None were restanding except a party vote candidacy by John Boscawen in Tamaki
Banks winning Epsom despite the polls keeps ACT alive. It is worth remembering (as I warned) that no public poll has ever shown ACT winning and they have now won it three times. However the failure to get a second MP in, is a huge disappointment, as it brings their future into real question.
Ironically if ACT had not rolled Rodney Hide as Leader, I think they would have had at least three MPs.
In terms of allowing there to be a centre-right Government the ACT result is a 7/10 or higher. In terms of the result for ACT personally it is 3/10.
Banks is a great campaigner, and I think he is likely to retain Epsom in 2014. Like Winston John turns 67 this year and I doubt one can expect more than two terms out of him.
The real challenge is that the ACT brand will now inevitable become the Banks brand, as their sole MP. And in my opinion there is nothing wrong with the Banks brand, but it is not the brand that has traditionally been associated with ACT.
ACT have always had two strong components to their brand. On economic issues they were strongly liberal, supporting massive tax cuts, no minimum wage, privatization of all SOEs etc. Those who served with Banks in the National Cabinet say Banks was not a huge supporter of the Richardson camp. He certainly is a fiscal conservative, and centre-right economically. But not someone who would privatize the hospitals.
The other component to the ACT brand has been a degree of social liberalism. This has been patchy rather than consistent, but overall most ACT MPs have been social liberals. John Banks would not describe himself as a social liberal.
Therefore my conclusion is that ACT, as we know it, is dead. There is talk of a name change for ACT, and that would be a sensible move, both because of the different brand John Banks has, but also because the ACT brand itself is pretty tarnished also.
Banks should move to position ACT as a conservative party, which reflects John Banks. Banks would be a good leader of a conservative party. The challenge of course is you also have a Conservative Party led by Colin Craig. And as I understand it, relations between Craig and Banks are not friendly – Craig took many votes off Banks for the Auckland Mayoralty.
A merger between whatever ACT gets re-named and the Conservatives would be a win-win, if they can work together. Craig has the money and the membership base. Banks has the seat in Parliament which means you do not need to make 5%. However just because it is logical does not mean it will happen. Colin Craig doesn’t strike me as someone who would settle for co-leader.
As for ACT itself, my suggestion is that those who identify as economic and social liberals need to have a get together next year and look at who is willing to commit to a new party, perhaps calling it the Liberal Party, and targeting the 2014 election. Many many especially urban younger New Zealanders are classical liberals (even if they have not heard the phrase) and support lower taxes, a smaller state etc but also don’t think Parliament should be greatly restricting what consenting adults can do.
I’m not about to quit the party I support, but I would be prepared to spend quite a bit of time assisting the formation of a new Liberal Party, and making sure lessons are learnt from the mistakes of the past.