The world has changed dramatically since 2005. The Don Brash prescription for change has not. But his venom is now directed at National under Key and English instead of Labour under Clark and Cullen

Dear Don

I was not surprised by your decision to resign your membership of the National Party. The only surprise was that you formally advised the party leader of your resignation after you had already secured the leadership of another political party. Mind you, even that’s not so surprising, given you only joined ACT after you’d ousted Rodney.

It was clever to let John know about your belated resignation in an open letter that you so generously shared with the public of New Zealand. Thank goodness, the gallery hacks fell for it. Otherwise, you would still be in the TV studios with Hone Harawira, arguing over who’s the biggest racist.

You will need to talk to John Boscawen though. He nearly let the cat out of the bag in the Herald, when he talked about giving National notice that ACT will take a more aggressive approach under your leadership. Talk about stealing your thunder! As for his announcement that ACT wasn’t going to be the “rich pricks” party any more, where does he think the campaign funding comes from? I hope that you and he can sort out which one of you is standing in Tamaki soon.

As for Rodney, who does he think he is? Fancy spilling it on The Nation that he told you and John Banks that you needed to join the party before you could take over the leadership and Banks could stand in Epsom. Well, you proved him wrong on the leadership, but he goes on saying that Banks “isn’t an ACT man”. So, why are you letting a “toxic” Hide hang on as a Minister when you said he should resign and retire gracefully, like you did in 2006? Can’t you just boot him out of ACT for defying his leader and calling the party into disrepute? I hope you sort out who’s standing in Epsom soon.

You can count on your old soul-mate, Sir Roger Douglas. You and he go back a long way. Douglas and other ACT people were quite supportive when you started your campaign to roll Bill English and take over National’s leadership. You share a view that there is unfinished business to be addressed. You also share the experience of being disowned by your original parties of choice. But Douglas has announced his retirement at the end of this term. Who will replace him?

Why don’t you put your own house in order before you tell John Key what to do?

Now, back to your letter, Don. The world has changed dramatically since 2005– but you have not. The Brash analysis today is still firmly rooted in the Brash prescription of yesterday. The most significant difference is that your venom is now being directed at National under Key and English, instead of Labour under Clark and Cullen.

You suggest that National voters have been ignored and would support the changes you advocate: cut wasteful government spending, reintroduce lower youth rates, scrap the emission trading scheme, scale back superannuation entitlement, ignore treaty obligations on consultation and representation, close the Trans-Tasman wage gap, and make no compromise with other parties – except ACT.

The worst feature of your analysis of the Key government’s performance is that it makes no allowance for the fact that they have spent the last two and a half years holding together a fractious and fragile coalition and coping with the impacts of an inherited home-grown recession, major collapses in the non-bank finance sector, the meltdown of important global financial markets, and the near destruction of the country’s second largest city.

Why did you think the government could cut its way out of a recession?

Contrary to your analysis, there is plenty of evidence that wasteful government spending has been and is being cut. There is also evidence that National is tackling some of the more difficult areas of spending in health, education and welfare, as well as some of the wacky taxation provisions that fuel over-investment in residential and commercial property and inflate property values. There is no evidence to support your assertion that current wage rates are causing the high rate of youth unemployment. You know our wages are low by comparison with Australia, and the rate of wage increases has been extremely restrained since 2008.

In this week’s budget, the government promises announcements to constrain the entitlement of more affluent households to Working For Families tax credits, reduce its contribution to KiwSaver funds, increase the recovery of student loans, and initiate partial sales of state-owned assets.

Most voters will applaud the fact that the Key government – unlike the government of your old soul-mate Roger Douglas – is seeking a mandate from voters before it implements major changes on sensitive issues. The polls indicate that National voters strongly support its approach.

Where’s your evidence that National voters do not support the Key government’s approach?

Remember that people don’t like unpleasant surprises. Douglas stalled and crashed the Lange government on the political reefs with his bulldozer drive for deregulation and a flat tax regime. Many National party colleagues – including your friend John Banks - rebelled against Ruth Richardson when she broke their party’s most solemn policy commitment to superannuitants in her relentless pursuit of economic purity. They took their revenge on Jim Bolger as soon as he gave them MMP and they dumped him when it wore him out. They endured nine-years of State expansion and patronage under Clark and Cullen in a period of sustained economic growth, but they weren’t so discontented that they would buy the Brash “Back to the 80’s – Iwi Kiwi” message in 2005.

