Epsom and the ACT Leadership

January 27th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

It’s pleasing to see three contenders going for either the ACT Leadership or the Epsom nominations. Both these decisions will be made by the ACT Board, and they are important decisions.

The first decisions is the easier one – the candidate for Epsom. I think the obvious and safe choice is John Boscawen.

Retaining Epsom is critical to ACT’s survival. No one thinks they can get 5% in 2014, so they must retain Epsom to stay in Parliament.

ACT did win Epsom in 2011, but a lot of feedback I got from National voters is they voted very reluctantly for the ACT candidate. One of them joked that it didn’t hurt as much as the thought it would.

I think centre-right voters in Epsom will have little reluctance to vote for John Boscawen. He is basically one of them. As Andrea Vance details, his story is from riches to rags to riches, and everyone who deals with him says he is an incredibly decent well motivated man who has managed to never burn any bridges with colleagues – which in the ACT Party is an extraordinary feat.

Epsom voters would be very comfortable with having John as their local MP. They know what they’ll be getting, and even if ACT’s brand today is somewhat bruised and battered, I think Boscawen can retain the seat for ACT. Any other candidate would be running a bigger risk of not winning.

So the Epsom decision is, I think, an easy one. The decision on the leadership is a harder one.

Again Boscawen would be a safe pair of hands for the leadership. He has been an MP, he would have a fairly united party, and you would not risk the problems of 2011 when the ACT Leader is pushing one policy (cannabis decriminalisation) and the Epsom candidate is fighting against it (knowing it would go down badly in Epsom).

However Jamie Whyte is a very attractive candidate. He is basically a pure classical liberal. In the televised minor party leader’s debates, he could well shine and attract back to ACT those who are both economically and socially liberal. Around 10% to 15% of the population or more find such a message appealing – the challenge is whether ACT as a party and brand can be credible to them. Whyte is free from the baggage of the past, so could be seen as the start of a new generation.

Of course the danger for Whyte is that if he is leader, he would only become an MP if ACT get at least 1.2% of the vote (they got 1.1% in 2011). So his job would be to make sure ACT get at least 1.2%. Boscawen’s would be to win Epsom.

But there are risks to splitting the jobs, as I detailed above. The safer route is Boscawen for both, and he is saying Kenneth Wang will be his Deputy Leader which could help attract Asian votes. They would need 2.0% to get a third MP, and that looks very challenging.

However the downside of Boscawen for both is that a generational change may not occur for some time, and may not be possible in the future. Whyte I think does have a greater ability to appeal to young urban professionals.

One other advantage of a split is if Whyte is Leader and Boscawen MP for Epsom, then my strong recommendation would be Whyte does not become a Minister. For a small party, best to keep the leader outside the Government focused on selling the party message. Boscawen hence could become a Minister if National is re-elected, helping implement ACT policies, while Whyte sells the party’s message.

So there are pros and cons for both Whyte and Boscawen for Leader. In the end it will come down to what appetite for risk the ACT Board is willing to consider, and if they think the potential benefits are realistic and outweigh the risks.

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Hooton rules out Epsom and ACT

January 14th, 2014 at 8:08 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Right-wing lobbyist Matthew Hooton has ruled himself out from contesting the ACT party leadership.

He has joined former leader Rodney Hide in removing himself from the list of potential candidates in the past week.

In a column written for the National Business Review, Hooton said he was certain he would win the electorate if he stood, but felt he was too closely aligned to the National Party.

“If ACT is to succeed in the longer run, it must strongly differentiate itself from National, especially given the interventionist tendencies of the current regime, and it must be a genuine party, without any suggestion of being a subsidiary of the bigger brand,” he said.

Hooton endorsed a split configuration of former Cambridge philosophy-lecturer-turned-management-consultant Jamie Whyte as leader of the party, and David Seymour as the candidate for Epsom.

Hooton’s column is here.

Compared to Matthew’s current earnings, being an MP isn’t a living wage :-)



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Hide rules out Epsom

January 12th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the Hos:

Good and loyal friends have suggested that I put my name forward to be Act’s candidate in Epsom.

They have supported me over many years and therefore I have given their advice serious consideration.

It’s a crucial role. But for Act’s success in Epsom in 2008, Helen Clark would have remained Prime Minister. And its success in 2011 also kept Labour out of power.

That’s why the attacks on John Banks are so intense and sustained. Act’s success has proved the difference between a National-led Government and a Labour-Green one.

Very true. Without ACT both times, the Maori Party would have held the balance of power and may well have gone with Labour and the Greens.

Act provides a much-needed political counterweight to the other parties calling always for more government spending and ever-more regulation.

We need a champion for individual freedom and personal responsibility. Act is that champion.

Sadly, much bruised.

And now the position of Act candidate for Epsom is open again. I am very pleased Act has excellent candidates in prospect. I have concluded it can’t be me.

I now don’t have the necessary passion and enthusiasm to do the job well. Yes, I loved it and I gave it everything I had. And then some. But it’s gone now. I am not sure why that is. It just is.

There was a time when Winston Peters could rattle an entire government, bringing ministers to their knees. Now, even junior ministers get the better of him.

I think it’s sad. Peters appears like some aged rock star who has partied way too hard and is now up on stage trying to relive the glory days. Or perhaps a champion boxer who has stayed too long in the ring. I wouldn’t want that.

I thought the worst thing for Peters was getting dumped in 2008. No. The worst thing for Peters was getting back in 2011.

New MPs snigger at him. There was a time he would have swatted them down like flies.

Knowing when to go is important in politics.

I have a project under way in Christchurch. We have a third baby due in July. I have new and different challenges ahead.

Plus if Rodney stood again for Epsom, we’d lost him as a great columnist!

In a related story, Cameron Brewer (again) rules himself out for Epsom, but Matthew Hooton is listed as considering throwing his name in the ring saying ACT needs a generational change.


