Don’s decision

Tracy Watkins in the Dom Post reports:

Former National leader is making a bid for a political comeback as party leader – if it will have him.

Dr Brash confirmed yesterday that if he was offered the ACT leadership he would take it, after previously rejecting behind-the-scenes efforts to woo him back to Parliament either as ACT leader Rodney Hide’s deputy or as co-leader.

Dr Brash said he would not contemplate returning to Parliament under either of those scenarios but would if offered the leadership.

I do hope for Don’s sake, that he is not offered it. I don’t think he’ll find it a pleasant experience, and I don’t think he’ll achieve what he wants to achieve. My thoughts are:

  1. Don will not become a Minister, regardless of how ACT polls. John Key declined to offer Don a significant role straight after he replaced him as leader, so I can’t see that he will be of a different mind now. All Don will achieve is a different platform to complain spending is too high (which incidentially I agree with him on). But he won’t actually get to change that.
  2. ACT’s internal politics are toxic at the best of times. If Don replaced Rodney as Leader, he’ll inherit all the infighting and bitching. If he thinks the party will unite behind him, he doesn’t realise ACT is very different to National where there is greater discipline and loyalty.
  3. Don leading ACT will force John Key more to the centre. in fact Key will come under pressure to rule out more and more policies in advance, as the left will have greater ability to scare-monger on them.
  4. Don will be seen as a temporary leader due to his age. No one will thinks he would be leading the party into the 2014 election as he would be 77 by the end of that term. 
  5. Don is such a convenient target for the left, that his assuming the leadership will be a significant help to Labour. Problems of morale, activists, union support and even money will be partially solved if he offers himself up as their target. You’ll have Matt McCarten and Chris Trotter both praising Phil Goff as the only man who can save NZ from the spending cuts seen in Ireland and the UK.

The article also says:

There is also speculation that former Auckland mayor would be keen to stand in Epsom if approached by ACT, suggesting he could be on a Brash ticket. The two men have business ties and speak regularly. Polls have shown that Mr Banks would win Epsom if he stood.

First of all, polls have not shown any such thing.

Secondly I consider John Banks a friend, as I do Don Brash. I certainly think John could still make a contribution to national politics. However I am not sure his brand is that compatible with ACT.

ACT at its heart is a classical liberal party – economically and socially liberal. They have not always kept to that, but many of their key activists are classical liberals. I don’t think John would describe himself as a classical liberal.

There is in fact a nice spot in the political spectrum for a party, which John Banks would be a potential leader of. That is a traditional conservative party – like the Nationals in Australia. Think of it as a party for talkback callers. Now at present NZ first sort of occupies that spot on the spectrum but Winston is of course toxic. But once he is properly buried, then there could well be a role for a conservative party, as well as a classical liberal party.

If I was on the board of ACT, I would not be panicked into anything. They should focus on lifting the party vote and winning Epsom. If going into the election that are polling at 2% or more, then that should give Epsom voters enough of an incentive to vote tactically to ensure John Key remains Prime Minister.

UPDATE: John Banks has said he is definitely not standing.

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