be to have another one or two list MPs come in on his coat-tails. But at 0.6% (ish) in the polls, Seymour needs to find a way of doubling ACT’s support to just get one other in with him.

There is potential for this if Bill English’s pandering to New Zealand First voters sends some more liberally minded National voters his way. But Seymour is also up against the attraction of Gareth Morgan for many of these swingers (I reckon Morgan’s support is a real mix).

Seymour might well have seen the writing on the wall when National turned to the Maori Party to get its RMA legislation over the line back in March. Revision of the RMA was quite possibly the biggest policy platform for ACT over the past few years. And when push came to shove, he was ignored at the final push by National in favour of another coalition partner for the latest legislation.

As I’ve written before, I think some of this was down to National wanting to boost the Maori Party’s image in the hope that Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox can secure extra seats this election as a hedge against having to turn to Peters.

And very quickly on the Maori Party – I thought a boost in support had a greater chance of happening than now looks to be the case. When Andrew Little marginalised his party’s Maori support by ‘accepting’ Labour’s current Maori MPs would not appear on the party list, there was every chance of a boost for the Maori Party. But Kelvin Davis’ ascension to the deputy role has cemented Labour’s Maori support.

I for one am surprised that the Maori Party did not make a bigger deal over water when the royalty debate hit full flow. It’s getting harder to see it with any clear-cut chances now of really boosting (doubling?) its party vote unless the Mike Hosking non-apology saga takes a life of its own.

What happens when Bill English on 24 September picks up the phone and calls Winston?

This has all increased the likelihood that National will need support from New Zealand First. So, what happens when Bill English on 24 September picks up the phone and calls Winston? Firstly, it’s likely that Peters will have to decide on whether to answer this call or the one coming in at the same time from Jacinda Ardern.

A lot has been written about whether Peters will follow previous coalition negotiation ‘rules’. The main one is that he’ll talk to the largest party first. I wouldn’t be so sure of it this time around. Would NZ First really stick with the principle of dealing with the largest party first when it’s clear that a close-run second (looking to be Labour on current polls) had all the momentum while the largest party was on a downward trend?

Certainly, if there’s potential for Peters to enter coalition with Labour on its own (ie Greens not in Parliament or not required), then I reckon the ‘momentum’ argument could well win out over the ‘largest party’ rule.

Another thing that’s got a bit of attention is that Peters will make his Kingmaker decision by 12 October, which is the day we get the final election results. I think discussion around this has been a tad on the cute side. Yes, I’m sure it would be preferable, but don’t go holding your breath.

New Zealand First was very careful to leave out of its constitution any mention of how the party should go about agreeing to coalition arrangements. While Peters holds a lot of sway – it’s not all ‘what Winston says, goes’.

There will be two bodies involved in the decision-making process at NZF – the caucus and the party’s board. In theory, you’d assume the majority would win over. In practice, the feeling at the top of the party is that you’d want near-full agreement on which way you go – ie 95% of the caucus and board.

And this could certainly drag negotiations out longer than 12 October. I’m not saying it will. Just be prepared for that it might. Particularly now with the increased potential for personality clashes at the top of the party (Shane Jones and Ron Mark), which might take some time to resolve.

Lastly, it’s looking like Labour and National are set to converge on the 40% mark (on current polling direction). One thing I haven’t been able to make my mind up on is whether this increases the likelihood that NZF chooses to just sit on the cross benches and take audiences from both on individual policies/Budgets.

This would potentially give New Zealand First the greatest shot at the having the most influence it can next term – if coalition negotiations don’t throw up a pot of gold. I’m interested in your views.

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Politically, almost completely irrelevant, other than representing a very few people, but has an overblown view of his importance.

It has been written before. NZ First could exercise the greatest power from the cross-benches. Meaning the greatest power from both a "national" perspective and an NZF party perspective. They would have to exercise that power wisely and never capriciously. From a longer term perspective it would enhance the party in the eyes of the electorate immensely. Winston would be PM in everything but name. If they go the coalition route, any agreement essentially involves concessions


I went to a "meet the representatives meeting" organised by Grey Power in Waihi on Friday. I was surprised that so many of the senior people there were very aware of the important issues facing New Zealand. Scott Simpson for National did not fare well at all and remarks such as "our rockstar economy" actually raised derisive murmurs through the audience. The representative for NZ First and perhaps surprisingly the Greens were best received. If these attitudes are widespread in most demographics, National is history this election.