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The battle for Epsom

January 10th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new beginning with a clean slate is the “best opportunity ACT has had in 17 years”, says David Seymour, who has all but confirmed he will put his hand up to be its candidate for Epsom.

Sole MP John Banks will stand down as the party’s leader in March and leave Parliament at this year’s election.

He is facing trial for allegations of knowingly filing a false electoral return.

Seymour, who has been living in Canada, had previously ruled out running for the position, but has confirmed his circumstances had changed and he was hoping to hand in his nomination by the end of next week.

He will be vying for the position against Jamie Whyte, who has also put his hand up to lead the party. But Seymour said it was his support for Whyte that played a role in him changing his mind.

“What’s changed is I’ve come back, I’ve met Jamie Whyte – I’m very impressed by him and I want to support him – but I’ve still got a few personal things to tidy up obviously.”

Seymour said he was not expecting to be leader, but would like to be the MP for Epsom.

“There’s a number of possible configurations, one is that a single person is the Epsom candidate and a leader of the party. Or those two roles could be split.

“Outside of those two roles, we’re hoping that ACT will actually get a number of MPs in [to Parliament] and so that’s the proposition.”

Whyte has also written to party members asking for their support to be Epsom candidate and leader. His letter reads:

Dear ACT member,

You will have read that I have put my name forward to be the leader of ACT and the candidate for Epsom, positions which need not be held by the same person. I am writing to you to introduce myself and explain why I believe I can be an effective leader of ACT.

ACT is a party of principle, not a lobby group for “rich pricks” or anyone else. It needs a leader who is a credible advocate of our principles and policies. Over the last 10 years I have consistently made the case for individual liberty under the rule of law in opinion columns for the Wall Street Journal and The Times (among other papers), in my recently published book Quack Policy and as a pundit on British radio and TV. On the basis of this work, in 2012 I was made a fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs and a senior fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. To give you an idea of my ideas, I attach to this email a PDF of Free Thoughts, a collection of my columns published last year by the Adam Smith Institute.

The rest of my professional career also supports my credibility on economic and social policy. I began my post-student life as a philosophy lecturer at Cambridge University. I then moved to London to work as a management consultant with Oliver Wyman, a firm specializing in banking strategy.  I ended my third stint with the firm in 2013, having become Head of Research and Publications. My time in consulting means that, unusually for a philosopher, I know a lot about business, both its theory and its practice.

ACT has fallen to less than 1% support nationally. It needs renewal. Among other things, that requires new and younger faces. I am a sprightly 48, with a wife and two daughters, 10 and 6. My profile in New Zealand is now low. But given my experience in the British media, I am confident that I can quickly change that, especially if chosen to lead ACT. Below is a link to a TV3 News item on me.

Finally, there has been some mis-reporting of my nationality. For the record, I am not English. I was born in Auckland to Kiwi parents and lived here until finishing my BA at Auckland University. Since then I have lived in many countries but mainly England. My family and I lived in Auckland from 2004 to 2008 and we are now back for good. 


His columns make excellent reading, and they are included below.

Free Thoughts

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Will it be Whyte for ACT for Epsom?

December 17th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Don Brash, the man who forced Rodney Hide out of his job as Act leader, approached him recently to urge him to return to the party leadership and to run for Act in Epsom.

Dr Brash told the Herald that Mr Hide was not interested at the time but the approach was made before current leader John Banks announced he would step down in February and would not stand at the 2014 election.

Mr Hide has been uncharacteristically silent on the issue, refusing to rule himself out or say whether he is considering it.

I doubt Rodney is that masochistic.

Act president John Boscawen said last night there had been only one nomination so far, that of Jamie Whyte, who has recently returned from Britain where he was a management consultant for Oliver Wymann and the Boston Consulting Group. He is also a former foreign currency trader and a former philosophy lecturer at Cambridge University.

A bid for the seat has been ruled out by Mr Boscawen, former president Catherine Isaac and former Auckland Central candidate David Seymour.

Trying to retain the seat without an existing public profile would be very challenging.

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Where to for ACT

October 18th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Does ACT have a future after its leader was committed to trial over his 2010 Mayoral election return?

Well firstly it depends on the outcome of the court case. If he loses, and is convicted, then his seat in Parliament is automatically vacated. That means a by-election in Epsom, and unless ACT stood an incredibly popular candidate (such as Cameron Brewer) then they would not win the by-election and be out of Parliament. I think that would be the end of the party, which would dissolve. That may create an opportunity for a new party in time, but probably not until 2017 at the earliest.

The fact the Solictor-General is looking at taking over the prosecution is somewhat ominous.

If Banks wins, then he remains in Parliament, and becomes a Minister again. However that does not mean plain sailing.

Banks defence is basically that he signed a legal declaration of his election expenses and donations, but didn’t read it. That may mean he legally didn’t willfully break the law, but it’s an awful look.  If his non-reading had occurred as a parliamentary candidate, that would be fatal. He is slightly saved by the fact that when he signed the return he though his political career was over. But regardless of timing, it looks bad. As I said previously, it is bad to be personally involved in receiving two donations and then sign a return saying he doesn’t know who his donors were. It may be legal (as Len’s trusts were), but is the public concerned just about legality?

Even if Banks wins, it is hard to see him winning Epsom again. Having said that ACT have won it three elections in a row, when almost no one thought they would or could.

If there is a by-election, then I would expect National to win it easily. Epsom voters are not going to vote for giving the Maori Party the balance of power or worse a Labour-Greens Government. Paul Goldsmith would become the MP for Epsom and Jo Hayes would become a List MP.

So I don’t see big issues for the Government before the general election, except for a possible distracting by-election campaign.

