The Dim-Post

December 6, 2011

Rebuilding ACT

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:02 pm

Tim Watkin writes:

Is that the whiff of ideology in the wind? The National-ACT supply and confidence deal will lead John Key’s second term government off the first term’s more pragmatic road and down some very rocky by-ways indeed.

The plan to trial Charter Schools and pass spending cap legislation ties the government to action and moves this government two steps to the right. I’m intrigued that these are the battlegrounds John key has chosen to fight on.

I don’t think this is right. My theory behind the ACT-National deal is this:

In 2014 National faces up to four competitors in the far-right/conservative vote-space: ACT, whatever liberal party splits off from ACT, the Conservatives and New Zealand First.

But they don’t want to be fighting on the right – they want to be in the centre, preventing soft Labour voters from deserting the John Key Party. And they don’t want to risk a large volume of wasted votes on the right going to the Conservatives and the as-yet-unnamed classical liberal party, who are unlikely to make it to 5%. And they don’t want to give either of these parties an electorate seat.

What do you do? Well, National’s decided to rebuild ACT. They’ve given Banks all these policy concessions, so now National’s army of paid shills can cluck and coo over what an incredible leader of the ACT Party John Banks has turned out to be. And picking charter schools was a genius move. It upsets the left! It gets unionists and education experts angry! It must be awesome! This makes it almost impossible for a ‘credible’ new classical liberal party to split from ACT. It keeps the party alive for another electoral cycle. Which will probably turn out to be a huge, HUGE mistake, but I never said it was a good strategy.

29 Comments »

  1. How long will it take for the Charter Schools policy to be shown to be working, or not?

    I suspect nothing will be in place by 2014, but other readers may be better informed on these matters.

    Comment by Bill Bennett — December 6, 2011 @ 7:29 pm

  2. I think you’re overestimating how hard it is to build up a party outside Parliament. Both the Conservatives and the ACTists and ACT sympathisers who are turned off by Banks are making a lot of noises about taking it to the polls in 2014, but three years is a long time to retain (let alone build) public interest, and the outside of Parliament is a bleak, inhospitable wilderness. Only two parties have ever appeared in Parliament de novo without winning an electorate, and both were full of politicians with high name recognition due to their prior association with other political parties. For either the Conservatives or Liberals to do the same thing would be a big ask, for both to do it would signify a seismic shift.

    I will be very, very surprised if this five-way competition eventuates.

    Comment by Hugh — December 6, 2011 @ 7:49 pm

  3. I don’t think that is what is happening, though my theory is similar to yours. I think Charter schools and spending cap legislation was very much part of National’s post election plan, but as they didn’t campaign on it they needed a right wing fig leaf to get it through. Hence the cup of tea with Banks, had he not got back in National would have owned these policies and it would have been a terrible look for the ‘centrist’ governing party. Smart move to have essentially a proxy National MP wearing these policy changes, rather than Key himself. Smart, as well as devious and dishonest. But don’t be too disappointed. Act is over and will remain over.

    Comment by alex — December 6, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

  4. *underestimating (sigh)

    Comment by Hugh — December 6, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

  5. I agree that National has decided to rebuild ACT, but only for the purpose outlined by alex at comment 3. The way it stands, Key gets to start on privatisation of education and ACC, and any National voter backlash will be directed at ACT, not National. Which is beneficial to National and a big So What for ACT, as voters likely to be turned off by these policies weren’t potential ACT voters in any case.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 6, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

  6. Do the left reckon it will be able to keep up the angst for another three long years about the establishment of a couple of Charter schools?

    Thought not.

    JC

    Comment by JC — December 6, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

  7. “And they don’t want to risk a large volume of wasted votes on the right going to the Conservatives and the as-yet-unnamed classical liberal party.”

    Here’s an interesting question. When the Electoral Commission’s review of MMP comes back, what chance of the present government (i) ditching the “electorate lifeboat” rule; and (ii) lowering the party vote threshold?

    But I think you are right about the policies being (another) attempt to shock the ACT corpse back to life, rather than “what National really wanted to do all along”. 2014 is looking like a lonely year, otherwise … .

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 6, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

  8. “Do the left reckon it will be able to keep up the angst for another three long years about the establishment of a couple of Charter schools?”

