Inevitable change of ACT leader

Jamie Whyte quietly resigned as leader of the ACT Party on Friday afternoon. This was not a surprise, it was inevitable. As widely expected MP David Seymour has been appointed as the new leader.

There was quite a bit of criticism of ACT for appointing Whyte as leader and separately appointing Seymour as Epsom candidate. It’s impossible to know whether any other arrangement would have helped ACT’s election chances but I doubt it would have made much difference.

Seymour performed very well campaigning for Epsom and comfortably won the seat. He did this with help from National but also through hard work and ability. It’s hard to see how being leader would have made any difference in Epsom.

Whyte’s performance was much more mixed. He made some early mistakes in media interviews – that was part of a sharp learning curve. His (and ACT’s) problem was that he failed to connect enough with potential voters.

He came across too much as an academic/intellectual, too theoretical. He didn’t impress journalists who usually don’t do ACT any favours anyway. And there was little sign of any favourable impression in social media.

It was a tall order trying to build ACT Party vote up after a series of disasters, especially the Don Brash takeover followed by the installation of John Banks and his subsequent legal problems, plus a sustained targeting of him by political opponents.

Whyte did not step up enough so ACT failed to come close to get enough party support to get Whyte into Parliament alongside Seymour.

If Whyte had got in the arrangement could have made sense, with him concentrating on party organisation and leadership while Seymour has electorate as was as parliamentary duties.

But Seymour is in sole charge with a massive workload – he has to set up electorate staff and employees as well as set up a parliamentary office for ACT with staff virtually from scratch after Banks’ early exit. On top of this Seymour has to learn the parliamentary ropes and National have also given him under-secretary and committee duties.

And Whyte will probably quickly fade into failed political history.

ACT media releases:

Jamie Whyte Resignation Statement

“Today I announce that I have tendered, and the Board has accepted, my resignation as Leader of ACT New Zealand.

“Clearly I make this announcement with regret, however the election result is clear, and I must now turn to my career and my family.

“I stood to lead ACT because I believe in the party’s ideas.  I will continue to advance these ideas both inside and outside the Party.  I do not rule out returning to a substantial role with ACT in the future.”

President Release re Jamie Whyte Resignation

“Today the ACT Party Board announces with regret that it has accepted Jamie Whyte’s resignation as Leader,” said ACT President John Thompson.

“Jamie has proven himself a principled and clear-headed advocate of ACT’s values of smaller government and greater personal responsibility.  Under his leadership, the Party has been rejuvenated and membership has swelled.

“We are proud to have had Jamie serve as Leader, and hope the New Zealand public has not seen or heard the last of him.

“The ACT Party Board has appointed David Seymour, the ACT MP for Epsom, to succeed Jamie Whyte as the Leader of ACT.”

Leadership Acceptance

“I am honoured to lead the ACT Party, I look forward to the challenge and relish the opportunity.

It has been a privilege to work with Jamie Whyte. I want to acknowledge his tireless efforts through the past nine months and during the campaign.  Through his efforts the Party was rejuvenated and our membership increased.  It is a substantial achievement and on behalf of all the members and supporters of the ACT Party, we thank you Jamie.

Once again the ACT Party, with the support of Epsom voters, is contributing the vital extra seat that will assist a National-led government to implement the policy changes which will boost growth and prosperity in New Zealand.

The principles that drive ACT are timeless – freedom, opportunity, choice, competition, personal responsibility and compassion.  ACT believes in small but efficient government, and a low tax burden to encourage and reward hard work and creativity. Only with low taxes will individuals and families be able to get ahead from their own efforts.

The successful New Zealand we know today is significantly due to the policy reforms of the founders of the ACT Party. Those reforms are why we are consistently rated as amongst the freest economies in global surveys. It is this environment that has freed the energy we now see in New Zealand innovation and entrepreneurship. We see it in business, in sport, in the arts, and in science and technology. Cutting red tape and reducing the tax burden further will unleash that energy.

The celebration of entrepreneurship is core to ACT values – it is what drives our economy and incomes forward, creating new industries, new jobs, and higher incomes.

I am excited by the opportunity I have as Leader of the ACT Party, as the MP for Epsom, as well as my Parliamentary Under-Secretary roles in Education and Regulatory Reform.

I look forward to ACT contributing to a stable and successful National-led government, and to expanding our presence in Parliament in 2017.

David Seymour

Leave a comment


  1. Kittycatkin

     /  4th October 2014

    As Jamie Whyte has been without an income for about 8 months, he had no option but to leave what was virtually full-time work without pay and earn some money. He has a brilliant mind and I am swooning with jealousy-er, I mean I am in awe of his academic achievements.

  2. On the flip side, some readers might find Jamie Whyte’s tone condescending, pedantic and off-putting. His sarcasm might offend some people especially when it comes to some of his religious examples.

  3. I can’t understand why Mr Whyte (as party leader) did not stand in Epsom.. there only certain chance to get a seat. Many have condemned the Mana party for allowing the Internet party, to maybe ride on their ‘coat-tails’ BUT this is precisely what Nat-Act-UF do every election in the past 6 years (or more ?) Maybe they thought they may get at least one more off the list ?
    At the end of the day, Act & UF are increasingly seen as irrelevant & just Nat. party factions.

    Just heard that Nats have lost their one seat ‘rule alone’ majority LOL !


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