The bigger challenge is the next general election. National has five potential coalition partners, and none of them are ideal – and probably more than one of them will be needed. The five potential partners are:

  1. ACT – very reliable in a voting sense and pushes National into areas most of its supporters want. But not likely to be back.
  2. United Future – also a reliable and stable partner, even though more inclined to vote independently on non-core issues. But will Dunne stand again, and would he win?
  3. Maori Party. They will be back with at least one seat, probably two. A third is possible – a list seat if they get over 2% party vote. However they have never had to choose between a National and Labour led Government. They could well choose to go with Labour. And if they do choose National, their policy demands could be unpopular.
  4. Conservatives. It is hard to see them making 5% but they could well make 2.8% and get four seats if they win an electorate. If a new Auckland seat is in an area where they have some strong support, then the lak of an incumbent National MP could see centre-right tactical voting to get them in. The downside is that if this looks likely it might scare some socially liberal voters to Labour. Against that, most of the core issues for the Conservatives are conscience issues and not something likely to be part of any coalition agreement (except maybe to agree to no further law changes in certain areas). I can’t see any possibility of repealing same sex marriage, prostitution, abortion laws etc. Maybe the anti-smacking law could go as a policy victory for them?
  5. NZ First. Winston hates John Key and wants utu on him, The jury is out on whether the bigger utu is to sack John Key or make him subservient to him. Either option is rather unpleasant to contemplate. But you can’t rule out a deal if a National-NZ First majority is possible and a centre-left Government is only possible if the Greens are part of it.

So National does have options if ACT goes, but they are not great options. But politics is the art of the possible!

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ACT and Epsom

February 25th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong in NZ Herald reports:

Epsom voters are likely to be targeted by a combined scare campaign and charm offensive from Act as the party ratchets up its efforts to hold the seat.

Act is putting even more emphasis on National’s need for a reliable coalition partner to persuade local voters to allow it to keep its toehold in Parliament despite its basement-level support in nationwide polls..

Act’s new president, John Boscawen told the party’s weekend conference that if Act was not back in 2014 in even bigger numbers, National woulds be dependent on either the Maori Party or NZ First “or worse still, both of them”.

“The people of Epsom have huge power and have used it very wisely.”

Mr Boscawen said that as president he would go out and about with John Banks every week on to the streets of Epsom, into the shops and on to the doorsteps, and constantly remind Epsom voters of how crucial their vote was in securing a further three years of National government.

Many people do not realise this, but if National had won Epsom, then Labour would have gained an additional List MP. This would have meant a hung Parliament.

  • National 59 and United Future 1 = 60
  • Labour 35 + Greens 14 + NZ First 8 + Mana 1 = 58
  • Maori = 3

The Maori Party would have held the balance of power if National had won either Epsom or Ohariu.

Of course that doesn’t mean that will automatically be the same scenario in 2014, but if things are close again, then individual seats may be very important.

The reason Labour would gain an extra seat, is because the currently sit on the 121st quotient. If ACT failed to qualify for allocation, then effectively their quotient goes to the party that was closest to next getting an MP. National has the 120th quotient and Labour the 121st, so Labour would have benefited from ACT’s demise.

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Conservatives and Epsom

September 24th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Isaac Davidson reports:

The Conservative Party has refused to say whether it will compete for Act leader John Banks’ Epsom seat.

After its first annual conference at the weekend, the party said it was focused on reaching the 5 per cent party vote threshold.

Leader Colin Craig believes the party has already won votes from disillusioned Act supporters and that its fiscal and moral conservatism will appeal to the Epsom electorate.

“I think Epsom is quite a morally conservative electorate,” he said yesterday. “If you look at the ethnic breakdown of Epsom, particularly the Asian community … they are very strong on family, they are very strong on business, and on law and order. They are a good fit for Conservative.”

Actually I would say Epsom is more liberal than other electorates such as Tamaki.

My belief is that Paul Goldsmith will become MP for Epsom at the next election, so long as his name is on the ballot paper. I don’t think Epsom wants to become the tactical voting capital of NZ.

If I was advising the Conservatives, I’d tell them to look for a seat where it is likely a National MP will retire in 2014. Their chances are best there.

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The Epsom poll

May 6th, 2012 at 8:12 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports:

Banks, copping heavy criticism over donations from Kim Dotcom and SkyCity listed as being anonymous from his 2010 mayoralty bid, has lost a great deal of support, according to the Herald on Sunday-Key Research survey.

Only 10 per cent of electors would vote for him now – down from 44.1 per cent at the election last November – and a National candidate would romp home. 

The poll results are no surprise, and reflect my gut feeling that Epsom voters will vote for a National candidate, no matter what.

I would point out though one historical fact. No poll ever done in Epsom has shown an ACT candidate winning the seat – and they did win in 2005, 2008 and 2011. Epsom voters understand the tactical advantage of doing so.

However that tactical advantage disappears when there is little possibility of getting 1.2% of the party vote and one or more List MPs.

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Imperator Fish at Epsom

November 21st, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish has hit gold with this one:

National Party candidate for Epsom Paul Goldsmith last night told a business gathering in Newmarket that he was once a mercenary for former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The revelation came after a television news poll showed Mr Goldsmith is well in front of ACT’s John Banks in the race for Epsom electorate. …

Mr Goldsmith told the Newmarket Business Association gathering last night that he had served with Gaddafi in Libya, but had been dismissed for gross cowardice and theft.

He also confirmed that he has dozens of convictions for fraud, arson, theft and sedition.

In addition, Mr Goldsmith confirmed he thought communism was an excellent political ideology and that, if elected as MP for Epsom, he would seek to confiscate all the finest houses in Epsom and turn much of the electorate into a gigantic collective farm.

He then proceeded to light a joint and smoke it slowly while saying “wow, man! Wooow!”


Last night Goldsmith was interviewed by 3 News’ Patrick Gower and asked to explain whether he wanted to become the MP for Epsom.

