Act leader David Seymour is emphasising one extra seat could be the difference between “real change” and “chaos” in a centre-right government after October 14. 

Making a pitch for his party on the eve of advance voting beginning on Monday, Seymour repeatedly said an Act and National combination had to be the outcome over “other options that may be chaotic”.

He did not mention New Zealand First or its leader Winston Peters by name but it was clear he is trying to talk down that party’s potential to be pivotal after election day in the make-up of government of the centre-right.

Asked specifically if he was telling voters not to vote for Peters, he said: “I think people can see there’s a very clear choice: An Act and National coalition that want to work together from day one to fix the economy, get the living costs down and make sure public services are delivered on the basis of need not race. On the other hand there are other options that will lead to chaos. That is true.”

And when discussing a controversial interview given by Peters on Q+A with Jack Tame on Sunday morning, and Peters’ insinuation that his party could seek the broadcasting portfolio if in government to sort out TVNZ, Seymour went further.

“I just think threatening an interviewer with that sort of retribution is frankly undemocratic and I think people who saw that interview will see what I’m saying when we say there’s a stable, united Act-National delivering real change from day one or there are other options that may be chaotic. I think anyone who saw that interview will see what I’m saying there.”

Seymour is clearly working now for each incremental percentage, each extra seat to try to keep it a two-party government. He hoped if that was the case Act and National could form a Cabinet within “a week or two”.

“This is going to be a tight race. Every party vote for Act counts. One more seat for Act would deliver that stable united government New Zealand needs, one less seat puts New Zealand into the potential for absolute chaos.

“I’m telling people. If you’re thinking of staying home or voting for someone else that either can’t or won’t deliver the real change that New Zealand needs, please make sure that you stand with Act, lend us your party vote so that we can deliver not just the change of personnel but the change of direction that New Zealand requires.

“Obviously we will want a firm agreement … Because people need to see wasteful spending cut, people need to see a commitment to consequences for crime and putting the Treaty at the heart of our constitution as a document that unites all with the same rights and duties, not division by race.

“Kiwis will finally have in their hands the power to effect real change by giving their party vote to Act. It’s become pretty clear in this campaign that the options are either more of the same, or chaos. 

“The Act Party is the party that’s here to ensure a strong coalition between Act and National that does not defer to inaction but also doesn’t allow more of the same or chaos that’s the potential if votes go elsewhere.”

The theme of ‘don’t gamble with NZ First’ lasted throughout Seymour’s question and answer session.

“No one’s even voted yet. We’re very clear on our priorities, principles and policies but we haven’t thought quite so much about particular positions for politicians. That might happen depending on how people vote, however it’s quite possible that if people don’t come out and vote, don’t give their party vote to Act that we will have either inaction, more of the same or chaos and that’s what we’re out here campaigning against.”

The National leader Christopher Luxon released his party’s action plan for its first 100 days in office, a list with a range of elements in common with Act.

Seymour faulted it for not prioritising making public services available on the basis of need.

“Look the National Party will always campaign hard, Act is your insurance to make sure they actually deliver the real change. There are many things on that list that National has that Act can agree with. But there’s also a lack of commitment to ensuring that services people rely on are delivered on the basis of need rather than background or ethnicity.”

Act held its pre-voting event on a Kohi street corner because it retains high hopes for deputy leader Brooke van Velden to wrest the blue stronghold off National’s Simon O’Connor, giving Act a second electorate seat with Seymour’s neighbouring Epsom.

Van Velden said: “The momentum for change in Tāmaki is building. Our poll [which found her trailing O’Connor by just two points 36 to 34 percent in the electorate vote] is out-of-date now and I can’t wait to see what the polls will be like on election day. But out and about in the community it really does feel like change is coming, change of government but change for Tāmaki as well.”

Seymour was more certain: “I hear so much that Brooke is everywhere. She’s painting the electorate pink. People love it and I think they’re going to come out in big numbers. I once got some advice and they said ‘They won’t count her majority. They’re going to weigh it’. I suspect it may be a bit closer than that. But certainly it feels like that sort of energy.” 

On Saturday, before he tested positive for Covid-19, Labour leader Chris Hipkins said his party was seeing a shift toward it and “real momentum” going into the final fortnight.

Seymour couldn’t see it. “We don’t have a poll that reflects Labour picking up strong momentum. I think the real challenge that the Labour Party has is their record. The six years of them being in government is what counts against them. New Zealanders have found a country that’s less affordable, less safe, more divided, fewer kids going to school, learning less and longer queues at the hospital and the GP clinic.

“That’s their big problem and they now say ‘Look, that wasn’t us. Give us another chance. We’ll do it better.’ There’s too many people in this election asking for second chances when they’ve had enough already.”

That was unsubtle code for one party and one man, who remained un-name-checked.

Tim Murphy is co-editor of Newsroom. He writes about politics, Auckland, and media. Twitter: @tmurphynz

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