    When it turns out the first charters are given to Kyle Chapman and Michael Laws … yeah, there’ll be angst.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 6, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

  9. I seem to recall in the part of the UK where I grew up the first Charter Schools were for Muslims. I wonder how that’ll go down with Banks and his core supporters?

    Comment by Bill Bennett — December 6, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

  10. Word on the street is that Tolley/Joyce are determined to take on the PPTA this term. I think we will see lots of little shifts in policy that are continually needling the union in an attempt to bring everything to a head. Why else would you put John Banks in as Associate Minister of Education.

    The teaching unions are probably one of the most important unions in terms of the wider labour movement. They have high penetration, have not fragmented like the nurses, and have a high number of articulate, tertiary qualified members. There is currently union activity regionally, but few unions can mobilise nationally like teachers.

    I reckon National are working out whether they now have the public cache to take on teachers. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this more directly late 2012 / beginning 2013.

    Comment by Tim — December 6, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

  11. This changes the chances of a split off true liberal/libertarian party from ACT not a jot. The reasons for such a split go very deep….right to heart of ACT’s reason for being and its failure to live up to its principles.

    The ACT brand is now Banks…and true freedom fighters loath him…..

    Comment by James — December 6, 2011 @ 9:09 pm

  12. A new party isn’t the priority…its a movement of like minded people across a broad range of liberal issues…both economic and social…the latter being ignored by ACT long before bans joined. The lessons learned from the Greens will be studied and applied to prevent a repeat of the ACT implosion…

    Comment by James — December 6, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

  13. With respect to the teachers, PPTA and government desire to have performance pay, my questions are: (i) What is the methodology used to measure the link between performance and pay going to be? (ii) Who does the measuring? (iii) Will those who do the measuring have the expertise to make the judgements?

    Comment by Gerard — December 6, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

  14. Get your tin foil hat out, Danyl. The radiation is starting to hit hard.

    Comment by XChequer — December 6, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

  15. While we’re talking conspiracy predictions, here’s a more entertaining one: Rodney Hide bulls back in for a re-takeover (precedent has been set after all) and is greeted with relief by ACT supporters desperate to escape Banks.

    Or sets up the New Real ACT Party.

    Comment by Flynn the Cat — December 6, 2011 @ 9:46 pm

  16. The teachers, and their unions are clearly under attack.

    Societal problems are not the result of governmental ineptitude.

    Societal problems are the result of faulty/ inadequate schools.

    Charter schools will be set up.

    These schools will be set up to demonstrate that government ought not to be involved in education.

    (Well Anne Tolley is pretty convincing, but I am not sure that is what is what JK and the Nats have in mind).

    May be I am wrong.

    Tolley is there precisely to demonstrate that Government should not be in education.

    Paranoiac? Maybe but in the”dynamic” world of JK anything is possible except personal and/or goevernmental
    reponsibility for the consequences of their actions.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — December 6, 2011 @ 10:55 pm

  17. I find it difficult to believe that Key caved in to this un-campaigned-upon policy on the basis of a single vote when he could have tied in three Maori party votes for a way less controversial policy. Instead, I think they were happy to accommodate ACT because they think it provides some kind of fig leaf for a policy that National is happy to promote. Remember, this is the Key government who provided 3 million for private schools – the very schools that need it the least.

    The annoying thing about the charter schools idea is that we already have a model that provides for superior achievement: bilingualism. It could be Maori, Samoan, or French, but the results are similar – bilingual kids, over time (around year 7 or 8) do better that monolingual kids. It seems to work OK in Europe, too (and is a feature of Europe that many so-called “NZ Europeans” do not seem to identify with).

    So, why don’t we develop a proven home-grown model instead of importing an unproven one ? The answer is this: large parts of left wing ideology are underpinned by international-level research (e.g. The Spirit Level), whereas right-wing ideas are simply a thought experiment made concrete through the application of force. The Right are captured by their thought experiment; you just have to keep applying more force until your get your outcome.

    Not working ? More force, more force !

