Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Is ACT becoming "socially conservative"?

Colin James makes this observation about ACT's chances of doubling its vote in 2011;

Act's best hope is the last option, to morph into a social conservative party, for which our liberal policy settings have left space and on to which it could tack radical economics in a minor key. Rodney Hide has taken the party partway there. But he is not there yet.

Is ACT becoming socially conservative? Do I care?

That wasn't a flippant remark. I stopped my automatic payment to ACT after many years because I don't know what I am supporting. I have always believed Rodney Hide was a libertarian but he has kept a pretty tight lid on any socially liberal views he holds. The votes matter most and I understand the pragmatism essential to success. I can't do that stuff. Abject failure at it. I have a compulsion to tell the truth as I see it. I don't always know what the truth is so searching for it tends to take priority. This compulsion (as some of my perceived truths have turned out to be self-deceptions) has gotten me into trouble at various times in my life. And I still tend to upset matters among family members by not being prepared to bite down hard on my tongue when misguided proclamations - especially political ones - are uttered. But I digress.

Looking at the ACT MPs other than Rodney I don't sense a true liberal amongst them. But then I don't know them very well. Is Colin James right? (and please don't leave comments about him in lieu of comments about his observation.)


Nigel Kearney said...

I think the MPs and board are less conservative than they used to be. But the need to hold the support of a majority of Epsom voters is having a big effect on what people are willing to say publicly. If ACT can get back to over 7% of the party vote, that may change. There are no guarantees though.

Anonymous said...

Labelling is more important to commentators than it is to voters. FPP gave a better opportunity for voters to evaluate their own MP. MMP subjects voters more to the labelling and brand recognition than to the qualities of the individual "representative" MP.
People, such as you Lyndsay, will always be marginalised in any political party, because expediency is an overriding ingredient. Those who make it into Parliament are further marginalised and do not last very long.
But having the best candidate in the field is of little consolation if he/she is not elected.

Will de Cleene said...

Niche politics requires Act to take the place NZ First previously held. The Sensible Sentencing Trust link, the 3 strikes and you're out, and the frivolous dramatics during the campaign corroborate this transition.

Anonymous said...

Point 20 on the plan was explicitly conservative.

Furthermore, all the policy areas where ACT want's the government to continue 'solving problems', but do so by having the government contract out to the private sector would have Adam Smith spinning in his grave. (Odd that ACT can detect the opportunity for graft in the ETS, but not in it's own policies.)

ACT is not yet a conservative party, but I have no idea what it's core values are.

Dave Christian

Anonymous said...

It's a bit of a worry when an active member of ACT isn't sure of the direction the party is going in, because it makes it hard to work out what they actually stand for.
You end up with the perception that their values & principles can change according to the whims of the moment.

Anonymous said...

Both Rodney and Heather have good voting records on matters of social liberalism. And the recent interview Rodney gave to Gay NZ didn't sound socially conservative to me. Nor did it sound like he was hiding his views. Can you give examples where he did that? I'm not worried yet.

Rick said...

ACT's for liberal policy, the only party that is. So, they get my support.

But let's none of us put our ambitions for freedom in the hands of politicians and political parties. Now the election is over we can focus more on what we ought to be- unsensored advocacy of personal freedom everywhere it matters.

Anonymous said...

I hope the answer to the above question is a resound No!

Individual should be left to live their lives the way they want, as long as they don't interfere and cause damage to others.

Blair said...

I think this whole debate is a bit pointless, and I have for the seven years (on and off) I have been involved with ACT, whenever it is raised.

First of all, what do those terms actually mean? It's all pinheads and angels as far as I am concerned.

Second of all, even if you do define them, by any definition New Zealand is a very socially liberal country. What more progress on that front could one make? Bring back the right to smoke in bars perhaps?

What you are really asking is how our MPs feel about drug prohibition, since that is really the last conservative bastion. And frankly, I can think of many issues facing this country which are far more important - a whole 20 point plan of them in fact.

I do think this is an incredibly odd question to be asking as ACT forms part of a government for the first time.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

As "ACT forms part of the government for the first time" is exactly why the question is important. It's more than just the blank on drug liberalisation. It's the entire law and order thrust. DNA sampling BEFORE conviction, on the spot protection orders, supported by ACT in their confidence and supply agreement. The militaristic bent. Using satellites to track suspect criminals, seizure of property. The compulsion inherent in private savings/insurance cover schemes. Carbon tax. The whiff of homphobia at times. The capping over cutting approach to bureaucracy and expenditure. Govt paying mentors. Lots of stuff has had me somewhat edgy. But I have always overridden this unease with a surety that at least the leader is of a political philosophy bettered by no other on offer. I still believe that and have enormous regard for Rodney, his determination and capabilities. Colin James' impression nonetheless intrigues me and triggered the thoughts I expressed.

Rick, agree wholeheartedly. Uncensored advocacy of personal freedom must continue (which will, by definition, include criticism of current govt activity).

peteremcc said...

I spoke to Colin about this issue last night, he gave this article as a speech at an event I was at.

I think ACT is slowly becoming more liberal.

Rodney, Heather and Roger are all liberal. John I haven't discussed social issues with much and David used to be a Labour party activist who is apparently liberal on everything except Law and Order.

I see ACT as being socially liberal, but not promoting itself as such.

For example, we've said we'll support the medicinal marijuana bill, we just don't campaign on it.

Similarly, Rodney backed ACT on Campus when we were selling party pills before the ban, but he's not going to go around Epsom advocating them.

Publicly ACT does a balancing act, policy wise, ACT is liberal.

Cactus Kate said...

I think you support a political party that most CLOSELY represents your ideas and values.

ACT has too many members who wish ACT to unrealistically be everything to them and chuck out their toys with the Party when they are upset about an issue or a label.

Thing is, what Party are you going to support instead? Answer - none. Which is why the likes of Blair have come back to support ACT as he's been out there and while ACT is not a perfect representation of his being, it sure as hell beats the alternatives.

Yes Lindsay you have worked hard in ACT, yes Lindsay you possibly were screwed over on the list selection process but so have many many people before you, and I imagine after you.

If you were an MP right now you wouldn't even be dwelling on a meaningless label of the Party's positioning.

So either get over it, or move on and join the Libertarianz.

That's about the essence of where you are at this moment.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Cactus, Being offered 14 (and turning it down) was a blessing in disguise. As an MP I would have been hamstrung in respect of welfare and that's where my heart, and expertise if I can call it that, lie. Since the election I have continued agaitating and getting radio interviews. There is an even greater opportunity for what I do now, given there is no party pushing radical welfare reform.

At the moment I don't feel the need to be involved with any political party. And I came from the Libz. Was their welfare spokesperson but decided the best prospect for change was through incrementalism. Would never have been involved with ACT if it hadn't been for your ultra-enthusiastic ex Hutt South candidate who wouldn't take no for an answer. Oh, and Rodney grew on me.

So I hope I am "over it" although emotions are hard to read sometimes. Especially your own.

Which reminds me of a speech a girl gave at my son's end of year acknowledgement and graduation ceremony I've just come from. She described how camp was like the five stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It was very, very funny.

Cactus Kate said...

As I said Lindsay, I don't necessarily disagree that you should not have accepted the 14 slot.

And I don't necessarily believe that candidates above the 14 slot were more deserving to be there than you. It's just a broken record in ACT regarding candidates pissed off with their list positions and bewildered by those shunted above them who have done little for the Party.

But if you are planning to keep up your welfare lobbying then not being a member of a political party may actually make you more effective in being heard. So all the best.