Can Brash do the business for ACT?

Crucial decisions in business and politics can often be framed as a bet. Essentially this is a simple way of condensing all the factors that make up risk into a single question and then answering it either in the affirmative or the negative.

The change of leadership is can be condensed to a single statement. Under Brash ACT has a future; under Hide it did not. And a majority of the five ACT MPs have agreed with that statement. They will now stand or fall by the judgment they have made.

If Hide were to lose Epsom - as the polls indicated he would - then ACT was out of Parliament unless it could get to five percent of the party vote in this year's election. The calculation was that Brash had a better chance of getting ACT to five per cent of the vote than Hide did. 

A secondary factor is that John Banks (part of the Brash team) was rated a better chance of winning Epsom than Hide, which was insurance if the party didn't get to five percent. Banks will still need a nod and wink from National for its supporters to get him over the line, but that point has been largely ignored in commentary.

The three ACT MPs backing a change - Douglas, Roy and now Calvert - are closer to the original philosophy of ACT than is Hide, who has always been seen as a bit of a self seeker, philosophically impure, and a grandstander. Unsurprisingly Hide doesn't agree with this characterisation but that's how the right wing group around Roger Douglas likes to depict him.

ACT will be a different brand under Brash than under Hide, just as it was under Hide as compared with Prebble, and again as compared with its first leader - Roger Douglas.

In one sense Douglas has recaptured the party that he founded but failed to lead to more than a one percent rating in the polls. It took Richard Prebble to lead ACT into Parliament with an electorate seat and (at fist six and then) eight MPs.

Philosophically Brash is the successor and would be implementer of Douglas' Unfinished Business, the book in which he set out the reforms he wanted to complete but hadn't started when he left Parliament with the defeat of the Labour government in 1990.

Douglas had always seen ACT as a vehicle for keeping those ideas alive, and Brash espoused many of them in his brief stint in the National Party (2002-6), and later as the head of the government appointed 2025 Task Force. They are about reducing the size and influence of government, cutting taxes, promoting welfare reform, reducing dependency, increasing competiveness and foreign investment.

Brash also supports a one nation colour blind approach to race relations and Maori issues - which is not going to make it easy for National to form a government with both ACT and the Maori Party after the next election - assuming that it needs either of them to do so.