by David Clendon
I almost feel sorry for ordinary members and supporters of the Act party. Most of them base their support on a shared belief in laissez faire free market capitalism; a preference for a small, ‘non-interventionist’ state; and a form of social liberalism that gives primacy to the rights of the individual.
That’s not a worldview that I could ever sign up for, but nor is it one that gives cause for offence in an open democracy.
Unfortunately for them, Act supporters are at risk of being tarred with the racist brush, probably unfairly for the most part, given the latest outpouring of anti-Māori bile from their ‘leader’ Donald Thomas Brash.
A few months ago the best political theatre in town was the high farce of a former National party leader taking over the leadership of a party of which he was not a member, offering the MAD (mutually assured destruction) option of ‘make me your leader or I will call upon my rich mates to fund an alternative right wing party’.
Donald spoke of the renaissance of the right, a leap up the polls to 15% or more, of a new coalition that would put steel in the spine of the NACT coalition, etc, etc, etc….
In the real world of course Act continues to bounce along the bottom of the margin of error in the polls. It has a much less assured grip on its security blanket electorate as some ambitious National party aspirants vie for the Epsom candidacy, and are unlikely to want to give Banks, that other former-Nat, the easy ride that Richard Worth allowed Rodney Hide in 2008.
Desperate times, so Donald reaches into his bag of dirty tricks and pulls out the race card, the same trick that worked (a bit) for him in 2004. Māori, apparently, are a privileged lot who live off the fat of the land and enjoy enormous rights and privileges not available to non-Māori, and Donald doesn’t think it’s ‘fair’.
What seems to elude Donald Thomas is the reality of Māori featuring at the wrong end of all the statistics about health, education, employment, life expectancy, incarceration, housing, income – but then when did he ever let the facts get in the way of a politically expedient tall story?
For their own sake, you would think that a posse of Act-ites would lock their leader in a room with a couple of Treaty educators, copies of some good social histories of New Zealand, a set of social and economic statistics, and maybe a copy of the new Wai 262 report. Maybe if he worked his way through that lot he might get a clearer picture of reality – or could it be that he knows the truth already, but is willing to deny it and assert the opposite purely in the forlorn hope of political gain?