Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

New energy driving Act, says hopeful

Young Epsom candidate says party bent on putting internal wrangling in past.

David Seymour says he has deep connections right across the Epsom electorate. Photo / Natalie Slade
David Seymour says he has deep connections right across the Epsom electorate. Photo / Natalie Slade

Act's new candidate in Epsom, David Seymour, does not want his age to count against him.

He is a youthful-looking 30-year-old but he has already fought two election campaigns and says there are plenty of other politicians who started out young.

"I can't change the way I look; I can only change what I do, and every politician starts off somewhere.

"Helen Clark was around my age when first elected, so was John Banks, Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble, Ruth Richardson. I am not unusually young for a first-time politician.

"You could also point to Nikki Kaye, Jacinda Ardern, Gareth Hughes. I'm almost a bit of an oldie."

In 2005, Mr Seymour stood in Mt Albert against Helen Clark, the then Labour Prime Minister, and in 2011 he contested Auckland Central, which Ms Kaye won.

He helped current leader John Banks to campaign in Epsom in 2011, then went to work for him at Parliament on implementing the charter schools policy.

"I have worked in public policy in government for seven years, which is probably more experience in the business of politics than most first-time candidates in the country."

He took up a job at the Manning Foundation, a right-wing think-tank in Calgary, Canada, where he has lived for five of the past seven years.

He says he has resigned and will move back to Epsom permanently.

He openly backed Jamie Whyte over party president John Boscawen to become the new leader and hopes that he can help Act to regain respect after the internal battles of the past.

"The Act that is going into this election is going to be a new, disciplined and collegial Act," he said.

"We have a commitment to work together. In a way we have been inoculated by some of the events of the past. I think the Act people this election will be surprising."

Some of the policy would be refined "but for the most part it will simply be the fact that we have new faces, new energy, a firm commitment to working hard for people improving policy. You won't see a lot of internal Act politics."

He said to some extent, Epsom voters saw the strategic importance of the electorate and "having a nod from National helps reinforce that".

Mr Seymour went to Auckland Grammar, coached the 3B school rugby team for five seasons and lived in the electorate when he went to Auckland University.

'I've lived in Dexter Ave, in Mountain Rd, worked in Carlton Gore Rd and have friends right across the electorate. I've actually got deep connections."

He has a bachelor of engineering degree in electrical engineering and a BA in philosophy.

Why Epsom is important to Act and National

You need look no further than the 2008 election result to see why the Epsom seat is strategically important to National.

Act's leader at the time, Rodney Hide, retained the seat he first won in 2005. Act polled 3.65 per cent in the party vote - below the important 5 per cent threshold.

Because Hide won Epsom, Act was able to claim 3.65 per cent of the seats in Parliament, or five MPs.

If he had not won Epsom, and the party had still polled 3.65 per cent of the party vote, Act would not have been able to claim any seats and would have been out of Parliament.

National formed a minority Government in 2008 with sufficient support from Act and United Future.

It signed up the Maori Party as a support partner, but it did not require its five seats to govern. If Act had not been there, National might have required the Maori Party to govern.

John Banks won Epsom for Act in 2011 with a majority of 2261 votes and is the only Act MP.

- NZ Herald

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