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — December 6, 2011 @ 11:12 pm

  18. Format fail: that wasn’t supposed to be a smiley, that was supposed to be an 8 and a closed parenthesis “)”

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — December 6, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

  19. >But they don’t want to be fighting on the right – they want to be in the centre, preventing soft Labour voters from deserting the John Key Party. And they don’t want to risk a large volume of wasted votes on the right going to the Conservatives and the as-yet-unnamed classical liberal party.

    Sorry, Danyl, but I think you’re wrong about this. They do indeed want those parties bracketed on the right, just as they wanted ACT. But Key could not escape the lure of high popularity, so National drained the life out of the far right. Now, they’re realizing what a disaster this is, how tenuous their hold on power. It will only take a couple of National party defectors to kill their coalition. That was the strategic mistake of chasing an outright majority, and believing telephone polls saying they were going to get it. The tea party was a major blunder, reigniting the NZF brand with a passion.

    You are right that they will try to strategically rebuild ACT. I don’t know if it will work. Banks just isn’t the guy to make a party like that work, he doesn’t have a liberal bone in his body. The best they could hope for is to create a socially conservative party. But that already exists and got way more votes than ACT. Why would Colin Craig possibly want to have anything to do with ACT and it’s stooge of a leader, when he’s got the cojones and the money to make his own party, and to wield real influence, rather than be a puppet for National? If he wanted to be a National puppet he would have joined the National party. Peters is openly hostile to Key – I think Key represents practically everything Peters despises, his whole reason for defecting from National in the first place was their neoliberalism, and their hypocrisy, their open lies in the lead up to the 1990 election. So National have to make do with what they have. John Banks. I pity the fools.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — December 6, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

  20. Here’s an interesting question. When the Electoral Commission’s review of MMP comes back, what chance of the present government (i) ditching the “electorate lifeboat” rule; and (ii) lowering the party vote threshold?

    i) zero, as regardless of any merits, the prime beneficiary of the rule is National through ACT;
    ii) highly likely, as regardless of any merits, National would benefit by having other potential coalition partners.

    Comment by Idiot/Savant — December 6, 2011 @ 11:54 pm

  21. I/S, I think National would be happy to drop the “electoral lifeboat” rule if they decided to drop the threshold altogether. From the 2008 results, even 12K votes would have got you into parliament (Bill from Bill&Ben). If they decide to keep a threshold, then the lifeboat would likely be kept as we, which would in keeping with National’s general approach towards democracy.

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — December 7, 2011 @ 12:16 am

  22. The strategy with charter schools is exactly the same as that with National Standards.

    NS can not hope to deliver the improved education outcomes that National has promised but nor will it be the end of education as we know it as Labour and the education unions have maintained.

    What it does do is keep, what is essentially a trivial issue, in the public consciousness – because its critics keep giving it oxygen. It’s a trivial issue but with high emotional impact with parents who are, I’m afraid to say, completely irrational when it comes to their childrens’ education.

    So at little cost National will get another issue that plays into their hands.

    NS might be a pain for teachers for not much gain but it was in the media almost every week reminding parents of how well their kids might be doing.

    Comment by NeilM — December 7, 2011 @ 12:33 am

  23. MC: So, why don’t we develop a proven home-grown model instead of importing an unproven one ? The answer is this: large parts of left wing ideology are underpinned by international-level research (e.g. The Spirit Level), whereas right-wing ideas are simply a thought experiment made concrete through the application of force. The Right are captured by their thought experiment; you just have to keep applying more force until your get your outcome.

    Actually its the reverse that’s true…the force mongers are on the left…they want to extract tax by force and keep people from exercising their choice with their own money. The spirit level is so well busted I’m embarrassed for you that you use it as evidence ….”Look up “The Spirit level delusion”.

    Free market literature and studies on open education and many other topics abound on the net and in books….and the facts seem to always come out on its side.

    Comment by James — December 7, 2011 @ 4:07 am

  24. The teacher unions have made what should be the relatively simple exercise of converting school testing results into a common measurement a drawn out pain in the arse so zero sympathy for their tears about the trialling of charter schools in some lower decile areas with poor schooling results.

    Comment by will — December 7, 2011 @ 6:01 am

  25. Will being,of course, a fine example of how eduation ain’t broke. He might like to note the subtle distinction between ‘teacher unions’, BOT’s,PTA’s and principal associations.

