Following on from my earlier analysis National need to be very careful with how they handle Don Brash and ACT. After the election Don is almost certain to have the balance of power, so annoying him is a really not very bright. Petty jealousy and stupidity like we saw earlier this week from Acting Prime Minister Bill English is not going to help, as it will just alienate many of the people that deserted National in 2002 when Bill lead the party to its humiliating defeat.
Long term the support of the Maori Party is an extremely risky strategy. John Key’s faustian pact has pissed off a large number of National Party members, plus all the voters who swung in behind National after Don Brash’s Orewa Speech. National membership has tanked in many electorates over the seabed and foreshore, and this could well translate into a lot of Party Votes for ACT.
Brash can be expect to bring a Tony Abbott like approach to the election campaign. Everyone will know what he stands for, and like him or loathe him there will be no doubt. He will put pressure on all other political parties because of his clear principles. Fuzzy slogans like “building a brighter future” now come into question because of the sharp focus Don will bring to the right of the spectrum.
National’s problems are not confined to the party vote. Electorates that were safe National when Rodney was leader now could have an ACT candidate running, splitting the vote on the right. This happened in Waimakariri in 2008 where Aaron Keown got 1700 votes and kept Kate Wilkinson from winning a very blue seat. Before readers jump on the “Party Vote that Counts” bandwagon, electorate MPs have twice the resources as scum list MPs and more than four times the mana.
National are fortunate in Labour being so weak they cannot really compete in the center ground. This means National can stay firmly sitting in the middle and let Don take the right wing votes. A strong ACT party, matched with a strong National Party means no selling souls to the devil and selling out to the Maori Party.
The crazy thing about how the last few weeks have played out is that if National had have thought this through they would have made Don an offer he couldn’t refuse after 2008 election. Instead they shunned him, with sources inside the Beehive suggesting Bill English and Simon Power are the ones who need to be put up against a wall and shot for making such a strategically damaging decision.
Someone in National needs to be reaching out to Don immediately, offering him support and working out an agreement between the two parties. If not National run the risk of losing electorate seats with ACT splitting the Party Vote.