COMMENT:

It was pretty rich of David Seymour to accuse National of stealing Act's policies on charter schools when in the next breath he did the same with New Zealand First.

Reducing the size of Parliament was ostensibly the theme from Seymour's speech to his party conference in Auckland yesterday.

Focusing on the size of Parliament was also an easy segue to talk about abolition of the Maori seats without looking like gratuitous-Treaty baiting.

Advertisement

It was hardly the sort of focus that heralds Act as a party of new ideas.

It is a sign that whatever else the Act party becomes at its planned relaunch next March, and whatever else it is called, it wont be abandoning hot-button issues around the Treaty of Waitangi.

The raid on New Zealand First policy is logical from Act's viewpoint.

There are a host of shared policies which New Zealand First will not be able to credibly campaign on next election as vigorously and viciously as it has because it is inside the Government tent.

Law and order will be one of those areas. Why wouldn't Act make them its own.

The smaller Parliament policy suits Act more than it suits New Zealand First.

It is the epitome of Act's core principle of promoting smaller Government with a populist twist.

For New Zealand First it has been all populism. Despite the reduction of Parliament being one of its 15 founding principles for 25 years and despite holding the balance of power twice, New Zealand First has never made it a bottom line.

The current executive is 31, which is relatively large.

A citizen's initiated referendum in 1999 to cut Parliament from 120 to 99 got 81.47 per cent support.

Former New Zealand First MP Barbara Stewart had a private member's bill in 2006 to cut the size of Parliament – which was supported by one other party – Act. This is simply an old song with new singers.

The most original feature of Seymour's conference speech was his attack on Jacinda Ardern in a most carefully calibrated manoeuvre to prod her halo.

She is genuinely one of the nicest MPs, Seymour said, and we wish her well in motherhood.

But she was not a real Prime Minister he said. No one was scared of her. She was not tough like Helen Clark or John Key. She was a show Prime Minister, said Seymour (coming close to using a term Ardern hates - being described as a "show pony.")

"The economy could go straight over a cliff and Jacinda will go on smiling as it crashes all around her."

This is also territory that Seymour very much has to himself.

National has avoided personal insults, even ones disguised as flattery.

It is sensitive about criticising her because it knows that many of its own supporters, particularly women, want Ardern to do well.

But there are a few people who quietly despise Ardern and in Act's sole MP, they now have a voice.