ACT members get behind Brash

TRACY WATKINS AND JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 14:54 27/04/2011
Don Brash
FIONA GOODALL/Fairfax Media
Former National party leader Don Brash met with Act party members at his apartment in central Auckland.
THE PRESS
'NOT ABOUT NUMBERS': ACT leader Rodney Hide believes he can see off any Don Brash bid to replace him.

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ACT Party members have been writing to the board urging it to support Don Brash's leadership bid, piling more pressure on Rodney Hide to step down.

The party's Treasurer, Hamish Stevens, confirmed today that members had been writing to the board in support of Brash since he showed his hand on Saturday as challenger for the leadership.

When asked if members were also writing in support of Hide, Stevens declined to comment.

Rumours have been rife today that Hide will step down after conflicting reports over which way his deputy, John Boscawen, will jump. He, Boscawen and other MPs reportedly met at Hide's Newmarket electorate office today.

Boscawen repeatedly refused to comment when asked at the weekend who he would vote for in a leadership contest, but his office insisted today that Boscawen would vote for Hide if it came to a leadership stoush. Boscawen has refused to return calls to confirm that in person, however.

A spokeswoman for Hide this afternoon denied reports of an emergency caucus meeting to discuss Hide's future. She also rejected rumours that Hide was about to step down, saying he had denied it when confronted by media today.

Board member Nick Kearney said today he was aware of the rumours about Hide stepping down but had heard nothing from anyone in the party.

DOUGLAS, CALVERT MEET BRASH

ACT MPs Sir Roger Douglas and Hilary Calvert were greeted this afternoon by Brash at a meeting in central Auckland.

Douglas would not comment on why he was meeting Brash, saying only that he had known the former National party leader for more than 40 years.

Douglas said he had been invited to the meeting by Brash and did not know who else would be attending.

Douglas and Calvert were met at the door by Brash who smiled at waiting media but refused to comment on why the meeting was being held.

Brash also would not answer questions as to whether or not he had become an ACT member or not.

Calvert, a Dunedin list MP, could prove critical in a leadership vote as she would only need to throw her weight in behind Brash for Hide to lose the leadership. Calvert has reportedly said she supports Hide.

Kearney was aware of the meeting in Auckland between Brash and members of the caucus but was not sure who was attending. It was his understanding, however, that it was Brash who had called the meeting.

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HIDE FACEBOOK MESSAGE

Earlier, Hide admitted leadership succession of the party was "an essential consideration".

In a letter to party members posted on his Facebook page this morning, Hide said he did "not intend putting [his] head in the sand" over a challenge to his leadership launched by Don Brash at the weekend.

In his open letter to party members, Hide says Brash told him and party president Chris Simmons on Good Friday about his bid for the leadership.

"I do not intend on putting my head in the sand over this challenge, but at the same time there is important work to be done that builds on the foundations the board has been laying over the last few months," Hide said.

"My position is that I serve as Leader of the ACT Party on behalf of the membership until the caucus and the board determine otherwise.

"And so, the president and I, along with the board and the caucus, continue to seek out good candidates for ACT who will build a strong party into the future.  Leadership succession is an essential consideration, just as it is in any organisation."

Hide said he had met with Brash many times and encouraged him to join the party. He had told Brash he considered him "an ACT person", but that his suggested candidate for Epsom, John Banks, was "not an ACT person".

However, Brash was still a member of the National Party, which left ACT in "a difficult position" over his leadership bid.

Some commentators have suggested Brash's bid for the leadership has already faltered, but Brash this morning re-iterated the issue was still an open question.

He said he was waiting on market research to prove he could do a better job attracting support for the party at the November election.

- Stuff

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