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Whyte and Seymour elected - a brave but risky decision

ACT have announced:

This morning the ACT Board met to choose the new leader and a candidate for Epsom.

The Board’s decision was made by a secret ballot, which was conducted by an independent auditor.

The Board is confident that its decision will give ACT its best chance of successfully contesting this year’s general election with a Leader and Epsom Candidate who can powerfully and positively share the Party’s vision with voters.

The new leader will assume the role at the Party’s AGM on the 28th of February, and until that time, will serve as the leader-elect.

It is my privilege to announce that the person who will stand as the ACT candidate for Epsom is David Seymour and the new leader of the ACT Party will be Dr. Jamie Whyte

The Board acknowledges that it had three outstanding candidates seeking selection and thanks all of them for their commitment, energy, and passion.

In particular, the Board wants to acknowledge Party President, Hon John Boscawen, who’s record of service to the Party in a variety of roles throughout ACT’s history is recognised and valued.

This is a brave, yet risky, decision.

On a personal level I’m pleased to see two strong classical liberals take up the two key roles, and this should mean that ACT is clearly positioned in the future as a classical liberal party, not a conservative party or some hybrid.

One has to pay tribute to John Boscawen who has stood with ACT through thick and thin. It was noble of him to offer himself for the leadership and Epsom, and it is understandable that he is stepping aside:

John Boscawen said he had resigned as Act President and would be reconsidering his financial support of the party.

He would no longer be fundraising for the party which he had done for four elections, but he would remain a member.

So ACT has a numbers of risks, as well as opportunities ahead. The risks are:

  • Difficult to attract funding
  • Not winning Epsom
  • Struggling for media attention as both Whyte and Seymour not particularly public figures

The opportunities are:

  • Can draw a line with the past, as leadership clearly passes to a new generation
  • A clearer identity as a classical liberal party
  • The potential to attract votes from younger urban liberals

With the funding issue, it is to early too know. I gather than quite a few of the traditional supporters wwere supporting Whyte so they may continue to get some money from them. But they will miss having Boscawen as their fundraiser, and may struggle to connect with some in the business community as Whyte and Seymour are both more from the academic side.

Winning Epsom is the big thing. Seymour is very capable and competent and I can’t imagine a scenario where he stuffs up. However Epsom is not a classical liberal electorate. It is fairly conservative in some ways. Epsom won’t vote for Seymour because he is very smart on policy issues. They will vote for him if they think doing so will help John Key remain Prime Minister, and they think he would be a good local MP. David should (and probably has) talk to Rodney about keeping Epsom onside.

Whyte will I believe be very good with the media, and in the minor party leadership debates. However until the campaign itself starts he may find it very difficult to gain media attention unless he says something very controversial (which may not be helpful). He needs to find around three key issues on which to brand ACT.

For Whyte to become an MP, he needs to lift ACT’s vote from 1.1% to 1.2%. Not impossible, but considering the brand damage over the last two years, a significant challenge. If both Whyte and Seymour can make it to Parliament, then ACT’s will have a future.

Comments and questions

Why oh why would the Act board, whoever they are elect an inexperienced candidate to represent the electorate, when he is likely to be the only ACT MP in parliament. This seems crazy - the experienced John Boscawen was the man for that job.

I hope ACT didn't make a mistake here also - what are the lefty press going to dredge up on this guy in a character assassination attempt? Boscowen was proven reliable. Time will tell I suppose.

Surely the easiest issue for Act to campaign on is treaty settlements. This will garner lots of publicity and also play well with the epsom electorate. Only risk is the Maori party, but as long as not a bottom line then even that tension might be helpful publicity.

Frankly I am astounded at the nomination and as an Epson resident will not cast my vote for ACT, after the debacle with Brash, then Banks I would have thought a well respected political veteran would be selected to restore confidence in the viability of ACT, Whyte may well be an astute young man but the problem as I see it he has no experience.

NZ needs a revitalised ACT to stop National's slide to the left.
As a commentator has said,John Key is the best prime minister that Labour has ever had.
He will do anything to retain power,and is sadly lacking in principles.