Mr Goldsmith was unable to answer the question, because the flames of the church he was standing next to and had just set fire to forced him to seek shelter.

When asked to comment this morning on claims he was deliberately trying to lose the Epsom race, Goldsmith said he could not talk because he was late to a meeting with the Mongrel Mob about joining their gang.

Goldsmith later appeared on Broadway Newmarket wearing the Mongrel Mob’s colours and a gang patch, where he spoke to reporters.

When asked whether he was seeking to win the seat, Mr Goldsmith said “I’m too busy planning my next killing spree to focus on the electorate contest. Party vote National!”

Danyl has a challenger.

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A poll of 47

November 8th, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald each election does a Mood of the Nation survey when they get reporters onto the street and interview around 500 people. I think this generally is a good initiative. They report that it is unscientific, but it allows them to use actual quotes from people to use in their stories. So long as they stress the survey is unscientific, and the focus is more on what people said rather than the numerical results, I think that is fine.

But you can take these street surveys too far. Off memory, in 2008 a street survey of 100 people was reported by the Herald with great prominence as showing Judith Tizard retaining her seat. She lost of course.

This time we have a street survey of just 47 people in Epsom, that generates a story. It says:

John Banks has some support in the wealthy suburb of Remuera, but is less popular on the liberal fringes of the Epsom electorate, according to a Herald street survey.

A poll of 47 Epsom voters yesterday found the National candidate ahead of Act’s Mr Banks by 22 votes to 20.

It is ridiculous to do a story on a street poll of 47. First of all, you have the sampling problem – that in fact it is a poll of people who happened to be out on a street – in no way random.

But even if you overlook the fact it is a street poll, the sample size is ridiculously low.  The margin of error is 14.7%!

I generally regard 300 as the minimum acceptable for an electorate poll. That gives a 5.8% margin of error. A sample of 47 is close to useless.

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Guest Post: David Parker on What’s going on in Epsom

October 22nd, 2011 at 10:17 am by David Farrar

This is a guest post from Labour MP and Epsom Candidate David Parker:

What’s going on in Epsom?

The latest NBR poll for the Epsom electorate highlights problems for both National and Act.

My vote is up from 4.3% in the prior Herald poll to 17% in this latest one. Who wouldn’t be pleased with that 400% increase or the fact that at 17 % I am closing in on John Banks on 24%?

But the reality is that National’s Paul Goldsmith at 37% is well ahead, despite effectively saying “vote for Banks”. It is obvious that the Epsom voters are reluctant to be told how to vote, as shown by John Banks only mustering a quarter of the votes in the bluest electorate in the land.

I am not surprised. From my campaigning in Epsom, it is absolutely clear the Act Party is seen as an embarrassment by the vast majority.

If there is a surprise for me in Epsom, it is that so few people knew that John Banks tripled Auckland City Council’s debt during his last three years as Mayor. This recent history is very damaging for Key as well as Banks, given their repeated assertions that they are fiscally responsible and Labour is profligate.

The reality that Banks was “borrow and spend” will get through. I am telling everyone! Every letter box in Epsom will get this message.

Each step John Key takes to do a deal with Act’s borrow-and-hope-Banks and the-ends-justify-the-means-Brash undermines the image he has crafted for himself. He knows this erodes his political capital, but obviously thinks he needs Act.

The economic creds of John Key have been tarnished by his misrepresentations about the Standard and Poors downgrade statements.

Further, this has caused a renewed willingness to accept that Labour under Michael Cullen ran substantial surpluses and reduced government debt, which Key and Brash opposed. There is a widening acceptance that Labour was fiscally responsible at a time when the USA, the UK and most of Europe were not.

So the fact that Key is willing to do a deal in Epsom with Banks allows Labour to highlight these truths, which then causes voters to consider that, notwithstanding all of National’s spin, it is National’s deficit.

The Epsom platform enables us to remind voters of these facts, and contrast our plan to grow the export economy (substantial changes to tax, savings and monetary policy without selling our power companies) with National’s lack of an adequate plan.

All this at a time when so many are concerned that the world is changing fast, yet National and Act are stuck in a Chicago School of Economics time warp on the side of the bankers who were part of the problem and who are symbolic of the 1% who the 99% are protesting about.

Just as John Key’s image as a non-politician is undermined by what is happening in Epsom, so are National’s attacks on Labour.

The reality is that Banks’ very public record is there to haunt Key and Banks. The man who claims Muldoon as his hero has the worst economic record of any Mayor, ever, in the entire history of New Zealand.

While the last Labour government ran budget surpluses and reduced government debt, this is what John Banks did to Auckland:

Auckland City Council debt more than trebled in his last 3 years as Mayor!
2007          2008         2009                31/10/2010
$135m      $322m      $499m             $738 million !!!!!!!!

This was all pre amalgamation, and resulted in three credit downgrades for the council from Standard and Poors (from AA+ to AA-).

The Act spin that debt increased because the old Auckland City was borrowing for the new City is untrue. (That extra $416m of borrowing in the 2010 year took Auckland City Council debt to $1,155m at the time of amalgamation, but is excluded from the above figures.)

So John Banks certainly does not stand for fiscal responsibility.

The problems for National and Act go further.

I can attest from my campaigning in Epsom that voters still remember voting in the perk buster Rodney Hide, only for him to be busted for his use of perks.

They still remember the hypocrisy of the Act party opposing name suppression and favouring tougher sentences, and then finding out that David Garrett had name suppression and a discharge without conviction for stealing a baby’s identity and passport fraud.  Some are also aware Act knew this when they took a large donation from the misnamed Sensible Sentencing Trust and made Garrett Act’s law and order spokesperson.

It should be no surprise to anyone that no-one is sure what Act stands for. Liberals or conservatives?  Populist or principled? Take your pick.

