Monday, January 23, 2006

If you were the ACT Party President?

If you were elected as the President of the ACT party, and if you had the power and ability to make some big changes within ACT what would that be and how would you impliment it? I am not looking for what ACT shouldn't be doing, but what you think ACT SHOULD be doing to get 15% of the party vote and at least 5 MP's voted in. It is possible for this to happen, so don't bother telling me that it is impossible. People from all parties are welcome to comment. No holes barred. What would you do?


Aaron Bhatnagar said...

The best ACT has ever done in an opinion poll is 11% or thereabouts after the TKC by-election in 1998. It has never polled above 7% with any regularity, and as we well know, the second anniversary of ACT's collapse in polling will be next month, where is has never really polled above 2%. So, I'm sorry, I disagree that 15% and 5 seats is possible. I think that ACT's poor polling and collapse in infrastructure has got to the point of no recovery, and the public perception of the party is now of a "Jim Anderton Party" on the right.

I am not interested in handing out specific free advice for ACT, other than to note that ACT has always searched for one single silver bullet to fix all its problems and gain that clear breakthrough in the minds of voters. What ACT needed to do years ago were the things that all successful parties do which is:

1) open and transparent internal organisational structures, allowing ambitious and effective members the opportunity to thrive
2) a continual process of signing up new members and renewing the existing membership
3) regular grassroots activity like fundraising, social clubs, cottage meetings, newsletters
4) advocating policies and solutions relevant to your voting base, instead of getting caught up in the hurly burly of daily politics irrelevant to most people
5) an inclusive approach towards your voting base
6) a careful eye on your core consituencies to ensure that they do not become disaffected.
7) a tolerant attitude to factionalism, which is a natural part of internal competitive politicking and not something that should cause a party to shake itself to pieces over.

None of this is rocket science or a big secret. But I suppose its a lot easier to announce a "rock star" individual as a candidate or bring in a PR expert to relaunch your brand instead of doing a lot of little things that need continual attention.

I'm also quite confident that ACT will continue to seek the magic silver bullet to fix all its problems instead of behaving like a real political party. They've had 13 years and over $10 million of dollars in funding - perhaps as much as $14 million. I fail to see how more time or money could make a colossal difference now that they are back at "square one" in terms of polling and support, and probably in a worse position in terms of organisation and membership numbers.

And could I ask that before any of the young ACT pups leap in and criticise my assessment of the above, please actually point out the errors in my comment rather than simply accuse me of being on some kind of jihad to crush the ACT Party by making comments on blogs. After all, why would I need to single-handedly crush ACT with blog comments when it appears that the party has done a bang up job of doing it to itself though neglect and incompetence over a decade?

Mike Heine said...

Actually there are some darn good ideas in there, you sure you don't wanna come back Aaron? :)

With specific reference to your first two points:
What we need is a structure that allows the cream to rise to the top. I know every party is ruled by some extent by who's friends with who, who owes what to whom, and who has revealing pics of who with what etc.
But if we could truly have a party devoid of all that, it'd be amazing what we could achieve.

I must point out that ACT had, in my opinion, the most talented caucus since the Fourth Labour Government's first term lineup. However of course people come and go (either by their choice or voters' choice). So if we don't have the courage to give the up-and-comers the ball and let them run with it, all we'll have is a talent vaccuum at the top, and we will fail.

Andrew said...

Good observations Aaron.

Rob Good said...

And what would you do Andrew?

Aaron Bhatnagar said...

I hear Muriel Newman and Graeme Scott suggested as names for the ACT presidency as well.

Dan King said...

Ahh Mr Bhatnagar, good to see you back in the fold! the best double agent we ever had...

Act has never employed marketing effectively. Our liberal brand means nothing to the average Jo Schmo who might vote for us, if he actually knew us. We need to ditch this intellectual 'liberal rubbish' and go for grass roots branding. 'The party for everyone who works, has worked or wants to work' for instance. Define the people we want to make ours and , wait for to them! in their own language.

If you are selling to a mechanic you don't rock up in a three piece suit. We have had a three piece suit 'superior' approach in much of our language, when the people we really need to talk to will respond to the common touch.

Fancy pants aus marketing experts are not much good if we have not identified our market and the message that fits. The direct mail we deliverred at tremendous human cost and loss of life was a complete waste of time for reasons mentioned above, wrong message and wrong target market.

We need to redefine our niche slightly, clarify it and completely own it, bulldozing National out in the process, exposing them as pretenders.

the simple fact is ACT's policies should appeal to people who work. Own small businesses, fed up with paper work etc, anyone who wants value for the Tax they pay. Anyone who wants a health and education system that works...yada yada

The electorate organisations are a hangover from the Labour days, where alot of the organisers harken from. They are 30 years out of date. which means the Earth has rotated around 10,000 times since these methods were any good.

