Leader warns Act's hardliners

BY MARTIN KAY
Last updated 13:53 27/02/2010

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Act leader Rodney Hide has fired a shot across the bows of party activists who think Act should quit the confidence and supply deal with National unless there are faster and more radical economic reforms.

In his speech to Act’s national conference this afternoon, Mr Hide said Act had campaigned on the promise to ensure stable centre-right government at the last election, and it was a promise that had to be kept.

"The New Zealand people voted us into a position of great privilege. We have to respect that. Act must continue to show that we can provide New Zealand with stable government. A promise made, a promise kept.

"John Key has made it abundantly clear that our handshake on the deal was more important to him, and so it was to me, than any words on paper. John Key has been true to his word."

The comments seemed to be a veiled warning to hardliners in the party who believe Act should pull out of the support deal with National unless it can win faster and more far-reaching economic reforms.

Mr Hide has admitted those concerns fed into discussions about his leadership late last year, which was brought to a head after revelations he used his travel perks to take his girlfriend on a round-the-world business trip and on holiday in Hawaii.

Act founder and list MP Sir Roger Douglas and deputy leader Heather Roy were said to have led a bid to oust Mr Hide, but all three insist there was never a serious challenge and no vote was taken.

It has been reported that the coup fizzled after Mr Key made clear that the deal with Act would be canned – meaning the party would have no ministerial posts and a snap election would have been a real possibility – if Mr Hide was rolled.

Mr Hide has been at pains to play down any continuing threat to his leadership, and used his speech to spell out in detail the policy wins Act has won from National, including the three strikes for violent offenders and regulatory reform – both top priority party goals.

But he also signalled moves to do more to differentiate Act from National.

Mrs Roy said in her speech that Act had to do more to stamp out its ground, though she said that would not mean destabilising the government.

She said it was vital Act got above the five per cent threshold for list seats at the next election, so it did not have to rely on Mr Hide keeping his Epsom electorate.

Act would not be in Parliament if it polled below five per cent and Mr Hide lost the seat.

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