You remind us you lost the 2005 election by a narrow margin, but then you floundered in the mire of e-mail leaks from discontented elements of your own party, the Exclusive Brethren campaign controversy, and the Hollow Men fiasco until you bowed to the inevitable and stepped aside for John Key.

Sorry Don, I have no doubt that you will recover the party vote ACT lost in its three years of living dangerously with Rodney Hide, but holding more than 5 percent with a campaign that’s based on attacking the only ally you are likely to have in the next Parliament looks like a suicide run to me.

Comments (21)

by Tim Watkin on May 15, 2011
Tim Watkin


It's the third italics that nail it. Brash's letter kept saying, 'That's what Labour voters voted for, not National voters', and 'that's what Greens voters voted for...' or somesuch. Which probably sounded tres clever to Msrs Keenan and Ansell or whoever, but isn't because it actually sums up why Brash and ACT don't get it.

Because Key's moderate approach is exactly what National voters voted for; or rather, enough New Zealanders voted National because Key figured out what the centre was willing to wear and gave them what they wanted. National voters rejected the Brash prescription; at least the centre bloc of the centre-right did. And they still do.

What must really stick in Brash's craw is that Key won because he gets what [enough] National voters want, while Brash never did.

by Antoine on May 15, 2011

I thought the "That's what (e.g.) Labour voters voted for" lines might really have been meant to reassure former Labour voters that the National Party had been acting in their interests, and encourage them to continue to vote National. ACT needs National to get lots of votes if they want to be in a governing coalition.


by on May 16, 2011

Don Brash completely overlooks the point that governments are elected by the five or ten percent of voters sitting in the centre and swinging between the centre left and the centre right. The National voters he refers to in his letter are rusted-on to the right (and may possibly vote for Act).

His actions to date seem to aimed at winning electorial support from National's right wing supporters, a move which will send Key and the party closer to the centre, not further away.

by Antoine on May 16, 2011


So my point is that his letter seems to encourage former Green and Labour voters (your "five and ten percent") to continue to vote for National.

Which would be good tactics, because ACT needs to win the right wing without causing National to lose the centre-left.


by Kyle Matthews on May 16, 2011
Kyle Matthews

I think your point about the letter attacking their natural ally is interesting.

Unless it has some flow-on effects of pushing National to the centre (exactly what he's said he doesn't want in the letter!), then it certainly won't increase the centre-right vote, just re-divide it.

However the post-election government is only one game that's being played. Brash needs to front up in December and say to Act - look how good I did. We went from 3% to 7%.

The letter is more about keeping him and his leadership coup safe than keeping Act and National in power.

by Tom Gould on May 16, 2011
Tom Gould

I wouldn't say that Brash is as 'mad-dog' as Douglas, who was happy to collapse a government that refused to implement his flat tax scheme. Brash strikes me as much more pragmatic. I get the sense that this is all carefully manufactured to lock in the centre for National.

by Tim Watkin on May 16, 2011
Tim Watkin

Antoine and Tom, I think the opposite. It's an attempt to drag National to the right, surely. All the attention Brash generates from talking about more asset sales, restricting super and the like only puts the centre vote at risk. National needs this like a hole in the head.

@ Kyle, ACT was actually down to 1%, so success is easier for Brash than you say. Or it would have been if he hadn't started predicting 10-15% of the vote. Now 4-6% will look like failure.

by Iain Butler on May 16, 2011
Iain Butler

I think the "National voter" is designed to be the same nebulous entity as the "mainstream New Zealander" who Brash supposedly represented in 2005 - in other words, someone who thinks and acts exactly as Brash wants them to, and ironically, therefore, presumably no longer a National voter.

by Antoine on May 16, 2011

> It's an attempt to drag National to the right, surely.

