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:
- ACT – very reliable in a voting sense and pushes National into areas most of its supporters want. But not likely to be back.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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!