Friday, July 25, 2008

Rodney? This is earth calling.

Rodney Hide, leader of the neo-conservative ACT Party in New Zealand, is supposedly upset with National Party leader John Key, according to NewstalkZB. Key has been saying that if he were prime minister and questions about contributions to the New Zealand First Party weren’t satisfied to his liking, he’d sack the party’s leader, Winston Peters, from cabinet. However, instructively, Key refuses to rule out forming a coalition with Peters and New Zealand First after the election.

Hide is miffed that Key won’t rule out Peters or NZ First, but has stated emphatically that ACT Party parliamentary candidate Roger Douglas would have no place in a National-led government, should he make it into Parliament. Because of that, Hide questioned Key’s integrity.

The party that forms the next government will almost certainly do so in coalition with another party (despite what some opinion polls purport to show at the moment). National, which has few natural allies, can’t afford to rule out any party.

Roger Douglas is widely despised throughout New Zealand. As the architect of the economic reforms of the 1980s—some of which are now seen by many as extreme and unwarranted—most Kiwis hold him responsible for years of suffering that they endured. In that time, Douglas and his buddies sold off nearly everything that wasn’t nailed down (as ACT still wants to do and National claims it won’t officially do in a first term). So if Key did anything other than rule out a Douglas appointment to cabinet, he would wipe out much of the advantage National currently enjoys.

Obviously Hide, too, is just playing politics. He’s afraid that his rightwing cohorts will abandon ACT and vote National, thereby eliminating ACT from Parliament. So, Hide has to try and position his party as the purer conservative party. National probably wouldn’t want a formal coalition with ACT unless it was desperate, and for the same reason they don’t want Douglas in cabinet: The appearance that National will veer far right, back to the discredited neoconservative ideology that ACT represents.

Hide probably knows all this. Politics is a dancehall game, and no one wants to be the only guest left without a dance partner. Chances are good that if ACT is even invited to the new Parliamentary dancehall, it’ll be sitting on the benches looking glum. The real question is, as always, who will be dancing with whom, and whose tune will they dance to?

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