The Epsom voters also regularly say to me that they can’t understand why Act has been taken over by Don Brash and John Banks, both of whom are past their use by date. That this is a widespread view was confirmed in the latest NBR poll where only 14% of those polled thought the change to Acts leadership had improved things while over 40% said it had made things worse and 30% said that there was no change to what was an already dire situation.

More people than you might expect also remember that Banks left National when last in Parliament with a reputation more sullied than Rodney Hide’s. Banks was kicked out of Cabinet by National. He then refused to sit on any select committee and while drawing a full salary as an MP took a paid job as a talkback host for Radio Pacific.

For all of these reasons the people of Epsom are very reluctant to hold their noses and vote for Banks.

I thought that Jon Johansson’s comment on Q&A last weekend was interesting. He made the point that Act is now polling at lower levels than at the last election. Voting for Banks in Epsom may in itself be a wasted vote (those unintended puns can’t be avoided given Brash’s proclamations). The problem for Act is that even if Banks did win Epsom, he is likely to bring in only himself and perhaps Brash to Parliament. Any extra votes gathered between now and the election would come off National. Not only will National want them for themselves, but Act still won’t make 5% and voters won’t want to risk wasting their party vote either. 

With Act polling low, an Epsom win is unlikely to bring a substantial voting wedge to prop up National.  Add to that this latest NBR poll showing Act is much less likely to get Epsom this time compared with last (and thus their party votes would be lost), and Act should be nervous.

The motivation for Epsom voters to throw their votes to Banks is undermined for so many reasons.

All in all, the Epsom election is proving useful to Labour and is allowing us to highlight issues National would much prefer had less profile.

The result will be more party votes and more electorate votes for Labour – inside and outside of Epsom. Thank you John, John and Don.

David Parker – Labour Candidate for Epsom -22 October 2011

I am happy to run guest posts from other (significant) Epsom candidates, of course.

UPDATE: In his guest post Mr Parker states that at the last election ACT took a large donation from the Sensible Sentencing Trust. This appears to be a false statement. All donations over $10,000 are required to be disclosed to the Electoral Commission, and none was. The ACT Party Treasuer and Secretary both say no donation of any amount was ever received, and the Sensible Sentencing Trust has said it never made any donation. In the absence of any proof from Mr Parker, I conclude the statement is wrong.

UPDATE2: David Parker has asked me to add the following on:

Garth McVicar has today (25 October) said that the Sensible Sentencing Trust has not made donations of money to any political party, including Act. It appears from his statement that the only gift the Trust itself made to Act was David Garrett. What donations, if any, came from members of the so-called Sensible Sentencing Trust to Mr Garrett or Act  I do not know.


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John does not understand

July 21st, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

John Pagani blogs:

Give me a break.

“Interesting to be in a party where the leadership decide selections,” David Farrar says of David Parker’s decision to stand in Epsom, as if National’s selection of Paul Goldsmith wasn’t one of the worst leadership stitch-ups in the entirety of MMP.

I mean, he’s just shameless. I blogged when Goldsmith was selected that it made sense. But to then take the mickey and claim it was a local decision is bizarre. Goldsmith has been selected by party command  to throw the seat to former National MP John Banks, whose biography Goldsmith wrote. The locals wanted Bhatnagar.

John’s experience of political parties is limited. In the Alliance Jim Anderton decided everything. On the one occassion the rest of the party wanted a say, Jim stormed off in a huff and killed the party. Then in the Progressives Jim even named the party after him so he had full control.

In Labour, the head office had three votes on a seven person panel, and combined with the unions can decide most selections.

This is why John thinks that in National, the head office decided the Epsom selection. He can’t imagine a party where this is not possible.

In seats with membership under 900, the Regional Chair can have influence as they select some of the 60 delegates. But in a strong seat like Epsom, the 60+ local delegates are selected purely by the members in their branch meetings, and those delegates get 100% of the votes (the Regional Chair has a casting vote but not a deliberative vote).

Party members take their duties seriously as delegates. Unlike Labour where a union can bus in scores of “members” who have never attended a Labour Party meeting in their life, and have never even met the candidates, National has eligibility criteria. You must have been an individual member for at least a year, and more importantly you must have attended a Meet the Candidates meeting to be able to vote at the selection meeting.

On top of the formal MTC meetings, candidates generally will meet every delegate one on one in their house. To win a selection you need to spend weeks getting around all the delegates – some you may even meet two or three times as they question you on your beliefs, your experience, your ambitions.

I accept this is all alien to John, but it is how it works in the seats where National has membership of 900 or more.

Meanwhile NewstalkZB report:

Labour Party frontbencher David Parker’s to take a tilt at Epsom.

The list MP has confirmed he will be taking on National’s Paul Goldsmith and Act’s John Banks at the general election.

Now I am told nominations are still open. Yet the story treats Parker as if he is the confirmed candidate. That is because they know in Labour if the hierarchy support you, you will almost always win – their rules are written that way.

What is more interesting is that Parker is moving from Dunedin to Auckland. His relationship is part of it no doubt, but look at the politics.

If Goff loses, him and Annette will go. Parker and Street could well be the replacements. But Labour could not have a Leader from Dunedin and a Deputy from Nelson. Auckland is their stronghold, and where elections are won.

By moving to Auckland, Parker makes himself a far stronger contender for the leadership.

Also I should note that the blogs were first to say Parker would seek Epsom.

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Parker for Epsom

July 19th, 2011 at 3:43 pm by David Farrar

A spy e-mails:

Labour’s leadership & council have selected David Parker for Epsom & told other prospectives to butt out.

Parker was the MP for Otago from 2002 to 2005 but lot it to Jacqui Dean. His new partner works for an Auckland Labour List MP, so a move to Auckland is certainly plausible.

Interesting to be in a party where the leadership decide selections. Epsom’s selection for National was determined entirely by 60+ local grassroots members.

