Trans-Tasman: top MP David Seymour

In their annual assessment of MP performance Trans Tasman has named rookie ACT MP for Epsom David Seymour as their top MP for 2015.

David Seymour, Epsom – 8.5

Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Minister of Education and Minister of Regulatory Reform.

What a performance from Seymour. Given a free ride into the House, made leader of a rump party, no one expected much of him. He has proved them all wrong, and become a strong positive MP. He’s been everywhere and is a hard worker – a real surprise. If anyone can make ACT relevant again, it’s Seymour – he’s the man.

This doesn’t surprise me.

Seymour showed potential when I heard him speak at the Act Southern Conference in the middle of last year. I also spoke to him in person and initial impressions were positive.

He then did the hard yards and won Epsom to get a seat back for ACT in Parliament.

He then had to deal with establishing his electorate presence in Epsom, re-establish an ACT Party presence in Parliament, work with the Government and make a mark for himself.

He seems to have managed all of this admirably.

And he is young and hard working enough to do more, possibly far more.

ACT’s big challenge is to find some candidates to build on Seymour’s success.

More from Trans-Tasman:

2015 Politician Of The Year – David Seymour While not exactly a political novice – he has form in student politics, and stood unsuccessfully twice in Auckland seats before getting elected, as well as being an adviser to then ACT leader John Banks, 32 year old David Seymour is in his first term in Parliament, he is a novice as a party leader, and coalition member. The surprise is how well he has performed, and the degree to which he seems to have made ACT a potential vote winner again. Sure he made the odd “coq” up, but no more than many of his colleagues.

He has handled his work with dedication, he is “everywhere” and he is a genuine talent. ACT’s charter school policies could turn out to be one of the successes of the coalition in policy terms and his move to ensure bars could open during the Rugby World Cup showed how in touch he is with public thinking.

He gets the nod as politician of the year because he is at the vanguard of a new wave of politicians – starting with a back to basics approach both in electorate and Parliamentary work.

He’s doing what a minor party should do under MMP – giving support, but making the Govt’s life difficult as well, and he is also doing it tactically. He has proven he can master the Parliamentary bun fight, now he needs to show he can make his party relevant.


ACT in Ohariu?

In their Free Press newsletter ACT say:

ACT to Contest Ohariu?
Like Epsom, Ohariu voters are aspirational, successful, and understand the power of using their candidate vote to get an extra MP into Parliament.  The voters there might well be open to an energetic ACT candidate.  National might be open to cooperating with a candidate who actually believes in the National Party’s values.

With the possibility that Dunne is just about ready to retire anyway this could be a smart move by ACT. And National probably wouldn’t be unhappy.

David Seymour profiled

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.

NZ Herald:

David Seymour

 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)

He has worked as a Policy Analyst for five years for Frontier Centre for Public Policy and the Manning Centre.

Political background:

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.

Surprising poll result for Greens in Epsom

Colmar Brunton have polled Epsom voters on their electorate vote but perhaps the most surprising result was on party vote:

  • National 60%,
  • Greens 16%
  • Labour 14%
  • NZ First 3.3%
  • ACT 2.7%
  • Conservatives 2.1%
  • Internet-Mana 1.5%
  • Maori Party 0.6%

Greens are understandably very pleased.


Epsom circus

Labour candidate Michael Wood called for an end to the Epsom circus – and then went on to pull a stunt. There is scant sign of the “dignified and honourable representation” he says voters want.

Epsom candidates were interviewed on The Nation.

Michael Wood: Look the people of Epsom have been embarrassed again by the Act party. It comes after the shenanigans around Rodney Hide and his perks, it comes after the dead baby scandal, it comes after the new leader’s comments around incest.

And I hear from the people of Epsom that they actually want some dignified and honourable representation and an end to this circus.

That in itself is not a very dignified or honourable statement.

Lisa Owen: So Michael Wood, when you go door knocking in Epsom do people care about the Banks issue or what is the single biggest thing they are telling you they care about?

Wood: Absolutely. This is the single biggest issue for people in Epsom. I talk to Labour voters, I talk to National voters and across the board people are absolutely sick and tired of this. I just want to respond to that point. The idea of the Act party accusing other people of manipulating the electoral system is like Dad farting and then blaming the family dog.

