ACT, Goldsmith and Epsom : sublimely ridiculous

Over the weekend, the Epsom candidates appeared on the Nation. Well, three of the four candidates – Paul Goldsmith was apparently too busy campaigning for the party vote. In a nice piece of political theatre, Labour’s candidate, Michael Wood, affixed a photograph of Mr Goldsmith to a bag of wholemeal flour, vowing to wheel out the bag at every future occasion on which Goldsmith fails to front. (The joke might have been funnier though if the flour was white, rather than wholemeal…)

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National are of course still denying that they’ve done any deal with ACT, with John Key promising to be fully transparent about any electorate deals. Given John Key’s fundraising dinner for ACT’s Epsom candidate, David Seymour, coupled with Mr Goldsmith’s no-show on the Nation, one would struggle to credibly argue that National intends to vigorously contest the Epsom electorate vote…

The Nation’s candidate debate was also instructive for a number of other reasons.

Firstly, Paul Goldsmith is not a good liar. “Too busy campaigning for the party vote” was the best excuse he could come up with?

Secondly, watching David Seymour’s performance, you’d have to conclude that Mr Seymour is his own worst enemy. Responding to almost every question with pre-programmed answers which bear no resemblance to the question may occasionally make for a good soundbite. Unfortunately, it also makes for terrible television for the poor viewer having to sit through it. I knew David Seymour back in our Auckland University days, when he was chair of ACT on Campus, and he was a talented, witty debater. That talent appeared to utterly desert him, as he answered questions like a robot and tried to talk over the top of his fellow candidates. It wasn’t pretty.

Thirdly, the Internet Mana Party deal and David Cunliffe’s anti-“coat-tailing” stance is making things awkward for Labour and the Greens. The sole hit that Mr Seymour landed on Michael Wood and the Greens’ Julie Anne Genter was over the hypocrisy of attacking electorate seat deals, but being prepared to tell their supporters to vote for Paul Goldsmith.

Fourthly and finally, ACT will happily dispense with ideology in order to get over the line in Epsom. The highlight of the debate was watching Mr Seymour rail against the possibility of Epsom neighbourhoods with eight-storey towers next to their homes, only to be halted in his tracks by Ms Genter interjecting that ACT was the party of opposition to regulation. Getting rid of the Resource Management Act is obviously an ACT policy that applies only outside of Epsom…

After the election, it’s highly likely that David Seymour will be the new MP for Epsom, but based on his performance and the ongoing failure to fire by party leader Jamie Whyte, Mr Seymour will be ACT’s sole MP.

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