Seymour to see how messages resonate in South

A Dunedin audience listens as Act New Zealand leader David Seymour speaks in the city in July...
A Dunedin audience listens as Act New Zealand leader David Seymour speaks in the city in July last year. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Ever since Covid-19 border regulations eased, a plethora of major tours have been announced.

Although Act New Zealand does not have the same pulling power of, say, Harry Styles, its youthful frontman David Seymour does still attract a crowd.

Probably not enough to fill a stadium mind, but when Mr Seymour’s "Real Change" tour rolls in to Dunedin on Thursday, how many people are seated in the Fullwood Room in the Dunedin Centre will give him, and the party, a clue to how well things are tracking in the South halfway towards the next election.

Speaking tours like this are old-fashioned politics, which might seem at odds with Act’s modern image.

However, the issue of not having MPs is all parts of the country has inspired a conscious choice by the party to have its best asset — Mr Seymour — out and about rallying the faithful and enticing the curious as often as possible.

Hence, we have had the election thank you tour, the honest conversations tour and the free speech matter tour, and there would have been another one earlier this year but for Covid-19 lockdowns and gathering restrictions.

Mr Seymour hits the road on the back of a certifiable win for his party: having long argued that the managed isolation and quarantine system had outlived its usefulness, validation of a sort came this week with the release of a Ministry of Health document from November in which director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and public health director Dr Caroline McElnay said MIQ was no longer justified.

Covid-19 has been a difficult tightrope for Act to navigate, given that the party of personal freedom would instinctively rail at any restriction of individual rights, even if imposed in the interests of public health.

Despite that, Act backed initial moves to keep Covid out of New Zealand, albeit with the caveat that it reserved the right to make what it viewed as constructive criticism.

That criticism has got steadily more robust as the Government has slowly pivoted towards what Mr Seymour has long called for, a "risk-proportionate" approach to pandemic management.

Whether the risk in the South — which is racking up a 1000+ new cases a day and having to manage severe strain on health services — is proportionate is the balancing act Mr Seymour has to navigate.

Yes, he says, his approach comes with a health risk, but so does that of the Government: pay your money and take your chances as to which you like better.

David Seymour will be back in town next week. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
David Seymour will be back in town next week. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
The main Covid message Mr Seymour will be pushing during this tour will be one which plays well to Act’s base — the impact the pandemic has had on the cost of living.

Expect lots of hammering of the Government about the cost of living crisis and its level of borrowing ... and again timing has been in Mr Seymour’s favour with the announcement on Thursday that annual inflation had reached 6.9%, the highest rate in more than 30 years.

Cuts, both to government spending and tax rates, will be the most lustily-sung hymn in Mr Seymour’s sermon, and he will be hoping that families doing it tough find that tune an appealing one.

The other fraught issue likely to get plenty of airtime is co-governance, which Mr Seymour is adamant undermines the fundamental democratic principle of one person, one vote.

However co-governance is, generally, sold as a way to honour the Treaty of Waitangi, something which a percentage of society — including a section of Act’s urban liberal support — may well approve of.

The needle Mr Seymour has to thread is keeping onside people who might approve of his party’s economics but do not want to be disapproved of for apparently not being willing to honour the Treaty.

Act has long suspected that there are votes for it on the Left, and the fact its polling remains relatively high despite the resurgence of National in recent months suggests it could be right: this is the sort of issue where Mr Seymour feels he can gain traction.

Act made phenomenal gains in the last election, and has worked hard ever since to hold what it has and build upon it.

There is a long time to go until the next general election, but this latest outing by Act will give a hint if either are realistic goals.

Take a stance

Politicians are often accused of being posers, but in Taieri Labour MP Ingrid Leary’s case that would be with some justification.

It turns out that Ms Leary, among her many talents, is also a yoga instructor, and she recently taught a series of classes as a community fundraiser.

Michael Woodhouse at the wicket. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Michael Woodhouse at the wicket. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Spot the ball

The other week, no doubt as part of his duties as Sport and Recreation spokesman, National Dunedin list MP Michael Woodhouse took the Basin Reserve as part of the parliamentary cricket team to play two twenty20 matches.

Looking at the action shot above, the charitable might believe he has just hit a six ... the cynical, that he is in danger of being stumped.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

Comments

Oh, rally? David talks of the "ethno state". Another term for 'cuts' is austerity.

A poser may pose, ie assume a static position, but is not a poseur.

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