The pollsters say it’s unprecedented.
Act leader David Seymour is doing better in the latest Preferred Prime Minister rankings than the leader of our second biggest party.
But I’m not surprised at all, because I think David Seymour is one of the best politicians in Parliament.
Let me qualify that.
I’m not saying necessarily I agree with him on stuff. It has nothing to do with ideology or policy positions or anything like that. I just think in terms of actual politicking... he’s a canny and cunning operator who is milking every inch of advantage out of a unique political moment.
For starters, Seymour knows how to pick his fights. Gun restrictions? Bam. He was on it in a moment. Hate speech laws? Same thing. Regardless of your personal position, the End of Life Choice referendum will be chalked up as a significant political victory for many years to come. David Seymour attracted people from right across the political spectrum to the cause. In this term, it was his probing in the house that opened up the He Puapua Pandora’s box. Again, I’m not saying I agree or don’t agree with Seymour’s positions. By he plays a strong political game.
He knows how to get in the news. He’s not afraid to make a dick of himself in order to get a bit of publicity, and he’s able to laugh off a bungled cha-cha in one breath, and earnestly argue about a terminally ill person’s right to choose their own death, in the next.
From a media perspective, ACT is incredibly proactive. In May, they published an alternative budget when National didn’t. We’re about to go into the parliamentary recess... ACT will have policy announcements every week that the house doesn’t sit, knowing there might be a little bit more space in the political news columns than there would be when the house is sitting. Will Labour, National, and the Greens do the same? I dunno.
Again this is nothing to do with policy, but ACT’s press releases are often really funny. They’re objectively much more entertaining than anyone else's. They send them out really quickly, and it’s clear the releases haven’t been watered down through a committee of media advisors. Seymour is good at speaking in soundbites, or what we in broadcast media call ‘grabs’. Does that mean the party gets more publicity than it might otherwise? I can’t speak for all media, but maybe.
I also think it’s interesting how closely David Seymour has managed his new MPs. Apart from him, Deputy Leader Brooke van Velden and maybe Nicole McKee... can you name any of ACT’s ten MPs?
Exactly. There are plenty of pundits who would have thought a couple of those new MPs would have put their foot in it and messed up somehow, by now. But National’s the party of scandal, right now. For the time being, ACT’s MPs have their heads down and their leader does pretty much everything outward facing. That’s smart.
Will it last? Nothing does forever. At some point National will get itself together, and we shouldn’t get too excited about a preferred Prime Minister poll more than two years from an election. But for now, David Seymour and his colleagues are doing everything an effective opposition should. Outwardly at least, they’re a cohesive unit. Their criticisms of the government are many and varied. Their policy positions are relatively coherent.
I think it’s extremely unlikely David Seymour will ever be Prime Minister.. but right now, his party is the strongest it’s ever been.