ACT party ready to rebuild from the ground up

Dear [redacted]

After four months reflecting on our poor election result, we are writing to you as a fellow ACT members proposing a plan for the next two-and-a-half years. It has taken this time to reflect, seek advice, and make a plan. […]

This country’s future is worth too much to leave with other parties. Without ACT, it would be a future creeping mediocrity. We can’t accept a future where the best case scenario is a National Government that lets things slip more slowly than others.

They have a point. We have all been talking about how National have been Labour Lite.

It is telling that the previous Government’s only controversial legacies have been ACT policies.  Abolishing Partnership Schools and 90 day employment trials is giving the new Government trouble. All of National’s agenda in Government has been easily adopted and extended by the incoming Government.

National were not a government of change. Their only new policies were ACT policies and their interest in Charter schools was lukewarm at best.

The new Government is worse. Their Child Poverty Reduction Bill, voted for last week by all parties except ACT, has nothing to do with child poverty but focuses entirely on income equality. It contains the logic that poverty will end when everyone is paid the same no matter how children are treated, and National have bought into Ardern’s ‘consensus’ on this!

The end of the Key-English era is probably good news for ACT’s chances. For a decade we have competed directly with the most successful centre-right party in the Anglosphere. But we are kidding ourselves to think we can continue as we have and get different results. David is the third party leader in a row to give it everything with incredible support from the Party and return a single MP to parliament. Given this state of affairs, we believe we must start afresh.

National were not centre right under Key and English; they were in the middle at best and centre left more often than not, which is why ACT got my vote at the last election. I was desperate to pull National out to the centre right.

Hard Questions

Over the summer break David visited Berlin to learn from the FDP. They are a small liberal party operating under MMP. Rodney and Heather visited them in 2006, and once again it was extremely useful to learn from them. What the FDP showed us is that it is possible to come back from a seemingly hopeless situation (they were voted out of the Bundestag in 2013, after a disastrous spell in Government) and emerge successfully (they got 10.5 per cent of the vote in 2017). It required a serious and professional rebuild starting completely afresh.

We don’t believe for a moment that we can simply copy and paste their experience and ride to victory in 2020, but there are things they can learn from them. They:

Accepted that what they’d done hadn’t worked. We think we are at a stage where we must do the same.
Sincerely asked the question, why does Germany need the FDP? We think we must ask the same question for ACT and New Zealand.
Undertook a project of consulting their membership and creating a new identity, answering the questions, who are we, what do we sell, and who buys it? On one sheet of paper.
We have begun this process in ACT. The survey of members sent last year was answered by a significant number of our members. You can read the results here. While the answers that Members give aren’t necessarily the exact answers that will attract voters, it is important to understand what motivates you, our membership, because you decide what our underlying purpose as a party is. In summary, you want a party that supports free trade, lower taxes, less Government waste, RMA reform, and choice in education. Our core values are strong.

Those core values need to include populist policies that are controversial if ACT is ever to grab 10% of the vote. They need a core value that will engage voters powerfully. If they created a strong policy to only take immigrants who share our New Zealand values and who are capable of assimilating into our culture they would gain wall-to-wall MSM coverage, shock and outrage and 10% of the vote easily. Trying to be liked by everyone didn’t work for them last time. To get 10% they must be prepared to be hated by some.

We Need One Direction

However, we believe one of the reasons that we have failed is that we have taken too many directions. David has been eager to satisfy almost every constituency that the party has accumulated in its 20 year history. We have, at various times in the past three years, been the party that is tough on crime (three strikes), smart on crime (reduced sentences for prisoners who learn to read), futuristic (Uber and new technology), supporting personal responsibility (welfare time limits), socially liberal (End of Life Choice Bill), the champion of younger generations (superannuation reform and housing responsibility), anti-Government waste (corporate welfare), low tax (our election year tax package), school choice (Partnership Schools), supporting rural New Zealand (stock rustling), pro-immigration, anti-immigration (New Zealand Values Statement), the party of better public policy (David’s election year book), anti tobacco tax, and so on. We doubt many members reading this will remember all of those positions. We have taken all of them in the past three years and, even as the Leadership, we suspect there are more that we can’t recall right now. What chance do the voters have of keeping up?

Choose a few key policies that people actually have STRONG feelings about and push them hard.

New Identity and Purpose

This year we must establish a new identity and purpose that fits on one page, answering the questions who are we, what do we sell, and who buys it? This will be a difficult process for our party. We may have to abandon some positions in order to obtain a streamlined identity and purpose. […]

-email to Act party supporters

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If you agree with me that’s nice but what I really want to achieve is to make you question the status quo. Look between the lines, do your own research. Do not be a passive observer in this game we call life.