David Seymour: And you’re campaigning for dignified representation.

Wood: This is the party whose only lifeline is through a deal with the National party…

Seymour: Here’s the deal with you Michael, are you campaigning to win the seat or are you going to endorse Paul Goldsmith?

Wood: If I could finish thank you David. The fact that Paul Goldsmith is not here today speaks for itself. It speaks to the fact that a dirty deal has been conjured up.

“A dirty deal has been conjured up” is not a fact.

Wood: And I’ve got something with me actually. There was a famous case in the early 1980s where Roy Hattersley the deputy leader of the British Labour party refused to appear in interviews and refused to front up and he was replaced by a bag of lard.

I’m not so unkind, but every time that Paul Goldsmith fails to front in this campaign we are going to remind people about the dirty deal with his bag of wholemeal flour. And this is going to sit in place of Paul Goldsmith who is not fronting and is facilitating a deal with the Act party to get them in when they don’t deserve it.

A not very dignified stunt. And whether the Act party ‘deserve’ anything is up to the voters.

So I’m wondering if National and Act are going to buddy up, why don’t you guys buddy up?

Wood: We are running a principled campaign. We want. –

Seymour: Encouraging Labour voters to vote for Paul Goldsmith.

Wood: I’ve just been asked a question and I’ll answer it thanks David. We’re running a principled campaign. We want this to be a straight out contest of ideas and of parties. But we have a situation in which the National party and the Act party are manipulating the system. And of course Labour voters and Green voters in the electorate will think about their options as the campaign goes on.

Seymour: So you also are running a strategic campaign.

Wood: No we are not. I have not had a single conversation with the Green party about this issue. I have not seen Julie Anne before today.

Seymour: Julie will you be encouraging Green party voters to vote strategically for Paul Goldsmith?

Genter: No, we have always…

Seymour: So will we not, so you say then.

Direct question [to Wood], are you? Paul Goldsmith, should they vote for Paul Goldsmith?

Wood: We are not running a campaign with that message at this point. But we are…

Seymour: At this point. So strategic voting is ok

Wood: No listen. We will not be tied down in to a position on this issue given that there is so much uncertainty and so much frittering.

“So much uncertainty and so much frittering” now Wood is questioned on his and Labour’s intent, he was just saying “a dirty deal has been conjured up”.

So you want him to front up and say what his deal is but you won’t come out and say –

Wood: Absolutely. We are calling for a straight contest and an end to the dodgy deals…

Seymour: So are you running to win the seat or you are endorsing Labour party voters to vote for Paul Goldsmith? It’s a simple enough question Michael.

One at a time.

Wood: We are calling for a straight contest and an end to the dodgy deals.

Seymour: But you are going to advocate for Labour voters to vote for Paul Goldsmith.

Wood: It is not for the Labour party or the Green party to defend the position that comes from a situation not created by the Labour party or the Green party.

The interview didn’t give the impression of “we’re running a principled campaign” and there was scant sign of “a straight out contest of ideas and of parties”.  Perhaps he does that in social media. His Twitter profile:

@michaelwoodnz Labour candidate for Epsom. Campaigning to end the ACT Party rort.

Tweets around and after The Nation interview:

Lost & Found: National MP for Epsom . Friendly character, missed by constituents, answers (terrified) to name “who, me”

On at 9.30am today to talk about Epsom and the Banks trial with , the ACT guy, and not

Hey I think you are getting ideas above your station. I’m still going to make you into a batch of scones on 21 September.

The original tub of lard gag here from 1993 – H/T . Your progenitor

Targeting an opponent and no sign of contest of ideas and of parties. There was at least one similar tweet yesterday which has been deleted, but there’s one on another party candidate.

On the weird Coling Craig poster: there is a pitch and language that we church goers recognise, but few will respond to it. Weird & clumsy.

That’s a weird comment.

His Facebook timeline targets John Banks and Act prior to the interview. Someone else posted about Goldsmith’s no show and Wood responded:

Michael Wood Thanks Karl. Hard to debate with a candidate who doesn’t front.