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National’s Epsom candidate

July 18th, 2011 at 9:51 pm by David Farrar

In a final ballot run-off, Paul Goldsmith pipped Aaron Bhatnagar. Congrats to Paul, and commiserations to Aaron and the other candidates.

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Six seek Epsom

June 26th, 2011 at 6:37 pm by David Farrar

Belinda McCammon in the SST reports:

Six people have put their names forward to contest the National Party nomination for Epsom, including former Christian Heritage leader Ewen McQueen.

McQueen did not return for calls for comment all week but sources have told the Sunday Star Times he is seeking the nomination after unsuccessfully standing for selection in the North Shore seat.

I’ve not met Ewen McQueen who might be a very nice man, but my gut reaction is I’d rather vote for a Labour candidate, than for a former leader of Christian Heritage.

If National did select McQueen, that would guarantee it for Banks I suspect.

Former Auckland City Council councillor Richard Simpson, who stood under the Action Hobson ticket, is also seeking selection.

Simpson’s bid for selection has raised eyebrows within some National Party members, with one member describing it as “odd” given his voting history on the council.

Simpson served one term as a councillor from 2004 to 2007 before failing to be re-elected and had a history on the council of voting with the centre-left, including installing Bruce Hucker as deputy mayor and supporting mayor Dick Hubbard as Mayor.

I have to confess I did not know Richard was a member, let alone wanted to be a National MP. His voting record will come under scrutiny I expect. The battle for the nomination could get interesting as Bhatnagar won his Auckland City Council seat off Simpson in 2007.

Ray Presland, a former Auckland mayoral candidate at the last election, could not be reached for comment but is also understood to be standing.

Again, not someone I would have guessed is a National Party member.

I’ve previously blogged on the other three candidates, Bhatnagar, Goldsmith and Krum.

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Epsom race heats up

June 21st, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Belinda McCammon writes:

Former Auckland City councillor Paul Goldsmith, who has written biographies on John Banks and Don Brash, says he will contest the National Party nomination for Epsom.

Goldsmith said he had decided over the weekend to contest the nomination, which will pit him against former councillor Aaron Bhatnagar.

Both served on the now defunct Auckland City Council after being elected in 2007.

Goldsmith’s declaration comes after he unsuccessfully sought the North Shore nomination this year, with delegates selecting broadcaster Maggie Barry.

Goldsmith also stood unsuccessfully as the National Party candidate in Maungakiekie in 2005.

At least three people are known to be standing for selection in Epsom, with the National Party deputy regional chairman for Auckland, Denise Krum, also confirming she’d seek the nomination.

I know Aaron, Paul and Denise. All would be good MPs.

Aaron is the former City Councillor for the ward which covers most of the electorate and has just stood down as the Epsom Electorate Chair.

Paul is also a former City Councillor, the biographer to Don Brash and John banks and before that Press Secretary to Phil Goff and Simon Upton.

I’ve blogged on Denise before, who is very active in National in Northern Region.

It will be very interesting to see if anyone else stands, and then the selection itself.

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National to open Epsom nominations

June 9th, 2011 at 12:20 pm by David Farrar

Belinda mcCammon writes:

The National Party will open nominations this weekend for the Auckland blue-ribbon seat of Epsom, anticipated to be one of the most-watched contests of the general election.
National Party Northern Region chairman Alan Towers told Fairfax nominations would open on Saturday and close on June 24.

”We would expect at least five candidates to put their name forward for Epsom which is a safe blue seat, bearing in mind the party vote is what counts.”
While there has been considerable interest in Epsom, only one person – National Party office holder Aaron Bhatnagar – has publicly announced he will seek the nomination so far.

And Aaron would be a very good candidate. It will be interesting to see who else stands.

John Banks has been saying very constructive things about how he is not returning to Parliament to bag people in National, and how he just wants to push National to do more. It’s a message that will go down very well in Epsom, and will make it fairly easy for National voters to vote for him.

It is, in my opinion, a better message that claiming John Key is a traitor who has sold out to Labour and the Greens.

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Banks confirmed for Epsom

May 28th, 2011 at 2:39 pm by David Farrar

John Banks has been confirmed by ACT as their candidate in Epsom. On the latest public poll, ACT would have two MPs if John wins Epsom – hmself and Don Brash. However they have six months topick up further support.

The focus will be now go on whom National will select.

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Banks for Epsom

May 10th, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Derek Cheng reports in the NZ Herald:

The Act Party is expected to open nominations for the crucial seat of Epsom today and former Auckland Mayor John Banks is “quietly confident” he has the inside running.

Mr Banks made it clear last night that he wanted to follow a proper process.

“I’m not looking for any easy ride to the line. If a high-quality candidate steps up to the plate, someone of outstanding ability, then I’m happy to step aside and support that person.”

Mr Banks has already had a huge endorsement from the party’s new leader, Don Brash.

If ACT get to even one third of the 15% they claim they can now get, then Epsom doesn’t matter to them. However if they fail to get 5%, then it is crucial to their survival.  There are many interesting questions to be resolved.

  1. Will Banks win the nomination uncontested?
  2. Whom will National stand as their candidate. If it is local electorate chair Aaron Bhatnagar, then there could be a fascinating Bhatnagar v Banks contest.
  3. Who will Labour stand in Epsom?
  4. Will Labour supporters be urged to vote for their candidate or to vote strategically for Bhatnagar (or whomever is the National candidate)?
  5. Will National aim to win the seat back, on the basis of ACT claiming it will get 15%?
  6. Who will win if it is a full-on contest?
  7. If ACT do not get 5%, but Banks wins Epsom, will that make Banks more powerful than the Leader?
  8. If there is a National-led Government, one can only presume that Banks would be one of the ACT MPs made a Minister, considering his experience. So Boscawen and Roy might miss out.

Epsom is going to remain one of those must follow races.