I mean, garage sales? Cake stalls? fund raising dinners? this appears to be the mentality. If you are seen to be working hard you are viewed of in a good light by the powers that be. But really, the average ACT candidates time would be much better spent by just working harder at work and putting hand in pocket. The time cost for reward would be about a third.

Internal fighting? ahh politics. I just get sick of it but participated in helping those I believe would do a good job. Fact is if we did not have Rodney as leader to win Epsom, ACT would be extinct. End of story, the entire scrap over leadership and the results of the election has shown one thing, Rodney was the best man for the job.

National is plain stupid, Labout embraced small parties it knew it would need, National tried to kill us. What could have been? another one or two seats could have made the difference. But I would rather have influence in a landslide than a skin of your teeth win, much more able to do the job. Next time.

There is much more but a redefinition of our goals, market, message is long overdue. It is about time we shook that image of a membership based of high paid professionals.

Aaron Bhatnagar said...

Daniel - great to have you in the blogosphere! I look forward to seeing more comments from you.

Wined said...

ACT! needs to identify the areas of the political spectrum not yet covered. To me as an old fellow, this is the conservative family person, tired by the socialist detritus, and worried by the current trends in the morality and direction of the country.

Some group which would appeal to the better side of Peter Hitchens, and yet give the direction a spin for NZ.

When Chruchill rose to speak after the Munich Agreement, it is said a Labour Backbencher called across the Commons, "Speak for England!"

If ACT! is ever to attain many real prfile here agin, the party must speak for New Zealand, and those people who are currently, and always will be disenfranchised on the Right. The Centre, and the drivel of "liberal" will never work for ACT.This is the ground of the National, and the right winger Labourites, and people like Peters and Dunne who want to hear themselves as a Leader.

Good Luck to ACT!

I do think the resolve to make the hard changes is there, or ever will be.

TonyC said...

Regarding the subject, I will need to reply in a different slant,
given that:

a) I’m no expert on NZ political history

b) I do however have opinions of how I want a country run, as a simple, law-abiding, reasonably idealistic taxpayer

I can’t say what ACT could do or has done wrong, but I can FEEL when something is right or wrong, though I can’t put my finger on it.

What did I like about the ACT party? My consciousness of ACT came about during one of those elections in the mid-late '90s. Coming from abroad, I had no interest at all in politics, and government policies here I found were pretty questionable in absolute morality and direction. ACT was the only party which stood for what I wanted, a refreshing alternative to everyone I felt have gone too liberal and laissez-faire for my liking.

What, as an everyday working-class NZ'er, do I think National did right during the last election that ACT could pick up on? Well, for starters, it was Brash himself. Until Brash came along, everyone else was just a politically-correct loudmouth who does nothing but nit-pick and agitate, or find insignificant faults, as if they had nothing better to do in office.

Brash appeals to a lot of sensible, ordinary people because:

1. His intonation, diction, and choice of words comes across as being genuine. (Peter Dunn has a similar effect) Other politicians talk like grandstanders -- those who ordinary people cannot identify with. Brash comes across as being real and therefore credible.

2. Despite his soft tone of voice, he had the guts to give that Orewa speech which was heard loud and clear by everyone who had very strong views on the subject, but were never vocally expressed in the interest of political correctness. The words he used didn’t come across as necessarily militant either, but of a definitive substance where fairness towards ALL parties involved was the whole point.

3. While politics can get dirty, and accusations fly wholesale, Brash during interviews actually acknowledged anything which previous governments, regardless of party, have done right or wrong, the way normal people approach a problem at work.

I will not even claim to be absolutely correct in every single issue I may have touched on, but I only know what I feel as a citizen who works everyday and has no real interest in hearing political speeches. I know what I want for my country -- common-sense law enforcement which dishes out real consequences to malicious offenders, an educational system that actually teaches kids the basics PROPERLY like reading or spelling and history, makes everyone accountable for their actions, cuts/limits/restricts dole-outs to those who have nothing better to do than tag fences, get pregnant for the DPB, or turn into criminals, reduce influence of militant radicals like the Greens in favour of realistic solutions, petrol taxes that go towards roads, plug loopholes that allow misuse of any sort of publicly-sourced funding (including student loans used for binge drinking), barring non-residents from owning real estate in the country (pushing prices up for those who actually LIVE here), and while I'm at it, death penalty(!) to anyone resonsible for running a P lab or supplying it.