Someone on this website said was paying 3:25:1 for a labour win so I put $100 on it. I notice they've removed the option now. Wonder why?

Maybe someone put a whole hundy on it

Yesterday I decided that National is not getting my vote. That makes a problem because I am not veering left and voting is compulsory - in my personal view.
So Act ? Quite possibly.
I watch Steven Joyce disregard New Zealanders benefit in favour of an acronym. Why promote GDP when that works against locals ? What good comes from having more of us when it makes us poorer and destroys our environment both ?
Winston ? Probably better in power than out of it. But the party is a waste.
This is hard.

I agree. Just can't work out who to vote for. I used the fancy vote compass to help but it said my best fit was United Future and that was the day United Future disappeared and to be honest it was the party I would be least likely to vote for.
Reading the various party websites is amusing - Green's are full of waffle and TOP's snappy and make you think but having thought on some issues you think 'great' and others' 'rubbish'.

I was quick to join TOP when they were trying to get registered - because I wanted the Big Kahuna debate of revolutionising the tax/welfare system to be given a great, big airing.

And then they started releasing policies that had nothing to do with the tax/welfare system.

And their UBI proposals - when they finally got dragged out - were not universal because, according to them, they didn't know how much their tax proposals would raise.

Well to my mind they needed to raise enough tax (by whatever combination of tax means) to make the UBI, just that, universal. Changing the "u" to unconditional was a sop for not doing the whole homework assignment.

I have no doubt that The Big Kahuna is the end goal... But the fact is that a true universal, unconditional basic income is going to cost a lot. It will be a hard sell, and this is not the time for it.

so why then vote for Act which is just a pseudo for the Nats? It was Act that gave us charter schools and the overblown Auckland Council model with its presidential style mayor, powerless councillors, overblown local boards. For the life of me I cannot see why the Epsom electorate allows itself to be told by National who to vote for.

I strongly suspect Key wanted both charter schools and the super city, but seeing as he did not put either of those to the vote in his party's manifesto, got ACT to make it look like this was all part of the "deal". Those things were far too big to just be a sop to a 0% party.

I'm happy with Charter schools. As for the super city it's about 1000km from here and doesn't matter. Besides Auckland has been shooting itself in the foot long before the super city arrived.

My problem with Charter schools has to do with the fact that they are not subject to the Official Information Act. They should never have been exempted in that way. Very undemocratic - a backwards step in terms of transparency.

Agree and would like to add the profit aspect of them, even in England they do not allow them to be profit taking enterprises. I also think there are other things that are paid for out of the public purse that should not be either, elder care and pre-school education to name a couple, especially pre-school education, that has turned into one great bit profit grab by large corporations. It does not sit well with me, that that sort of organisation is being trusted with that most important of tasks, and that is the first few years of a child's life, but I digress.

I work with a lot of enterprises who label themselves non profit. Their behaviour can be both self interested and destructive, if they don't see things going their way. We are plagued in this country with organisations who proclaim their charitable purpose but really are just contractors to government. Nothing charitable achieved.
Teachers and health professionals both decry private ownership, but at the same time protect their own incomes with ferocious devotion

Sorry no. You just have to look at aged care and the profit taking being more important than people being paid properly. You can keep it.

Sorry Pocket. Look at our publically owned hospitals. The wage demanders there certainly work in their own self interest, at the expense of funding the rest homes. Happens.

and CEOs? shareholders? of course they work/invest for free....

or maybe not.

Wage demanders?? They are not generally sitting in the lap of luxury, given what qualifications are required. Of course they should be paid well.

A couple of very interesting discussions by an ex-IRD tax investigator on the manner in which the multinational/listed aged care sector operates tax/accounting/profit wise, that is;

I'm guessing this has a lot to do with why the privately owned/rest home care sector is finding it hard to compete.

as if anyone wouldnt defend their income. There is however a HUGE difference between Public Healthcare and private healthcare both in terms of achievement per dollar, overall achievement and effect on a Nations GDP and its all in favour of public healthcare by a significant margin.

I've used fully private, religous, state integrated and public. In my view full public is the best option. The reason - kids learn to integrate, socialise and normalise relationships across all social, monetary, religous and racial 'barriers'.

Seperate them when young based on parental 'hang-ups' just encourages a seperatist society, with elitist and bias attitudes. Bring all public schools up to a higher standard is the answer..

