It’s a strange outcome of MMP that ‘parties’ of one or two individuals can hold the balance of power. Peter Dunne is a known quantity but Te Urewera Flavell of the Maori Party is a wildcard and David Seymour’s influence is an unknown quantity despite the ‘confidence and supply’ agreement he has signed with the Prime Minister.
I like David Seymour. I’ve met him a couple of times and been impressed with his wit, sharp brain, and ability to handle a crowd. I’m also philosophically attuned to ACT’s libertarianism. However, the free market economics of the party are poorly understood by the majority of New Zealanders and therein lies the challenge for Seymour and for ACT – how to make the party relevant to more than a few free thinkers. If he fails to do so as Party leader, following the resignation of political philosopher Jamie Whyte, he will not be gifted Epsom again unless his Party can get their rating closer to the Conservatives showing of 4% and bring in some more MPs. After all National can win Epsom on their own and unless ACT can bring in at least one more MP, but preferably more, what’s the point gifting it to ACT.
For the time being ACT has some breathing space and the 31 year old Seymour finds himself in a very powerful position. Some might say he’s sold his sold himself cheap by not holding out for a ministerial position but he’s of much greater use to National and ACT if he’s more free to build his power base. He holds the balance of power on legislation not supported by Dunne or the Maori Party and that could give him a very strong platform in this parliament which has to get to grips with the vexed question of finally settling the Treaty of Waitangi claims and abolishing the Maori seats.
That is where the overall shift to the right presents ACT with opportunities. If National starts to backtrack on settling these questions or starts down a constitutional road that gives even more power to tribal elites then Seymour can step in as the champion of all New Zealanders who want One Nation.
Meanwhile he has to negotiate the sharks of the media and Left who will see him as easy meat to pick on, just as they did with Brash, Banks and Hide before him. If he can overcome that onslaught and carve out a niche that resonates with a wider public then he will keep ACT on the map. Otherwise they’re history. He has youth, vigour and an independent mind on his side. I wish him well.