The question of whether to turn the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers group into a political party proper initially divided the organisation into two groupings that held diametrically opposing views. One group wanted to continue as a think tank, while the other more ambitious group wanted a party launch in anticipation of an election win (Carr, 1997: p.85). [Read more below]
When MMP was finally voted in as the new electoral system in 1993, added weight was given to the arguments of the faction that wanted Act to become a party. The arrival of MMP looked likely to shake up the party system and produce a new configuration in Parliament. To people like Roger Douglas, this obviously presented a “window of opportunity” that should be taken advantage of. In this sense, the eventual party was clearly an “MMP-party” – as opposed to the recently established, yet FPP-based parties of the Alliance and NZ First.
There was something of an irony in attempting to use the new electoral system to (re-)enter the political arena due to the fact that the momentum and arguments for introducing MMP was associated with left- not right-wing political activists. Key personnel working with ACT included three former leaders of the anti-MMP Campaign For Better Government: Owen Jennings, Brian Nicolle and Priscilla Tate (J Roper, 1996: p.34). Act’s association with this and other pressure groups, such as the Business Roundtable and Federated Farmers, did not help its image as a progressive party of the future.
ACT officially became a political party in November 1994. However it was not until February 27 of the following year that the party was officially launched, and not until April that year when it ran its concentrated media campaign.
Next blog post: Initial party ideology