    Comment by Galeandra — December 7, 2011 @ 8:03 am

  26. MC: So, why don’t we develop a proven home-grown model instead of importing an unproven one ? The answer is this: large parts of left wing ideology are underpinned by international-level research (e.g. The Spirit Level), whereas right-wing ideas are simply a thought experiment made concrete through the application of force. The Right are captured by their thought experiment; you just have to keep applying more force until your get your outcome.

    What are the “right wing” ideas are you referring to? Resistance to capitalism and free markets has often been the purview of self-described “rightists” in the past just as support for free markets has been within the purview of the “left” in the past and still is today amongst a tiny minority. In fact it was on the left of the French legislative assembly after the revolution of 1789, from whence we derive the terms “left” and “right” that radical laissez-faire writer Frédéric Bastiat. But that doesn’t matter they are largely arbitrary and substance-less terms. We shouldn’t slavishly adhere to an irrational one dimensional dichotomy. We should base our political discussions on the seating arrangements of a French parliament over 200 years ago.

    If however, what you are talking about are free market ideas. That greater human freedom and less statism will logically lead and has empirically led to less poverty, more economic growth and development. That removing the obstructions to human freedom from the state will result in much less misery, in much greater happiness, in the continued elimination of starvation and poverty and human betterment.Then I think the evidence is thoroughly on our side. Indices of economic freedom and other systematic analyses are consistent in demonstrating the link between economic freedom and greater human well-being. Economic freedom correlates positively with lower levels of violent crime, with higher levels of human development, with higher income for the poorest 10% and so on and so forth. Small government size and economic freedom are robustly associated with poverty reduction (also see this). I could provide ever more papers and ever more empirical evidence. Just look at countries that have followed free market reforms in recent times China, India, South Korea, Brazil, Hong Kong. It has resulted in the fastest elimination of poverty in human history. Now look at the numerous examples of societies that became significantly more statist and implemented state socialist economic policies and the human misery that resulted – Cambodia, North Korea, Somalia under the Barre regime, other past Marxist-Leninist African regimes e.g., Benin, Ethiopia, Maoist China and of course the Soviet states. Mass poverty, famine, torture, slavery, and mass executions were all commonplace among them.

    The state is an institution of mass coercion. It is a defining characteristic of the state. To quote George Washington “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force.” State actions are enforced by mass proactive coercion, by threat of physical force. Whether they describe themselves as “left” or “right” whether they are on the blue team or the red team those who desire greater state intervention into society, more top-down control, that fact remains the same.

    Comment by Quoth the Raven — December 7, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

  27. “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force”

    the same statement can be applied to the top levels of any society where you have an entrenched elite who are able to exercise significant control over the rest of society.

    so while i agree that left or right becomes meaningless (especially as if you follow both to their logical extreme conclusion you end up in the same place) – how do we ensure that the bulk of people arent taken for a ride by said elite?

    All these theories sound very nice – and you can find examples that prove and disprove them all – but the theories just dont seem to play out as described once you add humans.

    Comment by framu — December 7, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  28. framu – What Washington is alluding to is that which is uniquely characteristic of the state. Functionally the state is a territorial monopoly on the ideologically legitimized use of force. The ideology part is important. Collectivism is the primary ideology through which people legitimate the state making its mass coercion possible. People project legitimacy onto the state believing it to represent the collective (which it can’t and doesn’t). They hence subsidize the individuals who control (the elite if you wish to call them) and enforce the institution. So the answer to your question is to delegitimize the state.

    See The History of Human Society Private Property versus the State for good overview of some of these issues.

    Fortunately I believe that there is a global megatrend away from statism and the high water mark for the nation-state was the total wars of the twentieth century. We can see this in the economic liberalization in the places I have already mentioned (China, India, Brazil etc). The collapse of the Soviet union (which I’m sure Danyl is still mourning). The spread of free trade. The global trend away from public ownership and towards privatization. We can see the pressures being put upon the state by globalization and corporate arbitrage making it harder for states to exert control over national economies. Advances in communications and transportation technologies making national borders increasingly less relevant to businesses and people. Military technologies which make asymmetric warfare

    Comment by Quoth the Raven — December 7, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

  29. @ Galeandra – are you making a point or randomly putting words together???

    Comment by will — December 7, 2011 @ 4:56 pm


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