1. Loud grandstanding politician-style does NOT endear anyone to real people.
2. If the voters feel they can actually trust the person (NOT the party) and identify with him, he gets those votes
3. If there is no credible opponent, voters will stick with status quo, leaving well enough alone
4. Real people have issues that those in power do not tackle head-on, because of what is "perceived" to be right or politically correct; this does the voters no favour
5. Citizens listen to real people who don't merely RAISE an issue, but appear to fully understand it from all angles.
6. Mud-slinging and shit-stirring for the hell of it does NOT appeal to real people. They want ANSWERS to important issues. Regardless of which party speaks up.
7. As partisan as politics is, real people want their politicians, whether incumbent or opposition, to work TOGETHER on as many issues as possible and get this country moving forward.

hamish said...

Well lads, nice to see you all have it covered! The country is in good hands. just need to win Big Wednesday lotto now! :-)

Rob Good said...

Some great comments here thanks. Any more?

Ed said...

Given that there have been plenty of constructive comments, here's a less constructive one.

If I were the ACT Party President, to quote Bill Ralston, I'd be shooting myself. I'd be pouring petrol over myself and throwing myself off Auckland's tallest building.

Rob Good said...

Maybe you have been sniffing too much petrol Ed?

Dobegoo said...

What would I do if I was president of ACT NZ?
1. I would appoint a personal secretary.
2. I would appoint a committee of 5 - these would be personally chosen and the process could take several months. They would be selected from Grey Power -Farmers - teachers - religious groups - university students.
Thes five would then select their own commmittee of 5 people and the 25 newnew members would represent a wider section of the community ie: taxi drivers - military - shop workers - business people - hospital workers etc etc.
Now secretary & president and 30 hand picked believers. The secretary would have a big job organising meetings and sponsorships and media coverage. Each person would be encouraged to "write to the editor" of every paper and magazine.
"Talk back" would be a must
All effort would be made to have a strong candidate in selected precincts.
Fund raising would be ongoing
Selective programmed advertising
Regular "Press Releases" from Rodney Hide.
"Old boys" Richardson, Prebble & Douglas would be only permitted to offer opinions against the Government
Oh yes - meeting once a week with the selected five - meeting once a month with the 25.
Progress reports required from each meeting
The program is long term
We would need young people - four years between elections - in three years it is very difficult to achieve the desired results.
When Labour decided on three year terms they knowingly made it difficult for new parties.
Not to worry
It can be done
Douglas E

Mike Heine said...

One of the main things I'd do is to keep in constant touch with the grassroots. It's vital that all members are part of the loop, via a periodic newsletter, surveys, not just letters asking for donations.
We'd need to revitalise the membership in all electorates. To that end we have to pick people to lead them who know how to grow organisations.

Also we need to get our MPs and ex-MPs out and about as much as is possible, get them talking to the electorate committees and even better, public meetings.

In particular let's reinvent Rodney from scandal-buster to statesman like he was supposed to. A series of public meetings on where ACT sees society heading and where we want it to be. Could attract a good crowd with the economy doing downwards. We could have an event well worth seeing, much like Muldoon did back in 1974.

Let's target more electorates, there's no reason why not. We've nearly won Taranaki-King Country and we've held Wellington Central, so the potential is there. Let's pick some targets and go nuts.

The Liberal tag. Help or hindrance? I'm leaning toward the latter, mainly as the liberal label has been hijacked so much by the left that noone seems to truly know what 'liberal' truly means anymore.
It's more important we explain what 'ACT' stands for rather than having to waste time defining the word 'liberal' as well.

When I travelled around Central Otago with Gerry Eckhoff in 1999 I saw real potential for winning votes from the farming sector. We should be seen as the farmers' champion, by defending property rights and acknowledging their massive contribution to the economy.
None of this would conflict with our other major target groups - students and business (big and small).

We can't rely on National moving back toward the centre. Therefore we must differentiate ourselves as much as possible from National while not going to war on them. Remember, the real enemy is over to the left!
The Greens have done it with regard to Labour, we can and must do it too.

Main points -reinvention and reinvigoration. 15% is not an unrealistic target, even if we don't make it, it's safer to aim high and fall just short than to aim low and achieve that.
That's enough brain splattering for now!

Andrew said...

Great ideas Dobegoo.

What I liked about ACT so many years ago is that it had an inspirational quality about it. It was the party that the successful and dynamic supported. I liked that and wanted to identify with that by voting for it.

Now the inspiration is gone. The entrepreneurial spirit is not a part of it anymore. I think Act should concentrate on being a small and powerful party rather than a grass-roots let's-please-everyone party.

For this they need more successful business personalities and fewer politicians.