Imagine, if you will, that David Seymour of ACT becomes the next MP for Epsom (it’s easy if you try). He is likely to argue that his victory was not one pre-arranged by some cup if tea between his leader and the PM, John Key but, rather, because of his prolonged door knocking campaign (or maybe his inadvertently amusing campaign videos). Now, maybe you think that’s nonsense; a victory for ACT in Epsom would almost certainly be the product of National gifting them the seat (especially given the evidence), but for ACT’s David Seymour surely that’s not the point. He went through the motions necessary for saying he won the seat fair-and-square. I mean, you can’t actually tell from any anonymous vote why it was cast (despite what exit polls might possibly tell you).
There is something clever about David Seymour, which if said in the right tone of voice is the snarkiest thing I could possibly say (snark robbed of its strength, mind, by the transparency of that admission). Whatever concessions he gets from National for his support of the next government (oh, how I hope in a fortnight that this post is wrong), Seymour can claim that he might not be a gerrymandered candidate but Epsom’s real choice. Indeed, for ACT to have any credibility with regards to their “one law for all” campaign he really needs to be Epsom rather than empty scare quotes. A small party candidate representing the wishes of a suburb (even a wealthy, white one) is democracy in action. If Seymour can say “Look, I earned these votes!” then his views are worthy (if not worthwhile).
Electorate MPs are, when you think about it, strange in an MMP world. When you cast a party vote you’re endorsing a party and the party then gets someone off of their endorsed list. But electorate MPs are different, since you might (and some do) vote for them not because of their party affiliation but because they are effective at representing their constituency. Now, no one thinks Seymour will be an effective MP (or, they shouldn’t: we just don’t know yet, given his new-ness) but a vote for Seymour doesn’t seem to be one for representation by him but, rather, a way to get a party into Parliament by side-stepping the pesky “appeal to the general public” thing parties like the Greens and New Zealand manage to do.
Seymour might be token in a grand game of politicking or he might have shaken enough hands to really qualify as someone the people (good, bad and otherwise) wanted to vote for. In the end, all we know is that come this time in a fortnight, it’s likely that David Seymour will be looking at accommodation in Wellington and thinking of warming a seat in our Parliamentary debating chamber. He’ll present himself as the man Epsom voted for.
Maybe he will be. Such is the enigma of being a David Seymour.