When Prime Minister John Key returned home after rubbing shoulders with the world’s Royalty and social elite, he found a very changed political landscape by brash acts to his right and left.
If National MPs are not worried, they should be. And they have only themselves to blame. Political arrogance has once again come at a price.
No doubt, Brash will want to use Rodney’s hide to erase ACT’s inauspicious past, and may even go as far as renaming the Party. He will refresh the Party’s List, while rewarding those who assisted in the coup.
A Brash-led ACT presents a problem for National on many counts, not least is the fact that its votes will come almost entirely from National.
A quiet admission
Many National supporters who rebelled against the Party’s affair with the Maori Party and the astounding deceit and half-truths that surrounded the passing of the Foreshore and Seabed Legislation, will welcome Brash’s one-law-for-all reputation.
National’s MPs will now start counting the cost for voting a Legislation that many condemned in private or shrugged off as a reality of MMP.
Brash’s stand on race relations alone is likely to transfer enough votes to take National’s support below 50% and ACT closer to 10% than 2%. National can no longer harbour dreams of gaining an absolute majority to govern alone.
A hard game
The emergence of Brash on the extreme right and Mana on the extreme left will define the media agenda of the Election. The inflammable mix of Brash’s uncompromising stance on Maori issues and Harawira’s warrior style will no doubt be the medias focus, making it very hard for Key to play out the smiley presidential campaign he would have planned in the brief election window between the end of the Rugby World Cup and Election Day.
National will have to defend its right flank from one of its own for the first time.
Brash will no doubt want to revive the Iwi-Kiwi attack style campaign he used in 2005, but this time targeting Key and National.
That will leave the left (middle) flank open to Labour, but National is fortunate that Labour is still burdened by a gay/unionist image too scary for middle New Zealand (at this Election anyway).
The Mana Party on the other hand, poses a problem for National in that, while ACT is gaining strength, its other coalition partner, the Maori Party, is likely to be weakened and provide a nil-return for the costly concessions made to it in the hope of retaining its favour.
It is likely the Maori Party will be returned with only two or three MPs, as it fights with Mana over the Maori activist vote. In any case, ACT is unlikely to support National if the Maori Party is part of the coalition.
National will therefore be left dealing with a demanding and focused Brash, quite the opposite of the born-again lamb-like Hide who made no secret of his admiration for the Prime Minister.
Frank Newman is the author of numerous books on investment. He has worked as a share broker, investment adviser and University lecturer. He was a member of the Whangarei District Council for six years.