National’s investment for the future
The initiation rites at Parliament can be rough, but novice MP and ACT Party leader David Seymour has been surprised by the quality of the heckling.
‘‘I’ve been called David See-less, which is something I haven’t been called for 20 years, and certainly by no-one over 11 years old,’’ he says.
In his own case, he believes the ragging has had a special edge.
‘‘ I think some people in the Opposition probably resent me more than others on our side of the House.’’
Maybe that’s because, I suggest, he is a novice MP, party leader, and ministerial understudy straight out of the box – or because the Act Party is widely seen as being a wholly owned National Party franchise.
What compelling evidence can he offer to the contrary?
Seymour agrees that he is National’s ‘‘most likely’’ supporter, and more consistently dependable than either the Maori Party or Peter Dunne. Even so, Seymour points to the valid mandate he has received via the tactical voting by the people of Epsom.
Moreover, given the unreliable alternatives – ‘‘ and looking forward to 2017’’ – the Act/National relationship strikes him as being one of mutual benefit.
So keeping the Act Party alive is National’s investment for the future? ‘‘ We need each other,’’ Seymour says.
Raised in Whangarei in what he described in his maiden speech as a family of engineers, Seymour, 31, has university degrees in engineering and philosophy.
The term ‘‘young fogey’’ could almost have been coined to describe his earnestly analytical approach to politics.
In his maiden speech, Seymour not only referred to Frederic Bastiat’s 1850 essay about the parable of the broken windows – which deals with the opportunity cost of pursuing short-term gains – but almost endearingly, Seymour did so in French.
Was there any one experience that steered him towards a career in politics?
Well, at age 12, he’d gone to Auckland Grammar as a boarder.
As he was leaving school, Education Minister Trevor Mallard was seeking to introduce the NCEA examination model – and this marked the moment for Seymour when politics became personal.
‘‘The state, which I’d hitherto regarded as very benign ...I couldn’t understand why it was attempting to undermine the culture of my school. That was a formative moment, for sure.’’
Like other new MPs in this intake, Seymour would like to work co-operatively across party lines – with the likes, he suggests, of National’s Chris Bishop or the Greens’ James Shaw.
Superannuation policy strikes him as one area where common ground might exist.
In his maiden speech, Seymour made an interesting observation about what his generation has inherited from the boomer gener- ation: ‘‘ For the first time in our equalitarian society, parental assistance has become a prominent factor in homeownership, and there is a hereditary element to property.’’
So, what should a good government do when wealth gets concentrated in this way?
‘‘It should look at its own activities first.’’
No, he hasn’t read this year’s big best-selling book about wealth concentration, written by the French economist Thomas Piketty.
Yet he has read ‘‘some reviews’’, enough to know that he disagrees with Piketty’s premises and conclusions.
As with anyone, the hardest thing is to apply your analytical skills to your own beliefs.
In the years ahead, it will be interesting to see if David Seymour makes the attempt.