The media has been talking up Libertarianz in recent days. Mostly as a means by which to bash John Banks, but amidst Banks-bashing there are both truth and lies—and good points and bad.
No one could be unaware that ACT’s meltdown has left a yawning gap where a National coalition partner used to be. TV3, NBR and the Sunday Star Slime have all had pieces arguing once the corpse of ACT is finally taken out the back and buried then Libz, or a new vehicle including Libz, should be the next big thing. I’ve been arguing that the coming GFC2.0 and the failure of this National government to do anything to roll back the state makes it urgent.
As it happens, many liberty lovers agree—hence the forthcoming Liberty Conference calling for all freedom lovers to work towards a new “true liberal” bloc in parliament. [Only four days away, book your tickets now punters!)
TV3’s piece appearing on The Nation, and featuring yours truly along several current Libz and former ACT members, argues “the ACT Party has stood by John Banks through the Kim Dotcom donations scandal, but it hasn't impressed core supporters.” Frankly, their disgust with Banks pre-dates that particular scandal—as a feral conservative holding the reins of a purportedly liberal party should disgust its supporters.
Naturally, to talk down John Banks the media needs to talk up our chances of a new freedom alliance. We’re happy to help them. But there is some confusion about what a new freedom alliance actually means. Writing in the Sunday Star Slime, Simon Day for example, reckons “The Libertarianz party is ready to tone down its image in order to take advantage of the political hole left by Act.”
Peter Cresswell… believes the party is in need of a facelift [says Day], which could be revealed as soon as Saturday at their party conference in Auckland.
“Project Act and Project Libertarianz have been failures," McGrath [sic] said. "The upcoming conference is a call for everyone involved to look at a new vehicle.”
The party must join the middle ground while pointing to their goals if they hope to achieve any success, he said.
Actually, I didn’t say that, but I can understand why a media obsessed with image and “middle ground” would think I did. And I can understand why former Libz and ACT stalwarts like Deborah Coddington would be appalled to think we would. I’d be appalled too.
But it’s not our image we’re looking to change. We’re not going to “soften out stance.” And I never use words like “facelift.” As I said to Simon, it’s the whole approach of all related parties that needs to change. For opposite reasons, Project Act and Project Libertarianz have both been failures--and Project ALCP continues to go up in smoke. Economic and social liberals from all parties—classical liberals, if you like—can learn from our failures.
Project ACT abandoned principle in favour of populism, and ended up losing both. Project Libz embraced principle over populism, and we’ve succeeded only in putting those principles on the public stage. That’s a big “only,” but not as big as we’d have liked when we started Project Libz seventeen years ago. For similar reasons, ALCP supporters have faced similar disappointment.
What I’ve been saying in recent months is that there is an opportunity from ACT’s collapse, and from National’s desperation for new “partners,” for the appearance of a new vehicle: for a Party of All the Talents attracting like-minded adherents from all parts of the political spectrum. A party firmly based on sound principles,* promoting a small suite of popular policies that get us there one principled step at a time. **
As I see it, that’s what this coming weekend’s conference is about. To take the first step with new friends and old to make that happen.
“Can Libertarianz step up?” asks Matthew Hooton in the National Business Review. That’s a fair question.
But we need to.
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PS: Like Lindsay Mitchell I laughed like a drain at Bryce Edwards' complaint about Libertarianz:
“Part of the problem is that Libertarianz are just too damn principled, and all about promoting their core ideology," said political commentator and lecturer Bryce Edwards.
At least they have some principles and ideology to adhere to, responds Lindsay.
Or would it be better if they had some political wannabe minor celebrities using the party as a personal vehicle. Or a leader who appealed to old ladies and racists. Or embodied any of the new religions like global warming, freedom from genetic engineering, or putting trees before humans. Or provided a hitching post for old religionists who cling to biblical ideas of sin. Or played to separatists and first-people privilege sentiments. Or were such a broad church as to be indistinguishable from the next broadest church.
Are these political entities Libz should be looking to emulate?
Put that like, you realise the opposition is really only paper thin.
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* ACT’s stated principles were always fine, and should have been since they were written by Libertarianz founder Ian Fraser. The problem was not their principles, which could easily be the founding principles of a new party, caused problems was their inability to follow them up in any way that meant anything.