Perhaps it should be mandatory for the children of MPs to attend public school in their parent's electorate. This might sharpen the government's focus on education.

*The lowest decile school in the electorate.

Try DGZ first.

Yeah, right, they'd soon relocate parliament to Epsom - Remuera - PDQ

do a lot more than focus government's attention

Let me understand what you are saying. You support the idea that the government can force you to educate your children the way it sees fit? You support this because you think the schooling decisions parents make influences kids and society to be racist? wtf am i reading are reading and not thinking... a common problem these days. Just fund public schools only. If you want to fund your own little edcuational oasis full of ideological nonsense it it out of your own wallet.


Absolutely. If we are to be a democracy in more than name only,then people should have the right to send their children to private schools-BUT not with any assistance from the public sector.

Given my nieces and nephews are home schooled by religious nutjobs and achieved a) nothing in terms of NCEA and have their heads filled with rubbish, yes there is some mileage in "forcing" public schools only education.

sorry hit save twice

Nice item.
Think I read that some 45% of Epsom's voters were from overseas backgrounds. This should influence Seymores thinking on immigration which would put him at loggerheads with NZFirst. Even if he wins why would NZFirst give him a door to walk in when it can shut him out?

Probably a mistake to assume that immigrants want more immigration - that has not been my impression from talking to them (small sample) and some are quite passionate that we should "pull up the drawbridge"
NZF and ACT are not getting on too well but their immigration policies are not that far apart - here's a bit on that from Seymour's book.
And a discussion on "The chihuahua of NZ politics calls the king-maker a crook" complete with delightful cartoon of the chihuahua himself.

A lot of venomous voters in Epsom - pathetic

That Whaleoil blog - read the comments - yikes - the venom and vitriol aimed at Winston

And therein lie ACT/Seymour's problem - they (if by 'they' there is actually anyone home other than David) need to target taking party vote share off National, not NZ First. Seymour seems to be the only person in the ACT campaign office at the moment - no strategic thinking whatsoever.

Winston referring to him as a chiuahua was quite apt. They've never been known for their cunning/intelligence;

Kate - time to dust this off for you

Losing the plot and agents of self-created-change

extract - "The problem is, our society is becoming more like where they are from at an alarmingly rapid pace. They can see the growing injustices better than their NZ counterparts"


The impossibility of our society remaining un-changed, un-polluted and our identity un-corrupted. They are in fact agents of change, re-creating the very conditions they seek to escape from, but bring with them

Yeah, I couldn't agree more with me :-). But not sure the connection you are trying to make in terms of my point that ACT ought to be targeting National's party vote?

an auto-response to David George's opening sentence re migrants wanting to preserve what they come for yet by the very act of arriving they change what they came for

Yes, if you mean my anecdotal observations concur with his. I'm in fact one of those immigrants (arrived here in 1978) and indeed my sense of loss/erosion of what made me feel so lucky to have landed on these shores does make me far more keen to fight to get 'it' (that which was special about NZ) back.

I remember my childhood and having many friends who were migrants. However, at the time the numbers were also reasonable enough to enable us all to mix together and make friends, friends who are still that today. The volumes we're seeing today simply seem to be creating isolated social groups and physical enclaves - not what we need, in my mind. My partner is also a migrant, and she likewise laments the fact many from her own background have almost no integration at all into NZ society.

Followed that link - a time machine to two years ago - would make the basis of a long article or short book. Please attach many thumbs up,.

Totally agree with your first paragraph - the spokespeople for various ethnic groups often say the opposite to the people they claim to speak for.
Many immigrants want NZ to stay as it was when they arrived. They also find their own children are now competing with recent low-skilled immigrants some of whom are bribing employers to get their immigration point counts.

ACT live or die on whether they get Epsom or not.

And last time they got 1% of the party vote. So giving them my party vote is a waste of time as far as I can see. Because it's only when they get over 5% that they get another MP right? And that's not going to happen.

No, under the current rules, provided you get one electorate seat you are not subject to the 5% party list threshold rule. And they didn't get 1% of the party vote last time, they got 0.69%.,_2014

The Maori Party last election for example got one electorate seat with Te Ururoa Flavell and 1.32% of the party vote, thus ending up with a second list MP (it's referred to as entering on the 'coat tail' of the electorate MP).

National for years has been hoping that either Dunne or Seymour would lift the party vote up to somewhere between 1-2% in order for them to 'coat tail' in another MP - but to no avail.