It’s obvious what Wood is campaigning against but what does he stand for? I can’t see anywhere in the interview or his social media where he promotes Labour or his party’s policies, and he doesn’t address any other party policies.

Wood is viewed by a good prospect as an MP. He was placed at 32 on the Labour list in 2011 (one lower than David Shearer) but failed to get in due to six lower placed candidates winning electorates.

He stood in the Botany by-election in 2011 but not in the general election. He was elected on to the Puketapapa Local Board in Auckland last year.

It’s yet to be seen whether he can run a dignified and honourable campaign but so far he looks like he wants to clown around in the Epsom circus.

So far his efforts have got him attention but not respect.

Similar quandaries for Key and Cunliffe

John Key and David Cunliffe both have tricky electorates where any perception of arranged coat tailing with other parties could be very risky.

National needs coalition partners like ACT, and Labour may need Internet-MANA to make up their numbers. Epsom and Te Tai Tokerau may be pivotal electorates.

John Armstrong explained Cunliffe’s quandary in Te Tai Tokerau this morning in Cunliffe’s tough stance on coat-tailing could backfire:

Of more immediate pertinence, Labour could yet need Internet Mana to secure a majority in the next Parliament. But bringing more MPs into Parliament alongside Hone Harawira will likely require that the new umbrella party’s leader hold his Te Tai Tokerau electorate.

If Harawira lost, Internet Mana’s party votes would go down the gurgler to the huge disadvantage of the centre-left in what is shaping as a very close contest.

But Cunliffe is now hamstrung. If he drops even the slightest hint – even a coded one – that Labour voters should opt for Internet Maori in Te Tai Tokerau, Cunliffe will be deemed an absolute hypocrite.

And after John Banks was  found guilty a similar quandary confronts John Key in Epsom.

After the cup of tea debacle last election National will have been wary enough of making any sort of coded or open signals in Epsom this campaign. Now there’s an added taint from Banks hanging over the electorate.

Key and National will be taking risks being seen to be associated with Epsom other than having a normal candidate campaign.

Act take a big risk

Act have taken a big risk in their selection of Jamie Whyte as Act leader and David Seymour as their candidate for the pivotal Epsom seat.

They have left out experienced politician and campaigner and widely respected good bloke John Boscawen and instead have chosen two virtually unknown political novices.

Act’s situation has been precarious for years, particularly with John Banks now in serious in trouble and indicating he will bow out this year. Ironically Banks gave the stand-out speech when Parliament opened for the year  last week.

Feedback on yesterday’s selection (by the Act board, members don’t take part in the selection) from Act supporters and Epsom voters is mixed. Some are very disappointed by the rejection of Boscawen and say they won’t vote Act now. Others are pleased to see the party redefining itself with fresh faces.

It’s difficult to judge how many voters will be attracted by a more ideological Act as opposed to a politically pragmatic party.

With Boscawen staying out of the party president role and substantially reducing his input of his own money plus his fund raising Act nor only have to get a leader and their key electorate candidate up to speed plus build a party virtually carried by Boscawen over the last year it’s going to be a huge challenge.

Whatever the Act board decided would have been a risk. Choosing a balance of down to earth experience (Boscawen) and renewal (either of the other two) would have been their safest option but they have instead taken a bigger risk going for novices.

We’ll have to wait and see whether the Act camble will pay off or not over the next nine months.

NZ Herald report:

Dr Whyte, aged 48, has recently returned to live in New Zealand from abroad and has only recently become active in the party.

Mr Seymour, aged 30, first stood for Act in 2005 in Mt Albert against former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Last election he stood in Auckland Central.

He has been working for a think-tank in Canada and may well have returned permanently had he not been made candidate for Epsom.

So neither have been embedded in New Zealand politics recently.

Act announcement (by acting president Barbara Astill): ACT Leadership and Epsom Candidacy

The Act Board who presumaby made the decisions:

ACT Leader John Banks
President (John Boscawen) -resigned
Vice President Barbara Astill -acting President
Treasurer Lindsay Fergusson
Auckland North Beth Houlbrooke
Auckland South John Thompson
Waikato/BoP Bonnie Leonard
Central Vacant
Wellington Sashi Meanger
Upper South Gareth Veale
Scenic South Guy McCallum

– as listed on their website

Act leadership meeting

Act is holding their meeting tonight of contenders for leadership and candidacy for the Epsom electorate. John Boscawen, Jamie Whyte and David Seymour are attending.

audrey young@audreyNZH 

Ex Epsom MP and ex mayor Chris Fletcher arrives to chair public meeting for Act leadership rivals, Boscawen & Whyte, in Remuera.


