ACT has suffered a huge blow and will have to rebrand to recover, former party president Catherine Isaac says.
The party was routed in the polls and, with just 1.07 per cent of the vote, will be represented in Parliament only by John Banks, after he won Epsom.
Leader Don Brash stepped down immediately, saying he underestimated the intensity of dislike for ACT.
Mr Banks will have talks with Prime Minister John Key today and is set to sign a confidence and supply deal.
Mr Key said yesterday that he would not rule out a portfolio outside Cabinet for the former police and tourism minister.
ACT board members held telephone and email discussions yesterday to talk about the road ahead, but no decision was likely immediately, president Chris Simmons said.
Ms Isaac – who was No3 on the party's list – said it would be extremely difficult to lead the party from outside Parliament, as Dr Brash has done since rolling Rodney Hide in April.
"I don't see how it would work," she said.
"[John] doesn't have any history with ACT, his history is with the National Party ... whether he chose to really espouse ACT values and policies really remains to be seen. It will be hard being a one-man band."
She believed the party got to "an all-time low" and voters were punishing it for a series of mistakes, such as revelations that its former law and order spokesman, David Garrett, stole the identity of a dead infant.
Dr Brash was well intentioned and worked hard, she said. But he made "a number of errors of judgment, quite major ones", which showed "an obvious lack of political judgment and a lack of understanding of what the ACT party is actually about".
Ms Isaac – managing director of a public relations consultancy – was urged to be a candidate by her husband, the late Roger Kerr. She said she "won't give up on the ideas" but was not seeking an official role.
"If there is a movement to start again, well, I'd certainly look at it. It may need a new brand and a whole new look."
Mr Banks will meet Mr Key at 1pm today. ACT would support Mr Key in government with a "robust" supply agreement and the party had no bottom lines, Mr Banks said.
"I don't think when you are a party of one you can have too many bottom lines."
After board discussions throughout yesterday, Mr Simmons said it was not a given that Mr Banks would become party leader.
While Mr Banks, as the only MP, would be the parliamentary face of the party and push a policy agenda, Mr Simmons said ACT was reviewing its structure to look at the next generation.
The review would take months, and no decision would be made on the leadership straight away.
But Mr Banks appeared to be at odds with that idea.
Asked if he would be leader he said: "I need to get the support of the ACT party – but it would make sense, wouldn't it?"
- Fairfax NZ
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