John Armstrong has profiled ACT MP David Seymour – Special report: David Seymour’s rescue Act.
Seymour is talking of Act winning 100,000 votes in 2017 and bringing five Act MPs into Parliament. But he stresses that is a target. It may also be a definition of optimism.
Act had deluded itself on previous occasions that it had not hit rock bottom. In picking up 0.7 per cent of the party vote, Act could no longer be in denial. Its ignominy was complete. It had finished well behind Colin Craig’s Conservative Party and not much ahead of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.
Seymour has a huge task. A rooky MP establishing himself and an office in Parliament while also taking on Government coalition related duties was a big enough task on it’s own.
But he has also taken over leadership of the ACT Party and has to try and find a way of building it back to relevance beyond being an Epsom electorate oddity.
With Whyte’s resignation, Seymour was thrown in the deep end. He has unquestionably faced the steepest learning curve of any of the 2014 intake of new MPs.
While other newbies were still finding where the toilets are in the parliamentary complex, Seymour and Act president John Thompson were negotiating Act’s third confidence and supply agreement with John Key and National.
And it will have been all on since then.
As the person casting Act’s one vote, Seymour has to wade through a mountain of paperwork as a never-ending queue of National Party Cabinet ministers seek to get Act’s backing for their legislative agenda.
Then there are the regular consultations with the Prime Minister plus meetings of Cabinet committees where detailed policy is nailed down.
If that was not enough, Seymour has a seat on Parliament’s powerful finance and expenditure committee. There is some concern in Act circles that Seymour will get swallowed up by the system. But he is conscious of the danger.
Just to round things off, Seymour has found himself being constantly sledged in Parliament by Winston Peters who detests Act with a loathing.
So it’s going to be an ongoing huge workload, a constant battle with detractors (Winston doesn’t do jealousy over power quietly) and Seymour also has to try and find the time to revive a party on life support.
I’ve heard Seymour speaking in person, at last years ACT southern conference. I also had a chance to speak to him.
My impression was better than I expected. He spoke well and sounded intelligent and interesting.
But Seymours success will depend on how he manages a huge workload, the media glare and an expected bitter and ongoing campaign of attack from Peters and others on the other side of Parliament.
Last term ACT’s sole MP John Banks was relentlessly pursued and unluckily for him his enemies found a slip up in hios previous local political life that ended up trashing his return to Parliament.
Expect the same against Seymour this term. Opposition parties will see the bringing down of Seymour as the potential bringing down of the Key led Government. They will try to undermine, attack and pressure Seymour at every opportunity.
Time will tell whether Seymour has any skeletons that can be used to bash him with, or whether he can withstand attempts to wear him down and force a politically fatal mistake.
Some in opposition who hanker for power put far more effort into trying to bring others down. And to destroy the Government.
So Seymour will be a prime target. He will have a big enough battled surviving himself let alone rescusitating an ailing party.
• Age: 31
• Education: Auckland Grammar School; University of Auckland
• Degrees: Bachelor of Arts (philosophy); Bachelor of Engineering (electrical and electronic)
• Political posts: MP for Epsom; leader of Act; parliamentary undersecretary; member of Parliament’s finance and expenditure committee.
• Little-known fact: Portrayed the young Sir Edmund Hillary in TVNZ’s 1997 biographical documentary A View from the Top
• Heroes: Sir Roger Douglas, former finance minister and co-founder of Act; William Wilberforce, 19th century anti-slavery campaigner.
David Seymour (born 24 June 1983) is the Epsom electorate MP, and leader of ACT New Zealand. Seymour has previously worked in public policy in Canada and New Zealand for the last 7 years.
Seymour went to the University of Auckland where he graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical & Electronic) and a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy)
Seymour is a long time member of ACT New Zealand and first became involved in ACT New Zealand as a leader of ACT on Campus, and he first stood for ACT in 2005 in Mt Albert against Helen Clark, who was Prime Minister at the time.
At the 2011 election, he stood for ACT in the Auckland Central electorate, which was retained by National’s Nikki Kaye.
Candiate results in Auckland Central 2011:
- ARDERN, Jacinda LAB 14,321
- DAVIES, Allen NZF 412
- GREENFIELD, Stephen CNSP 238
- KAYE, Nikki NAT 15,038
- ROCHE, Denise GP 2,903
- SEYMOUR, David ACT 149
- AN DEN HEUVEL, Anthony Joseph HR 68
I got a few more votes than Seymour.
After this election, Seymour worked as a ministerial adviser for ACT’s successful Epsom candidate, John Banks, who was appointed an Associate Minister of Education for the John Key-led National government. Seymour assisted with the development of the government’s Partnership Schools legislation
So he gained some experience last term, but his current workload is a huige step up.