And they’re off.

Both sources:

 John Boscawen says David Garrett paid a huge price for his time at parliament but the 3 strikes law wouldnt have been possible without him.

Under him act will make raising the retirement age a “big issue”

Act’s leadership contender Jamie Whyte: “Act is not a party for rich pricks. We are a party of the people.”

How many are there to listen?

About 150 I’d say.
Yep not many empty seats

Act Epsom hopeful David Seymour (left) says he’d have won already if it were a hair growing contest

Jamie Whyte is now seeking both the Epsom candidacy and Act leadership.

Jamie Whyte says Act’s “wise old heads” have highlighted the risk of splitting the party leadership and Epsom candidate. He’s going for both

After a bit of promise there wasn’t much Twitter feed from the meeting. A related point of interest:


Honoured to be selected as the @NZGreens candidate for Epsom tonight. Reckon we can get at least 17% of the party vote!

Stuff reports ACT hopefuls state their case:

Around 100 people attended the meeting and current ACT leader John Banks shared a pew with former ACT and Labour MP Roger Douglas. 

ACT president and former MP, John Boscawen

…focused on education as the “ticket out of poverty” and his belief in the ACT party sponsored partnership school programme.

“We believe that education should be opened up to the private sector and that taxpayer funding should be contestable. By creating competition in this way, standards will rise,” Boscawen said. 

“If we have an ACT–National coalition government following the next election, you can expect a substantial roll-out of this model,” he said. 

He also said ACT would call for the gradual increase in the age of entitlement to 67.

Jamie Whyte, philosophy lecturer and newspaper columnist…

…campaigned on natural ACT policy: shrinking the size of government and lowering taxes. 

He also believes he is the man to pull the party from political obscurity. 

As a newspaper columnist advocating free market policy, Whyte said he had the credentials to promote the party to the natural 5 -10 per cent of the population that share ACT’s beliefs.

“I think it is because ACT is not selling its message. To me it should be pretty obvious. If I am made the leader of the party I will fix that,” he said.

Quoting former Labour MP Michael Cullen’s reference to ACT as the party for “rich pricks,” Whyte said this was wrong. 

“This is a party that is saying that they want everyone to get the consumer sovereignty that rich pricks enjoy,” he said.

David Seymour, 30, who is running only for the Epsom candidacy…

…has campaigned for ACT, headed its student body and spent years working for conservative think tanks in Canada. 

He was also the most popular with the crowd. 

“If that was a hair growing contest I would be home and hosed,” said Seymour, a tribute to his competitors’ shiny bald heads, to laughter from the crowd. 

And his youth does not mean he is not inexperienced, said Seymour, who spoke of his work with John Banks in formulating the partnership school policy. 

“I am closer to the median age of Epsom, which is 35, than both of these guys, and I am moving closer to it as I speak,” he said, again bringing laughter from the crowd. 

Seymour emphasised ACT’s role in lowering taxes and creating a safer New Zealand. 

All three candidates agreed that Epsom was of huge importance to the make-up of the next government. 

“The Epsom people have played a huge role in the outcome of the last three elections,” said Boscawen. 

Without an ACT MP in Epsom, a Labour-Green coalition was likely, said Whyte. 

“If ACT can’t win in Epsom, policy is likely to move rapidly in the wrong direction,” said Whyte. 

“What things a good local MP do is stand up for the people of their electorate. I believe I could be that MP,” said Seymour, who went to school at Auckland Grammar in Epsom.

The ACT board meets to decide on the leadership on Sunday.

Radio NZ – Boscawen makes mark at meeting.

Former ACT MP John Boscawen appears to be the front-runner for the party leadership after the one and only meeting featuring the leadership candidates.

After the meeting, most party members who attended told Radio New Zealand they would like Mr Boscawen to win.

