Another storm in the tea party

STEVE KILGALLON
Last updated 05:00 08/12/2013

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Johno Evans, owner of one rather infamous Newmarket cafe, hasn't really been watching the news this week, so he needs a quick recap - on Banksy, the donations, the court case, the resignation, potential contenders and the prospect of a new right-wing political party - before delivering his verdict.

"I'm not really bothered," he says.

Evans owns Urban Cafe, where Prime Minister John Key and John Banks drank tea in 2011 and hatched a deal which essentially gifted the Epsom electoral seat, once again, to Banks' ACT party.

It was good for business, says Evans, so he wouldn't mind a repeat run with whoever Banks' successor proves to be.

People come in and ask which table Key and Banks sat at.

There's a news clipping on the wall and the teapot was auctioned for charity, raising $5000.

Evans voted for Banks, but mostly because he's a regular customer and he likes him: "I give him s..., he gives me s..., it's pretty jovial. He's very personable."

Actually, he says, it's a very "blue" cafe - former National Prime Minister Jenny Shipley is also a regular. Evans' dad used to be Lockwood Smith's campaign manager but the cafe owner is entirely uninterested in politics.

But Epsom voters will be clued-up come election time, says National's electorate chairman, Tom Bowden.

Right-wing voters have been guided to support the ACT candidate in three successive elections, and he reckons they have become a "sophisticated" bunch who understand MMP and will once again do their duty, if they must.

He says there's a "50-50" chance of a "good coalition partner" emerging, but admits: "Sometimes we think in Epsom it might be someone else's turn to have all the fun".

Across the political divide, Peter Lange has other ideas. The sculptor, and brother of the late Labour prime minister David Lange, organised a low-key rebellion last time, getting Labour supporters to vote for National candidate Paul Goldsmith to try to upset the Key-Banks deal.

Banks eventually prevailed by just over 2000 votes. "It was good in theory, but in reality, people can't bring themselves to do it," Lange says. "The ideal situation for me would be if Labour didn't put up a candidate at all.

"I think we're all going to feel like pawns again. I hate being in this situation. I will have to do something, I just haven't quite figured out what yet."

Labour, however, seem more likely to go in the opposite direction and consider fielding a heavyweight candidate to put acid on any new National-Act deal.

Last time, it was their finance spokesman, David Parker, who seemed to have some fun as the spoiler candidate. He says he hasn't considered doing it again but would do "what's best for New Zealand". In his view, that would be the burial of ACT.

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"It's like a zombie film," chirrups Parker.

"ACT has been a political corpse really since Roger Douglas gave up on them, and yet Epsom voters have been prevailed upon to vote for National's political game. They have really been manipulated . . . I don't think Epsom voters will be willing to further besmirch their own electorate.

"I think the political corpse that is ACT now has such a stench about it that the Epsom voters will not pick another zombie."

- Sunday Star Times

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