Election 2023: ACT Party's rise 'must be pretty scary for National', political commentator Matthew Hooton says

Right-leaning political commentator Matthew Hooton believes New Zealand's major Opposition party will be scared of ACT's continual gain in public support.

With the emergence of the ACT as a double-digit MP caucus, Hooton, a former PR consultant for both right bloc parties, told Newshub Nation's Rebecca Wright ACT was now becoming a mainstream party - which he believed would be worrying National.

"It's quite extraordinary what [ACT leader] David Seymour has achieved because he's managing to get more conservative farmers to support ACT at the same time as doing very, very well with Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington liberals," Hooton said.

"The strength of the National Party, since it was founded, has been that it had two wings - the conservative wing and the liberal wing - and it used to say that it needs both wings to fly, and it was always sort of felt that maybe ACT would focus on one of those.

"[Seymour's] managed to do both and that must be pretty scary for National because it makes ACT a mainstream party."

Also the Epsom MP, Seymour has signalled ACT would enter a Coalition with National should both parties be in a position to do so come October's election. Recent polling has suggested that could happen, but other polling is slightly in favour of a Labour/Greens/Māori Party Coalition.  

"Unfortunately, [National leader] Christopher Luxon seems to be mimicking John Key's 2008 campaign," Hooton explained. "If he can't offer anything more than slogans, then more and more people are going to go to ACT because, for better or worse, ACT does say what it wants to do… it's straight talking.

"If ACT and National had the numbers to form a Government, ACT knows it dare not go back to being a poodle to National like it was for John Key and like it was for Jenny Shipley.  

Matthew Hooton.
Matthew Hooton.

"ACT does want to be a 20 percent party and it knows it cannot afford to prop-up a 'do-nothing' John Key-style Government."

TVNZ-Kantar polling last month showed National and ACT had 62 seats combined (61 needed to govern) while the left-bloc Labour, Greens and Te Pāti Māori had 58.

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