Douglas lined up for Cabinet

Last updated 01:17 17/03/2008

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ACT founder Sir Roger Douglas is being lined up as a Cabinet prospect if the party holds the balance of power on election night.

Sir Roger announced at the weekend that he would stand for election as an ACT MP - the first time he has put his name forward for the ACT list.

He is guaranteed a high list placing if he wants it, and party insiders are not ruling out a ranking at No 1, above leader Rodney Hide, who has the security of the safe seat of Epsom to get him back into Parliament.

That would also place Sir Roger above Heather Roy, the party's only other MP. Mr Hide made it clear in his speech to party faithful at ACT's annual conference in Auckland at the weekend that Sir Roger would be at the forefront of any negotiations with National after the election if ACT was in the position of negotiating Cabinet posts.

"I want Roger in the Cabinet by the end of this year."

Yesterday, National leader John Key said Sir Roger's decision to stand for Parliament again was "interesting" but made it clear that his association with some of the unpopular economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s might prove a big obstacle to National.

Mr Key said he had no intention of leading a government of the hard Right. "I'm not going to go and run a government that slashes benefits and privatises off all the assets that the state continues to own; I'm not going to run a radical agenda."

In an interview on ACT's website, Sir Roger speculates that just six to 10 per cent of the vote would be enough to secure ACT two or three Cabinet posts. He said conditions in New Zealand reminded him of 30 years ago, when he told a Labour Party conference the country was at a crossroads and there were no soft options ahead.

 Six years later, when Labour came to power, Sir Roger embarked on a series of economic changes that later caused divisions in Labour.

Sir Roger resigned from Parliament in 1990 and founded ACT three years later. But he never sought re-election, instead serving as the party president. His decision to seek a return to Parliament after a reconciliation with Mr Hide is a huge boost to morale in the party as it struggles to lift its profile and poll ratings of less than 1 per cent.

Sir Roger disagreed with the party's direction under Mr Hide but the pair made up after Mr Hide forged a new identity for himself and abandoned his "perk-busting" crusade.

But the latest TVNZ poll shows ACT will have a long haul back. It is polling at 0.9 per cent. National is at 50 per cent, Labour 35 and the Greens at 7 per cent.

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- The Dominion Post

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