OPINION: The only reason ACT is not dead yet is because John Key is not ready to turn off the life support.
But it is on borrowed time unless it can find a new leader with both Right-wing street cred and a national profile by March 1, which is when John Banks relinquishes the leadership.
The fact that he did not do so yesterday speaks volumes about the state of the search for his replacement.
Despite it being an open secret for months now that Banks won't be standing in 2014, the party still has no-one ready to step into his shoes.
Some names are in the mix including a couple of rising stars in the party who hark back to its libertarian roots.
Jamie Whyte, a former British-based journalist now living in Auckland, confirmed last night he would throw his hat in the ring.
But in a sign of just how disastrous the Banks leadership has been, many in the party have been actively courting former leader Rodney Hide.
Ironically, his biggest cheerleader is former leader Don Brash, who admits trying to woo Hide back on several occasions.
Brash is, of course, the man who ousted Hide from the leadership after panic set in on the Right that a run of bad headlines made Epsom unwinnable for Hide, and would mean the end of ACT.
Party president John Boscawen's repeated references yesterday to Hide winning the Epsom seat under his own steam in 2008 suggests the party is now experiencing a huge dose of buyer remorse after getting Banks as its accidental leader in Hide's place.
Whether Hide is so ready to let bygones be bygones remains to be seen – so far he has rebuffed suggestions that he return to political life.
But it is not hard to see why the party is so desperate to woo him back.
A Hide leadership ticket would remove any uncertainty over ACT's continued survival.
John Key knows and trusts Rodney Hide and knows he can work with him – and that would be enough to give ACT a shot at living to fight another day.
- © Fairfax NZ News