Act: Naive, but competitive

Act Leader Jamie Whyte

The Act Party has successfully renewed their brand as the centre right free market party. Their new leader is a career academic and political philosopher, his positions are genuine, and his articulation of them is remarkably cerebral. It is a definite shift from the politics of the recent past, there seemed no-one you could hang principle on. Act became synonymous with power hungry obfuscation, a National party tool and whipping boy. But now principle is front and centre. In fact it is so prominent Jamie Whyte trips over it every time he goes to the media.

The incest comments were spectacularly stupid. An experienced politician would never make the mistake of having a frank political discussion with microphones around. You can read about it here. But Whyte’s saving grace is his inexperience, the public will forgive naivety, and it appreciates honesty. Whyte should be more careful as time goes by.

I disagree with Whyte on most substantial matters, particularly his view that the Resource Management Act should be repealed. I like Whyte for his ability to engage on a human level, and actually answer questions from the media. Most MPs (particularly in the National caucus) have had some media training, and they treat questions as opportunities to trumpet their message. It’s frustrating, and really annoys political journalists. Jamie Whyte does not do this (yet), and I hope he continues to answer the substance of questions with substantive – and relevant – answers.

Acts political fortunes have had a remarkable turn around in the last few months, and it is likely they will gain at least one seat in Parliament. What I hope is that they don’t merely win back Epsom with David Seymour without enough of the party vote to bring Jamie Whyte in as well. This would be something of a repeat of their 2011 result in which Leader Don Brash failed to gain a list seat and had to resign as leader. If both Seymour and Whyte make it into the next Parliament time will only tell if Whyte remains as principled, but I think it is worth finding out.

Richard Prebble is pulling the campaign strings, and as Act’s most successful leader ever (he held Auckland Central before winning Wellington Central for Act in 1996 and bringing in a slew of other MPs) he has the political genius to resurrect a party dismissed as dead and buried only six months ago.   

Richard Prebble

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