Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Death throes of the soulless party of self interest

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Act leader Rodney Hide. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Act leader Rodney Hide. Photo / Mark Mitchell

There's a sickly stench of death emanating from the Act Party. All of us can smell it.

Act was founded on the odious principle that human greed is the driving force of human progress and is to be celebrated as some sort of religion. The cultists worship at the altar of their prophet, Ayn Rand, and delude themselves if everyone only focuses on getting what they want, then somehow this is good for everyone.

Those of us who have had kids expect them to grow out of their selfish stage by the age of 3. But it seems the disciples of Act missed their parents' lessons, growing up believing they are entitled to do whatever they like. There is no morality. They dress it up as neo-liberal or libertarian politics. But it's just a cover to justify their avarice.

When Act's gurus, Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson, were running the country they conned the people into believing if the rich and powerful got wealthier, by tax cuts and selling them our public assets for a song, then some of their good fortune would "trickle down" to the rest of us.

After we discovered it was their urine being trickled on us rather than gold coins, these hucksters were thrown out of the two main parties.

They were so arrogant, they actually believed their own propaganda and set up their own party, waiting for the gullible masses to come back for more of the same. Their ideology was seen as the snake oil it was and the rest of society moved on, poorer but wiser.

To survive, the remnants have morphed into a duller version of NZ First. Instead of the sophisticated liberals their party was founded to represent, modern Act has degenerated to smacking kids, bashing Maori, picking on welfare recipients and screwing the working poor to keep themselves relevant. How pathetic.

Their founding leader, Sir Roger Douglas, has degenerated into a confused old triple-dipping pensioner telling anyone in Parliament he still has a plan to save the world - if only someone would listen.

The rest of them are just a bunch of oddballs with nothing in common. John Boscawen's claim to fame is leading the "beat our kids" campaign. David Garret wants us to pay bad parents to be sterilised.

The antics of Territorial Army private Heather Roy, carrying out guerilla war on our country's generals from her position as associate minister of defence, were just comical.

Roy's apparent self-delusion she is better suited to be the leader shouldn't be a surprise.

When Richard Prebble stepped down as their leader, four Act MPs out of a caucus of six possible put their hand up for the job. If your party ideology is the cult of individualism, then it's no surprise they all see themselves as the alpha boss. The pursuit of their own needs over the group makes a unified cohesive party impossible.

Roy's accusations Rodney Hide is a bully is nothing compared with the antics of Prebble when he went off his head. I'm told he reduced Hide to tears. What's that about the bullied becoming the bully? They are only practising their belief only the strongest survive.

It's fitting on Friday there were two policies Act claimed credit for. The first was convincing National to give all employers the unfettered right to sack new employees.

The second was Hide appointing unelected directors to run 70 per cent of Auckland's assets without consultation with the region's mayors, as he'd earlier promised. The first policy buys an unnecessary fight between John Key and the unions. The second cavalier decision may well lose the Supercity mayoralty for John Banks.

At some point, the Act arrogance and dysfunction may not be worth it to National. How long can Key expect the people of Epsom to suck it up and keep this swaggering gaggle in a job?

- Herald on Sunday

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