For some time now, the Act Party has struggled to gain traction in political polls. They have weathered a succession of roadblocks in this term of Parliament; Rodney the Perkbuster being busted, the Heather Roy coup, and the David Garrett affair. Granted, their flagship Three Strikes legislation was passed, and the Voluntary Student Membership Bill is likely to be passed in the next month or so, so they have had successes. But overall, Act has struggled since the 2008 election.
Today though, the wounds have been self-inflicted. John Boscawen lodged 700 Questions to Members today, in the hope that the House would be sufficiently delayed so that the Third Reading debate of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill. Boscawen has led Act's opposition to the Bill; today however, he was merely grandstanding.
Given that Act purportedly stands for LESS government, this was a particularly ironic way to register a protest. We wonder what the cost has been of John Boscawen's little stunt today. And it backfired on him; most of the 700 questions were ruled out of order, and many of those that survived that cut were unable to to be answered due to the Member to whom the question was addressed (from parties right across the House) finding that they had urgent business elsewhere. The result was reminiscent of the day during the Mt Albert by-election campaign when John Boscawen was famously bombaded with a lamington!
A strong Act Party is a natural ally to National, and a likely partner in a coalition government. Right now however, there must be doubts as to whether Act will survive the 2011 election. National has suggested that Rodney Hide might face a genuine contest in Epsom, and it is only Hide's tenure of that seat that gives Act a voice in government.
John Boscawen's stunt today was cringeworthy. Act needs to present itself as a credible and relevant party if it is to survive beyond 26 November 2011. The events of today would suggest that Act has a long way to go.