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Epsom and Ohariu

April 19th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins reports:

National looks set to throw ACT a fresh lifeline in Epsom and do a deal with Peter Dunne in Ohariu despite polls suggesting it could govern alone after November 26.

Prime Minister John Key has given his clearest indication yet that National will tacitly endorse ACT leader Rodney Hide in Epsom to save ACT from certain electoral death as it struggles to rate much above 1 per cent in most polls.

He signalled a similar strategy in Ohariu, which Mr Dunne has comfortably held on to under his UnitedFuture party banner since 1996, though his majority has been slowly whittled down to just over 1200 from more than 20,000 in 1999.

“The primary emphasis [in Epsom] will almost certainly be a party vote campaign,” Mr Key said.

Asked where else that might be the case he said “maybe Ohariu”.

What John Key has said, is no surprise. National was always going to stand candidates in  those two seats, but it was never going to actively run a campaign against Ministers who serve in their Government.

One should no more expect this to happen, than you would expect Labour to have tried to kill off Jim Anderton in Wigram, when he was a Minister in a Labour-led Government.

Regardless of whether National actively targets the electorate vote, many National party voters will give the National candidate their electorate vote. Tends to be around 80% nationally. This will also be the case in Epsom and Ohariu, unless onr or both of the following hold true:

  1. There is a candidate with huge cross-party support, such as Peters used to have in Tauranga, Harry Dunhhoven had in New Plymouth, Peter Dunne has in Ohariu etc
  2. It is tactically sensible to vote for another candidate to help your party – as happened in Wellington Central in 1996 and Epsom in 2005

National voters are smart, and also quite independent. They will decide for themselves what to do, regardless of whether the party is explicitly asking for electiorate votes or not. Epsom in 2005 is one example – letters went out to voters signed by the President asking them to vote for the National candidate. The voters said “No, we want ACT to remain in Parliament” and voted for Rodney.

What will happen in 2011? Well the two seats are quite different. Take Ohariu first. Peter Dunne, Katrina Shanks and Charkles Chauvel all polled quite close to each other last election and any of them could win the seat. If the National vote splits between Dunne and Shanks. CHauvel may come through the middle. If a poll shows this as probable, then you might get tactical voting – where eitehr Dunne voters vote Shanks to keep Chauvel out, or Shanks voters vote Dunne to keep Chauvel out. Whomever registers in third place in a public poll in that seat will run a risk of having their vote be tactically siphoned off. What Chauvel will want is the race to be so close that Shanks and Dunne almost tie, and he comes through the middle.

In Epsom, it will be a different sort of tactical decision. The seat is massively National and there is really no chance of Labour winning the seat. So why might National voters vote Hide? Because it may help National to do so. But my long stated position is that Epsom voters will only decide what to do in the final weeks. Any polls prior to that will mean little.

Around two or three weeks out, Epsom voters will ask themselves two questions.

  1. Can National form a centre-right Government without ACT? If National is at 57% the answer is yes, if National is at 47% the answer could be unclear, and if National is at 45% the answer is probably no. Remember that a National-Maori Party combination is not a CR Government. If Epsom voters see National as likely to need the Maori Party to govern, this will provide an incentive to give National an alternative in the guise of ACT.
  2. If the answer to (1) is no or “unclear” then the second question is will electing Rodney in Epsom make a difference. If ACT look like they can get five MPs again the answer is yes. If they are polling at below 1% the answer is probably no. If they are polling in the 1% to 3% range it is more complicated – especially as ACT usually does better on election night than the polls show.

The one thing the two seats have in common is that the public polls could have a significant impact on the outcome. Polls well before the election less so, but polls in the last few weeks could be considerably influential – far more so that what the party hierarchy want

Of course you want to be very careful that a poll has asked the right question. Peter McCaffery at AOC has a useful blog post on this issue, reminding people of the 2005 TVNZ poll which showed Worth beating Hide. That poll, as Peter explains, was asking the wrong question.

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The importance of Epsom

December 3rd, 2010 at 4:07 pm by David Farrar

iPredict blogs:

Forecast party vote shares are: National 44.5% (down from 45.0% last week), Labour 35.4% (down from 36.6% last week), Greens 8.2% (down from 8.3% last week), New Zealand First 4.2% (down from 4.5% last week), Maori Party 2.8% (down from 3.1% last week), Act 2.8% (up from 2.4% last week) and UnitedFuture 0.3% (steady).

The probability of Act Leader Rodney Hide winning Epsom for his party continues to rise.  The market now indicates he has a 60% probability of retaining the seat for Act, up from 55% last week and 52% the week before.

Based on this data, the market is now forecasting the following Parliament: National 57 MPs, Labour 45 MPs, Greens 10 MPs, Maori Party 5 MPs and Act 4 MPs.  There would be 121 MPs, requiring a government to have the support of 61 MPs on confidence and supply.

What this shows is that if Rodney holds Epsom, a centre-right Government is forecast.

If Rodney does not win Epsom, then the Maori Party is expected to hold the balance of power.

Food for thought.

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What plot?

September 19th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The SST headline is:

Plot to grab Epsom as Hide’s Act falls apart

Except there is no plot. The story doesn’t talk about any plot. This is not the fault of the journalists who wrote the story – sub-editors pick headlines. So what does the story say:

NATIONAL is deciding whether to stand a credible candidate and grab back the Epsom seat from Act’s Rodney Hide.

National is not deciding, in the sense of making a decision. Of course many in National are discussing Epsom, but decisions on whether to vigorously contest Epsom will not be made in the next few days or even weeks. You never decide strategically important things in the middle of a media storm.

Around the middle of 2011 is when National will make decisions about what sort of campaign to run in Epsom. You don’t decide these things 14 months before the election.

With Act’s credibility in tatters over the David Garrett fiasco, National is worried endorsing Hide next year would upset Epsom voters, particularly women. That has put pressure on National to stand a strong candidate or risk voters ignoring any tactical voting option.