I think something more sophisticated; an attempt to convince potential ACT voters that ACT can drag National to the right, while simultaneously convincing centre-left voters that John Key will resist ACT's attempts to drag National to the right.


by David Beatson on May 16, 2011
David Beatson

Antoine, your hypothesis is too wild for me. Brash is trying to pull the economic conservative vote from National to ACT, in the hope that he will gain enough voting power in the next Parliament to force National into a coalition on his terms. The idea that this prospect is going to pull more wavering voters across the centre line to vote National simply isn’t credible. Nice try though.

by Tom Gould on May 16, 2011
Tom Gould

David, I tend to give Antoine's view more credence. You seem to be suggesting this is personal between Key and Brash, like Brash has some kind of vendetta on Key for the coup? I tend to think these guys are much more matey than that. It's not about 'pulling more wavering voters across the line to vote National'. It's about convincing those who moved to National last time on the basis that they were 'Labour-lite' that it's still safe to vote National. Brash does that perfectly.

by Antoine on May 16, 2011

Perhaps we can agree that if ACT were acting rationally they would take steps to help National keep centre-left support; anything beyond that is speculation.


by stuart munro on May 16, 2011
stuart munro

I think you have the right of it, David. The natural competition for voters is fiercest between parties that self-identify on the same wing. This is one of the reasons for less than cosy relations between the Greens and Labour over the years too.

Brash needs to make double figures if ACT is to become credible -he said as much to Perigo - The only place he could find those numbers would be within National. I doubt he will succeed, but if he did, the cannabilisation would hurt National badly. If he looks like succeeding, ACT might need to win Epsom on its merits. That might prove not as easy as it has until now.

It is not inconceivable that Key might like to be pushed toward the centre - that is after all where the votes are.

by Matthew Percival on May 17, 2011
Matthew Percival

Apparently there is an interesting article doing the rounds which compares the Brash policies with that of Julia Gillard and finds very little difference.

I have attempted to find it but the site I went on had a sign up process which immediately put me off. Has anyone else read the article and does it stand up to scrutiny?

by David Beatson on May 17, 2011
David Beatson

Matthew: the only article I can see that advances the Brash-Gillard soul-mate theory can be found on the Centre for Independent Studies website.

I haven't seen it in the Dom Post yet.

by Tim Watkin on May 18, 2011
Tim Watkin

The fact that it's by the CIS should tell you a fair bit Matthew. As for standing up to scrutiny, it claims that no-one can mine on the 40% of NZ that is crown-owned land, which is wrong for a start. And that the fact government spending in NZ is currently a greater percentage of the economy is somehow evidence that Gillard is a right-winger. Rather, it's evidence that NZ has suffered a recession and business failures (finance companies, leaky homes, South Canterbury Finance

by Tim Watkin on May 18, 2011
Tim Watkin

Stuart, you're watching Perigo in Korea?

by David Beatson on May 18, 2011
David Beatson

CIS policy analyst Luke Malpass is a busy Brash-booster. He also has the cover story in the latest edition of The Spectator [Australian edition] ... but, strangely he's not pushing the Brash-Gillard parallels in this one. Now, he says Brash is being branded as a "Thatcherite" in "socialist New Zealand"...

by stuart munro on May 19, 2011
stuart munro

@ Tim,

Yes, even the rubberband and hamster wheel driven NZ websites are accessible here, a little slowly of course. A curious interview - two proteges of the state system pretending to meritocracy. Like a pair of soviet former party officials turned oligarch, it's hard to say which is the least attractive basis for self-congratulation. But self-congratulatory they are.

by Hesiod on May 23, 2011

don brash is an educated fool and anyone who takes him seriously is a s stupid as he is.

by Penny Bright on June 05, 2011
Penny Bright

Seen this folks?

Bit of teamwork in making this 'Tui bill board' banner!

It's been VERY popular :)

(Don Bra$h morphing into Mr Burns from the Simpsons and John Key morphing into a greedy piggy......... :)

The reality is that there is very little difference in practice between the National "A" Team and National "B" (BRA$H/ACT) Team - when their policies and personnel are so readily interchangeable.

It's all 'perception deception' - PRETENDING that ACT and National are two distinctly different political parties in order to attempt to form another pro-ROGERNOMIC$ coalition government.

Pity about the only polls that really count - election results.

ie: The collapse of the ACT vote in the Botany by-election (less than 700 votes) .

ie: The MASSIVE National Party 'no-show' in the Botany by-election - more than 9000 (former?) National Party voters didn't bother - despite Mr Popular PM John Key effectively begging them to get out in vote.

(Only a 36% turnout in Botany and 30% turnout in Howick ...........)

ie: The proprtionate increase in Labour's vote in 'safe' National's Botany electorate?

Why aren't those normally conscientious National Party / C & R voters bothering?

Never mind the spin - the 'elephant in the room' - in my considered opinion, is the significant National/ACT Party 'no show' in these 'safe' National seats.....

For whom will these people vote on 26 November?

(Word on the ground is that a number are considering NZ First..........

Penny Bright



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