Key urged to pull candidate from Epsom

Prime Minister John Key has been challenged to honour a deal with ACT and pull National candidate Paul Goldsmith out of the race for Epsom.

ACT party New Plymouth chairman Morris Hey confronted Key during a walkabout at a shopping mall today.

He said he had no one to vote for in the seat in New Plymouth, because ACT had honoured its promise to pull out and Key should honour National's side of the bargain.

"We've kept our side of the bargain now I am asking you to do your's."

Key said Hey should take that up with the ACT party, and moved quickly on.

Hey said it would probably be going too far for Key to tell people to vote for ACT Epsom candidate John Banks but he should pull Goldsmith out of the seat.

"We've been shot in the leg here."

Earlier, Key said he would not rule out meeting Banks for a symbolic cup of tea before the election, adding it would  not guarantee the party's survival.

Over the past few elections, political leaders have met publicly with each other for a "cup of tea" before elections to signal which parties they want to work with.

Former National leader Don Brash met with United Future leader Peter Dunne before the 2005 election and Key met with former ACT leader Rodney Hide before the 2008 election.

On current polling ACT is facing political oblivion unless it wins Epsom.

The latest Fairfax Media-Research International poll has ACT on just 1.2 per cent, well short of the 5 per cent required to return to Parliament without an electorate seat.

Other polls conducted in Epsom have shown that National's Goldsmith is slightly ahead of Banks.

Key has already said National is running a party vote campaign, not an electorate vote campaign, in Epsom but voters have indicated they are more likely to vote for Banks if they are given a stronger signal from the prime minister.

ACT's leader Don Brash last week called for that stronger signal.

Key said this morning that National still had to decide whether he would meet Banks.

"It's early days," he told Newstalk ZB.

"Typically what happens is you see that vote for some of the smaller parties rising at the end of the campaigning period.

"There is no doubt there is a bit of push back against ACT at the moment but that doesn't mean that will continue."

In the past two elections Epsom voters had voted tactically on their own volition, Key said.

"Sure we had a cup of tea with Rodney at the time but there's no guarantee if I sit down and have a cup of tea with John Banks that it will get him over the line.

"But it doesn't mean I am ruling it out either."

MMP was a system that demanded coalition agreements, he said.

"National's not so arrogant that it thinks it can do everything on its own."

Over the past three years voters had had a chance to see how National worked with its support partners.

"We've worked very constructively with the Maori Party, with ACT and with United Future," he told TVNZ's Breakfast programme.

"ACT have been very stable, so ACT returning to Parliament is something I'd like to see as opposed to something I wouldn't like to see."