10 Aug 2020

Judith Collins endorses David Seymour for Epsom - but what about the party's other prospects?

6:36 pm on 10 August 2020

National Party leader Judith Collins has endorsed Act's David Seymour in the Epsom seat.

David Seymour at the Hong Kong extradition law rally at Auckland University on 6 August.

ACT leader David Seymour. Photo: RNZ / Jogai Bhatt

Like her predecessors, Collins is asking National supporters in the Auckland electorate to give their vote to Seymour, rather than National's candidate, Paul Goldsmith.

"I'm very happy to say that we want the party vote - please - in Epsom and in this particular electorate, you can give the first tick for the electorate to David Seymour," Collins says.

"I think he's a very good local MP and I would welcome him being part of a National-ACT government."

Seymour has been the party's lone MP since 2014 - winning the Epsom seat, but failing to get enough of the party vote to bring anyone else into Parliament.

He says he has proven himself as a good local MP and it is up to the people of Epsom to decide who will represent them. He's also not turning his nose up at Collins' backing.

"It would be churlish for me to turn off any endorsement, so I'm always grateful encouraging others to vote for me," Seymour says.

Today, ACT kicked off its nationwide bus tour, which will make 70 stops up and down the country over the next six weeks.

Onboard the ACT Party campaign bus.

Onboard the ACT Party campaign bus. Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

Seymour does not think he will have to change his pitch to voters when he heads to the provinces.

"Voters in Epsom and voters everywhere have the same basic concern - how do we secure our future economically, without indebting future generations?"

Recent polls have put support for ACT anywhere between 3 and 5 percent - giving it up to six MPs. After two terms as the party's sole MP, Seymour says he is up to the task of keeping a caucus in line.

That will be helped by the quality of his team, he says.

Deputy leader Brooke van Velden played an instrumental role in getting David Seymour's End of Life Choice bill across the line in parliament - which voters will get the final say on in a referendum on election day.

ACT leader David Seymour and deputy Brook Van Velden.

David Seymour and Brooke van Velden Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

Gun lobbyist Nicole McKee - a vocal opponent of the coalition government's changes to firearms laws in response to the Christchurch mosque shootings - is number three on ACT's list.

Seymour was the only MP to vote against the first tranche of those reforms, but he doesn't think ACT risks getting captured by special interest groups.

"We've never taken a position that you can't draw a straight line back to pure principle, whether it be free speech, fair firearm laws, our constructive and consistent approach to the epidemic response committee, End of Life Choice, partnership schools.

"With ACT it's always been about principle, sometimes to our political cost."

Former United Future leader, Peter Dunne, knows better than most how hard it can be to keep a caucus of divergent interests together and said there was a risk ACT could follow the same fate as United Future in the mid-2000s, when it ended up split between a conservative Christian faction and its more moderate, centrist supporters.

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Peter Dunne. Photo: RNZ

"The important thing is to try and get the team together and focused on the team's objectives, rather than the special interests or the pet projects of individuals," Dunne says.

"If you get caught by the latter, you're in trouble. In David's case, I think he's really got to say 'look, this is what ACT's about, these are our core messages, we've got to fit all of our approaches into those core messages otherwise it could fly apart very quickly."

The last time ACT had more than one MP in Parliament was 2008.

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