New ACT leader or new party?

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 07:26 05/12/2013
John Banks
ON THE WAY OUT: John Banks won't stand for re-election in 2014.
RODNEY HIDE: Party insiders confirm there's support for Hide to return - but Hide is less keen.
Jonathan Cameron
RODNEY HIDE: Party insiders confirm there's support for Hide to return - but he is less keen.
MATTHEW HOOTON
Craig Simcox
MATTHEW HOOTON: Confirmed he had been approached by a number of people who were "concerned" about the state of centre-right politics.

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Talk about a new right wing political party is being revived amid the latest body blow to ACT after leader John Banks was sent to trial over electoral fraud allegations.

Banks announced yesterday he would step down as leader in March and former leader Rodney Hide is being actively courted to step into his shoes by some high profile members, including the man who rolled him, Don Brash.

Brash confirmed last night he had tried to convince Hide to return to the national politics and said the former Epsom MP was the best chance of saving the party.

"From my perspective there are few politicians or former poiticians who can express the views of the centre right on economic issues moreNew  clearly than Rodney can."

Party insiders confirmed there was support within the organisation for Hide to return. But Hide is less keen - he is said to have rebuffed all approaches so far.

Former British based right wing commentator Jamie Whyte, a rising star in the party, last night confirmed he was throwing his hat into the ring for both the leadership and he Epsom nomination.

There has also been speculation about lobbyist and right wing columnist Matthew Hooton, who confirmed he had been approached by a number of people yesterday who were "concerned"  about the state of centre-right politics.

But Hooton said he had other priorities currently including his family and business and sources said it was unlikely.

Hooton's name is also being linked to speculation about a new right wing party and soundings are also believed to have been taken among the likes of Sir Bob Jones, who founded the New Zealand Party in the mid 1980s.

Brash late last night also endorsed Hooton, who has carved out a reputation as one of New Zealand's most influential and effective lobbyists.

But there is no love lost between him and the current National administration, despite Hooton's long National Party pedigree. He has become a thorn in the Government's side over campaigns including the parking tax and copper tax revolts and is a trenchant critic of the Key government.

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There has been talk of a new right wing party previously but it never got off the ground. Brash and Banks took soundings before the last election when ACT looked like it was on its last legs but decided to try and save ACT instead by installing Brash as leader.

That ended disastrously when ACT only managed to scrape back in with one MP, Banks, who won the Epsom seat after an accommodation with National.

With Brash left on the sidelines outside Parliament Banks became leader by default.

But the difficulties of launching a new political party mean reviving ACT probably still remains the best option for installing a right wing ally for National in Parliament.

Prime minister John Key said it was too soon to talk about future deals with ACT to retain the Epsom electorate.

IN THE RUNNING?

Catherine Isaac: The former party president is ruling out standing for Epsom. But she won't comment on whether she would consider the leadership.

Jamie Whyte: The formerly British-based journalist made an appearance at ACT's conference. He now lives in New Zealand and has confirmed he is in the running.

Matthew Hooton: The lobbyist has ambitions to be an MP and joked in his weekly column about standing for ACT in Epsom, where he lives. His natural home is National but he was uncharacteristically tight-lipped yesterday.

Cameron Brewer: The Auckland councillor and former press secretary to Jenny Shipley did not return calls yesterday. The 40-year-old ruled out standing for ACT at the 2011 election, saying he was in no rush to get to Wellington.

Chris Simmons: The former party president and management consultant was ranked seventh on the party list at the last election. Earlier this year he was said to be eyeing the blue-ribbon electorate of Pakuranga.

David Seymour: A policy wonk and former ministerial adviser to John Banks, ranked 6th in 2011. But the 30-year-old has built a successful career in Canada.

Rodney Hide: A former leader rolled by Don Brash. Brash said yesterday he would endorse Hide's return, but the self-styled perk-buster is understood to be not interested.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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