I thought surely this year National would stop "hoping against hope" that one of those two would bring in a coat tail and instead stop trying to game the system.

Funny thing is, I suspect ACT could do better this time around - due to so many disaffected National voters. But David Seymour himself isn't doing the image any favours - his youth and inexperience is showing through at the very time the party might have been able to benefit from an under-performing right wing.

david who? ACT who? this party is irrelevant.
they get less votes that some of other parties ie conservatives and dot com party trounced them last election. they only managed 16K of voters to support them out of 2.4 Million.
once national realizes its a one person party and has no growth by by Epsom and act

On NZ First, if in that position, I think it would be best to enter a formal coalition to my mind - as more than anything the party needs its MPs to get into ministerial or assistant ministerial holding positions.

Their caucus needs Executive branch experience. As a party I believe they fully believe that going forward they will/should unseat a poorly performing National Party on the centre right of NZ politics.

I kind of see a coalition between NZ First and Labour as likened to a grand coalition - and it would be (to my mind) great if that kind of MMP Parliament became part of our governance future in NZ.

Anything that moves us away from the old left/right dichotomy, is where we need to go. TOPs evidence-based approach is the right one - where they went wrong was attempting to also "resolve" Treaty of Waitangi issues, where to my mind, such matters really need to be driven by tangata whenua collectively once all historical claims are settled.

@ Kate - your last paragraph is exactly what I've been thinking about TOP but unable to express so clearly.

And I would sum up the rest of your post as NZF desperately need existence beyond Winston. No denying his talents but he also carries plenty of baggage, is getting rather old and carries an image of being a one man show.


TOP are a bit like ACT, they aimed their personal/political point scoring at NZ First, when they should have been going tooth and nail against National on National's 9 year record of failing to look at (and moreover, denying) the evidence.

True. I went to a TOP political meeting and that was what I thought too. They should have Nationals as their number 1 target, then point out the troubles with Green and Labour policies. Gareth Morgan has a personal issue with Winston which it would be better if he kept to himself.

Anyone who thinks NZF will be kingmaker for National is dreaming! look at the video. To highlight just 1 issue -
NZF has been desperately trying for years to change the reserve bank act to include something other than CPI inflation rate targeting to set the OCR, but National has been blocking them at every turn. The MSM and National blogs like Whaleoil can read the writing on the wall and that's why they're so anti-NZF.

On the other hand, a vote for TOP could easily be a proxy vote for National, as far as I can tell.

Some of the most vehement supporters for TOP I've seen are Maori, and there's a few which are in roles of repute. Maori are somewhere around 20% of the population. If they're to take a so-called 'centrist' position like they claim, they have to be respectable to this reasonable large bloc of the (indigenous) population. It's been a massive cause of strife in politics (and we've done well compared to abroad), and being upfront about their position has been at least positive.

TOP has never claimed to able to represent Maori, but they've quite rightly pointed out the flagrant abuses by those who have. I don't believe his views meddle too far, he has mostly just said that treaty issues need to be resolved. And that requires not diminishing the representation they have right now, which is why he took a stand on the Maori seats (while also ragging on Winston).

They've gone further than just having an opinion on retention of the Maori seats in their constitution policy;

Honouring the Treaty without creating division. Rangatiratanga can be achieved by devolving decisions and giving Maori equal representation in the Upper House. Pakeha must understand our Treaty obligations and to achieve that Te Reo must be compulsory in schools.

And they've also determined that the Treaty conferred ownership of freshwater to Maori and advocate a Treaty settlement similar to the fisheries one, before establishing their water market policy;

I don't think they've made any budget/cost allocation with respect to settling that water claim. This is what was negotiated for the fisheries claim in settlement;

The Crown transferred 10 percent of New Zealand's fishing quota (some 60,000 tonnes), together with shareholdings in fishing companies and $50 million in cash, to the Waitangi Fisheries Commission. This commission was responsible for holding the fisheries assets on behalf of Māori until an agreement was reached as to how the assets were to be shared among tribes. In 1992, a second part of the deal, referred to as the Sealord deal, marked full and final settlement of Māori commercial fishing claims under the Treaty of Waitangi. This included 50% of Sealord Fisheries and 20% of all new species brought under the quota system, more shares in fishing companies, and $18 million in cash. In total it was worth around $170 million.