Boscawen – Liberal passion with compassion

John Boscawen’s determination, passion compassion are profiled by Andrea Vance – John Boscawen ready to rebuild ACT.  He is capable of saving Act, and that will give National more hope of being able to put together a sensible coalition.

Something interesting that I didn’t know:

And if anyone knows Epsom voters, it is Boscawen. He stood in the electorate in 1996, winning a 22 per cent share of the party vote – still a record for ACT.

The reality of his decision to put himself forward as leader and candidate:

Until a fortnight ago Boscawen was pushing Hide to once again stand as leader, reluctantly offering up himself once Hide, and former president Catherine Isaac, ruled themselves out.

Boscawen accepts the party has lost credibility, and believes a return to ACT’s core libertarian principles will revive its chances. Fresh blood and new ideas are necessary, but he says the party needs to be guided by someone with parliamentary experience.

“I rate both Jamie and David [Seymour] very highly…and had I believed their strategy had the best chance of success I would not return to Parliament.”

If anyone can revive Act it’s Boscawen. And he’s not all hardball business and straight jacket liberalism:

He recognises inequality as one of the buzzwords of the upcoming campaign. His quandary is how turn the so-called “party of rich pricks” into one that appears to care about the poor.

I think that’s one of the key quandaries of our election year. Good to see that Boscawen recognises it. If he can find a good answer to that then Act have a good chance of doing better than just Epsom.

Boscawen is Act’s best chance of survival

John Boscawen’s decision to stand for leadership of Act and for the Epsom electorate is Act’s best chance of survival. He may also offer John Key and his National government more hope for survival too.

Stuff reports Fresh blood, or a retread for ACT?:

John Boscawen says he is the man to take the party into Parliament come November.

“I’ve given a huge amount of thought to this. I had a relatively successful Parliamentary career for three years.

“I think this is a crucial election for the country (and) a crucial election for the ACT Party.”

This is a reversal for Boscawen, he has told a number of people, including myself, that he had no intention of standing for Parliament. But circumstances can change, obviously they have for Act but the same may be the case for Boscawen.

This signals new hope for Act and it’s constituents.

Boscawen or Colin Craig?
Boscawen or Winston Peters?

There must be a glimmer of hope in this for Key, his coalition options had been looking shaky.

David Farrar sums up common sentiments on Kiwiblog in Boscawen stands for Epsom and Leader:

John is a tireless worker for ACT, and highly respected. He may be seen as not enough of a break from the past, but will be seen as a very safe pair of hands who doesn’t play games.

Boscawen has only put himself forward for leadership and Epsom but his selection should be a no-brainer. Ex-Act MP David Garret agrees.

Big surprise…John was one of the most popular guys in the House…no-one disliked him…and he also was very much a man who stood on his principles…But I thought he had conclusively ruled out standing again…

I wish him all the best in his quest for a Round Two…

But not everyone is on this page. Cactus Kate comments at Kiwiblog:

John is a fabulous guy and great President of the Party however I see no sense at all in his announcement given David Seymour the new face of ACT has obviously been told by powers above to put his name forward for Epsom.

Now it’s a case of oops, you’ve made the commitment to return from overseas and change your life, you have to beat the old guy first and split the party again. Both Seymour and Whyte face this for their respective positions. Bet both are wondering why they bothered returning.

Cactus considered standing for Act last election. I disagree with her on this.

Whyte and Seymour would have a monumental task
a) leading Act
b) succeeding in Epsom
c) setting up in Parliament
d) running a party and an electorate and a Parliamentary office

They may be the potential future of Act, but they would benefit substantially from being patient and learning from the experience and respect of John Boscawen.

Boscawen is Act’s best chance of pulling back from a political precipice. If Whyte and Seymour and others use this as an opportunity to build their own experience and credibility they are far more likely to succeed in the short term, albeit at a lesser level than they might have ambitions for, and they are also more likely to succeed in the long term.

Putting a political novice into a position of saving the party would another huge risk for Act. They first have to survive the next election. They then have to rebuild. I think their best chance of doing this is with Boscawen. Then the younger talent have a much better chance of making a mark.

Politics can be like cheese, good things often take time. Boscawen is mature, and Act needs that right now.