For my 2c David can not continue as an Independent MP. He is a List MP and got there on the ACT list. He may need a few days to come to this conclusion, but it is the only viable one.
Earlier: I’ve spent a couple of days thinking about this, and I have to conclude the future is bleak for ACT. Not terminal necessarily, but their brand may be too damaged to repair.
It was a critically bad decision to keep Garrett’s offending secret. While what he did was very bad (and one can only have immense sympathy for the family of the deceased infant, who are having to cope with all of this), it could have been handled, if prior to the election it was revealed. NZers do not expect MPs who have never made mistakes.
But keeping it secret, while one rails against crime and suppression orders means that ACT is seen as hypocritical. And the nature of the offence risks them being seen as a bad taste joke.
So how do they move forward?
An absolute minimum is that David Garrett must be removed as Law & Order Spokesperson. It is impossible for him to perform that role with credibility anymore.
But I don’t think that will even be enough. So long as David remains in the ACT Caucus, this will remain an issue. Some may say it is unfair (remember Trevor Mallard remained an MP despite being convicted of assault – while an MO, of another MP, and in the lobby of the debating chamber), but this is about political survival.
Also recall that there will not be inquiries into whether Garrett should have disclosed his Tongan conviction to the courts. I am sure he will face complains to the Law Society. The Tongan doctor is alleging a different set of facts to him, and more witnesses may come out about that. ACT can’t afford to have this dominate reporting on them for weeks and months to come.
If Garrett resigns, then Hilary Calvert would become an MP. She is well regarded within ACT (not a star, but a safe steady performer insiders say) and she is loyal to the leadership. It is a myth that she would be a vote for Heather.
So in my opinion ACT need to do that. However, that still leaves them some problems.
Rodney’s standing is damaged by this, and questions will be asked about why Garrett is deemed necessary to resign now, yet Rodney was happy to have him as an MP when it was secret. Rodney will need to acknowledge that this should have been made public before the election. Now to be fair to Rodney he was not the only person who knew of this.
Another issue, is where did this stuff on Garrett came from? If it did come from people with ACT, then it signifies that they have scorpions in their ranks who are happy to kill off the entire party so long as they can poison their target. As I understand it the number of scorpions is small – four or so. But they may need to be exterminated.
But even if you get past that, you have the very difficult challenge of re-establishing a brand for ACT that can attract support and allow Rodney to retain Epsom.
I would say ACT has mainly had three brands – low taxes, hard line law & order and perk busting.
Both of the latter two brands are destroyed or seriously damaged. That laaves the low tax brand. The problem there is that a minor party’s impact on tax policy is always going to be relatively small. And anything you do achieve the bigger party can get credit for,
What else can ACT build their brand on – they can go down the “Maori Party has gained too much path”. But Winston is already there, and he will always be able to push that barrow more effectively.
They can position themselves as the anti ETS party. But now 1 July has been and gone, and the world did not end, I am not sure if it will be much of an issue next election.
Maybe to some degree, one can’t draw up a path for survival at this point. But one can take a couple of steps in the right direction. See how you are doing, and then plan the next two steps. But any mis-steps are likely to be fatal.