It's not they who have determined the treaty conferred ownership, it's almost indisputably the consensus among the existing parties, the only question is what to do about it. You can prevaricate about it, but the treaty is quite clear on this matter. In regards to settlement, they've only got previous cases to give examples. Gareth has already mentioned guesstimate figures in his roadshows based on the fisheries, but he knows that it's still up for debate. Of course they can't state the settlement before the negotiations have occurred. But any government has to do it eventually, so it's hardly a TOP specific issue.

The constitution is a bit of a strange policy. New Zealand has been poked fun at for having our rights spread over a number of documents, and that has to include the treaty. The extent to which the treaty should have an overarching extent is debatable. And will be unquestionably debated.

One other thought I had, is that the Maori party is actually at great jeopardy of being voted out this election. Their sole current electorate MP is in a razor-thin battle and it's possible that those strongest on treaty rights will be dealt a terrible hand this election. That's not really good for the country, given it is a foundational document.

Be a brave man to bet on this Election, but I would put my money on Winston (lets face it , NZ first is nothing without him , which is a shame for hardworking MPs like Tracey Martin) , NOT been the kingmaker. I think more rides on how TOP, Maori, and the greens fair, than Act or NZ First. I don't think Winston is actually doing that well this Election, other than the media constantly referring to him as the kingmaker.
I agree Act is virtually irrelevant, and was disappointed he got so much air time in the minor party leaders debate.

Would love to see TOP get representation in parliament but astonished if they get 5%.

Don't know a thing about TOP
Are they proposing feline eradication ?
Will there be cat killing squads sent out into the streets to terminate cats in public places ?
Has the Cat Eradicator General given all his millions away yet to charity like he once told the world he would ?
Thought not ! Once a hippy always a tightwad

David Seymours very name stands for irrelevance
ACT & Rodney & Mr Ponytail puller forced the failing Auckland SupaCity flawed paradigm onto Aucklanders
As a former early ACT Party member may I say that this party should have ceased to exist long ago. It's past leadership the ultimate hypocrite taking international travel at the taxpayers expense while castigating lesser folks social benefits ! ACT = Epilogue please

Still think that the minor parties are a waste of votes - principles and too-good-to-be true promises and ideas are for "Election consumption" ... they all know they cannot realise what they are promising without blood on the streets and support from the community at large ( especially business) ..!! - they know very well that they cannot force taxing on everything that moves - and if the money dries out then they will be in big trouble !!

The Whangarei votes shown on Q&A today were just a representative sample of what we would possibly witness on election night ... It showed the demise of the small parties, and WP put in the position of King/Queen maker --- what happens then is that all the promises will dissolve in each other ...! some will be scrapped as part of the negotiation deals and some will go in the too hard basket till the next term where voters might kick one of them out or change the balance of leverage ... Hence to me its all hypocrisy and laughing at the voters simplicity and naivety ...

As we saw this arvo, the whole campagnes became a Horse Trading Auction ... promise this and promise that .. no one is absolutely sure if there would be any money left to fulfil this whole fiasco - wish lists galore and YEP you can have what you want, just name it !! .. like a family fighting on the windfall Inheritance revealed by treasury after "A Good Year" ..!

I am going to evaluate the basket of policies offer by either of the Major parties in its entirety and vote according to what I believe would be possible, implacable, or just plain BS ... I will not vote on the basis of one or two policies which I might particularly like - that would be waste of my vote and unfair to the country.

Here's an interactive quiz that will help you eco. We found it quite accurate, it does not take personality or trust issues or recent election bribes into account.

interesting it has me at a 4% difference for all in this order NZF, lab nat and top.
and I have been looking at top a lot lately as I think they have some fresh ideas and the future will be different so we need to start to think about that
I don't think they can make 5% so my decision is do I vote knowing it will send a signal but not make a difference or vote to make a difference knowing we will not get any big changes

Thanks for the link to that quiz - it seemed to be just about right for the first and second choice but my vote is private however it is interesting that the Greens came last despite my giving them 90% to wanting to maintain and preserve our environment. Deduction: the Greens are shooting themselves in the foot with their non-environment policies.

Thank you David,
Interesting quiz and results, my first choice was what I was inclined to vote for but my second and third choices were shocking :) ... not to mention the last choice !!

Did the quiz and 100% right for first choice. Second an irrelevant vote regardless of policies. Third on the fence as regards working with the First. Besides, my first will be getting two ticks!