Jamie Whyte elected new ACT Party leader

Last updated 17:35 02/02/2014
Jamie Whyte
MICHAEL FIELD/Fairfax NZ
NEW LEADER: Jamie Whyte speaking to the media in Auckland today.

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The struggling ACT Party has elected Jamie Whyte as its new leader after a secret ballot.

The party board said it had elected Whyte to take first place on the party list while David Seymour was named as the new candidate to represent them in the general elections in Epsom later this year.

Both men have lived outside of New Zealand for many years and Whyte admitted that would be a handicap.

At a press conference today, the two men were told a TV3 opinion poll, which airs tonight, would show their party had zero support and Whyte - a former philosophy academic - said the party needed a new direction to get back into politics.

"I won't let you down, I wont be boring," he said. 

Asked if he had any skeletons in cupboard he said that "depends on what you call skeletons" and added "it's all pretty clean in there."

The seat is currently held by John Banks who faces court action over electoral return expenses in the Auckland mayoral elections.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key said: "The Prime Minister congratulates Jamie on his selection and looks forward to working with him. He wishes him and ACT well for the 2014 election."

Meanwhile the defeated John Boscawen has quit as party president and chief fundraiser but he insisted he had not "thrown his toys out of the pram" and will stay on as a member.

The former minister and MP said he thought party was taking the wrong strategy, and the leader - Whyte - should be the Epsom candidate, not Seymour.

"This strategy, I think there is a real risk we will get no MPs... I'll be very happy to be proved wrong."

Boscawen said he wasn't surprised: "I was very much aware there was a move to have new faces." Whyte should chose his own president, he said. "He should be able to get someone who supports him."

He said could no longer raise donations for the party, however. 

"My integrity is very important to me...I've got no credibility to go and say it's a second or third best strategy but look would you still give us some money. And I'm not prepared to do that."

Boscawen was bank-rolling a campaign nerve centre in Epsom. He won't go on the party's list, and will see how the campaign is going before deciding whether to donate again.

Key had endorsed Boscawen and ACT's future depends on an electorate deal with National.

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"I think the National Party will sit back and watch and see how things unfold," he said. 

- Fairfax Media

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