ACT faces leadership dilemma

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 13:31 17/01/2014

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ACT's rival leadership contenders are facing a dilemma.

President John Boscawen last night declared he wanted to lead the party and seek the Epsom seat nomination. Journalist and management consultant Jamie Whyte had already put his hand up for the top job.

The pair insist there is no animosity, but Whyte is signalling one of the rivals may yet concede for the good of the party.

The board is due to select the leader at a meeting early next month. Boscawen has temporarily stood aside as president.

"It is possible that before it gets to that point we may settle out of court, so to speak," Whyte told Fairfax Media this morning.

"[I'm] certainly not [conceding] yet ... but I want to get a lot more reaction from people ... It's important, given what has been going on over recent years, people see that ACT is a functional and united group of people.

"On the other hand, I can see why some board members might see [a withdrawal from the contest] as annoying because you are robbing them of a choice."

After a few years of turmoil, a bitter leadership coup and a dismal 2011 election result, ACT promised to reinvigorate itself.

However, sole MP and leader John Banks has been felled by a donations scandal. He announced his retirement at press conference in December.

At the same conference Boscawen insisted he had not regretted a decision to quit Parliament three years ago.

However, Boscawen had a change of heart over Christmas, and declared his hand after dumped ex-leader Rodney Hide ruled himself out of the running.

The 2011 coup "caused a lot of resentment in the party", Whyte said.

He welcomed Boscawen's entry to the race, agreeing he was a safe pair of hands.

As a former minister and coalition deal broker, Boscawen's comeback would be more acceptable to National, although Boscawen denies he has been lent on.

If Whyte were to take over as leader, it is most likely list candidate David Seymour would stand in Epsom, which Whyte agreed was risky.

"We do need to crack Epsom ... and that is why there is a serious argument in favour of someone like John [Boscawen]. Because I think John would win Epsom," Whyte said.

A healthy competition for the top job also had its advantages, he said.

"If I had just run unopposed it wouldn't be clear to me what the party thought about things, and now they are going to have a vote on it ... whoever ends up being the leader will have a much better and clearer mandate."

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- The Dominion Post

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