National has in fact never endorsed Rodney. National has always stood a candidate. The issue is whether the candidate primarily pursues the party vote (which most candidates are expected to do), or also campaigns aggressively for the electorate vote (which only happens in a few seats not held by National).

My expectation is that National will have a strong candidate, regardless of what sort of campaign is run.

Some party insiders believe the anti-Act mood is so strong that Epsom voters could decide “stuff this, I’m voting for National anyway”. The Act brand is so discredited that there is already talk in National about a new far-Right party.

Unless Fairfax is going to start talking about the Greens as a “far -left” party, could they please not use that term about ACT.

It is quite possible that voters in Epsom will vote for a National candidate, even if not explicitly seeking their votes. I actually don’t think the decision rests with National – it rests with the voters in Epsom. And I think they will make their decision quite rationally. If voting for Rodney looks like it will significantly increase the chances of National retaining Government, then they will – as they did in 2005 and 2008. If however it looks like voting for Rodney will not help the centre-right greatly (if if ACT is polling at below 1%), then his chances are not so good.

But these are decisions that people reach in the election campaign, not 14 months before.

So Rodney’s challenge is to use the next 12 months to get ACT polling well enough, so that Epsom voters will tactically vote. But this will need a blemish free performance from ACT and Rodney. And there seems little doubt that a couple of the “scorpions” within ACT are determined to destroy the party, so long as they can have “utu” on Rodney. This was made clear in the e-mails Whale oil blogged. And they may succeed – time will tell.

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The Auckland Seats

November 12th, 2008 at 1:34 pm by David Farrar

Starting at the top, the three northern seats of East Coast Bays, North Shore and Northcote were solid blue. Their party votes went up 9%, 4% and 11% respectively.  In East Coast Bays almost three times as many people voted National as Labour. These seats now are counters to the South Auckland seats.

The personal majorities were 12,800, 13,200 and 8,500 respectively. Northcote was held by Labour up until 2005 and Jonathan Coleman this tme incraesed his majority by around 6,000.

Out west we saw the near impossible – National won the party vote in all three West Auckland seats. Tim Groser worked hard on New Lynn to lift the party vote by 10% to 41%, with Labour dropping 12%. Te Atatu went from 32% to 42% and Waitakere from 33% to 42%. Listing the vote 10% in Westieville was great work.

Paula Bennett’s win in Waitakere is all the more remarkable because of the new boundaries. They had her 6,000 votes behind in 2005 and she won by 900. Groser reduced Cunliffe to 3,500 from a paper majority of 12,000 – also one of the biggest swings! Finally Chris Carter dropped to 4,500 from 7,500.

In central Auckland we have Auckland Central. National lost the party vote by 12% in 2005 and won it by 5% this time. This seat has been held by Labour since 1919 (apart from once going further left to the Alliance), making Nikki Kaye’s 1,100 vote victory all the more remarkable.

Mt Roskill also just went to National on the party vote, and Goff’s majority went from 9,400 to 5,500 – still very safe. His leadership predecessor in Mt Albert won the party vote by 6%, and had a slight dent in the electorate majority from 11,400 to 8,700.

Epsom went from 58% to 63% for National on the party vote, with Labour falling to under 20%. Rodney Hide drives his majority from 2,000 to a staggering near 12,000. They liked his dancing. Tamaki also remains solid blue with another 60:20 split on the party vote. Allan Peachey saw his majority go from 10,300 to over 15,000.

Maungakiekie was another big mover. The party vote went from a 13% deficit to 45 lead. And Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga scored an 1,800 majority from an close to 7,000 majority to Labour previously. Sam is one of the most well liked guys in the National Party, and had one of the biggest teams in recent memory on the hustings. He had between 10 and 25 people door knocking both days every weekend.

Out East we have Pakuranga which was no surprise. It is another close to 60:20 seat. Maurice is very popular locally and scored a 13,000 majority.

Botany. This brand new seat got the second highest party vote in Auckland for National – 62%. Pansy Wong also got a 10,000 majority. ACT’s Kenneth Wang was in third place but got a respectable 4,500 votes.

Papakura. The party vote went 52% to 28% for National, and Judith Collins took a 6,800 paper majority and turned it into a 9,700 real one.

Finally we have the three M seats in South Auckland. Mangere, Manurewa and Manukau East. Mangere saw Labour’s party vote go from 73% to 61%. In Manurewa it was from 61% to 50% and Manukau East from 65% to 57%. But turnout was down also and in absolute terms, Labour went from 55,000 votes to 38,000 over the three seats.

Thankfully Labour’s Sio beat Taito Phillip Field by 11,300 to 4,700

Note the above comparisons are all to 2005 results adjusted to new boundaries. Also a more formal analysis will be done when we have final results.

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Kate Sutton

October 23rd, 2008 at 8:54 am by David Farrar

The Herald has a nice interview with Labour candidate (and party vice-president) Kate Sutton. Kate talks about her current job:

So here she is in Landco’s 28th floor suite, hired for her command of public policy issues, Auckland growth problems, local government and potential public-private partnerships.

Besides Stonefields, the company is doing a development at Long Bay on North Shore and Ngunguru in Northland where she is negotiating a land swap with the Department of Conservation.

“Developers can be seen as bad guys,” she says, “but there are some developers out there who are working for the good of communities.”

It is her job to help convince communities of this.

“But I have to believe it. It is not a spin job – I couldn’t do that.”

Not too many Labour candidates would work for property developers! Labour will be stronger if more of their candidates have worked in the private sector – at least for a while. I’ve worked for Government, in private sector, for a charity and for myself and you learn and need very different skills in each situation.

TVNZ7 has an Epsom debate on tonight – Kate is the only non MP, appearing with Rodney Hide, Richard Worth and Keith Locke.

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