Actual and speculative consequences of Brash becoming ACT leader:
- ACT will probably survive the election.
- I think people overestimate Brash’s appeal to voters and his basic competence. Instead of ‘Don Brash almost won the 2005 election’ I think it’s more accurate to say ‘Stephen Joyce almost won the 2005 election and would have if Don Brash didn’t happen to be leader at the time’.
- The current coalition arrangement – National + ACT + Maori Party +/- United Future – is no longer viable. Even Dunne might rule out going into coalition with a Brash-led ACT.
- Brash and the Maori Party can enter into a mutually beneficial antagonistic pair during the campaign, in which they build support with their own base by attacking one another, ensuring ongoing media coverage.
- Brash’s strategy will be to attack National vigorously from the right and try and take as many of their voters as possible to strengthen their position in post-election negotiations.
- I predict we’ll see a major policy speech from Brash within the next four weeks, focusing either on race or welfare issues (probably the latter, since it defies expectations and he can use the Welfare Working Group report as ammunition).
- This all makes Labour’s job easier. They can focus on Brash, not Key – in much the same way that in 2008 the focus was on Peters not Clark. Phil Goff could actually get to be Prime Minister, if Labour sends him off to the Christmas Islands until early December.