Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Epsom voters' poll give Act that sinking feeling

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Cartoon / Peter Bromhead
Cartoon / Peter Bromhead

The Act Party board's meeting over the weekend must have been like the last gathering of the band on the Titanic. All hope abandoned and nothing left to do but choose the final hymn to play as the ship goes down.

The latest polling suggests the Epsom lifeboat, which Dr Don Brash sold to the party bosses as his price for the leadership, is turning out to be a leaky, unseaworthy rust-bucket. Particularly with former Auckland mayor, John Banks, at its helm.

Short of offering the leadership and the Epsom candidacy back to Rodney Hide, the man he usurped, there's nothing much left for Dr Brash and his dwindling band of true believers but to roll a big marijuana cheroot and draw straws on who turns the lights out for the last time.

Act's only chance of parliamentary survival is to persuade the many National voters of Epsom to split their vote strategically, giving their candidate vote to Act's Mr Banks and casting their party vote for National.

It's a tactic that worked with Mr Hide as candidate, dragging a handful of fellow travellers into Parliament on his coat-tails to pad out National's numbers.

This time round, both National and Act decided Mr Hide was damaged goods and unceremoniously dumped him in favour of two old National MPs, Dr Brash and Mr Banks.

Yesterday's Herald on Sunday poll is the latest indicator the putsch has done nothing to revive Act's decline. With the larger-than-life Mr Hide no longer on the scene, Epsom voters appear to be rejecting the jiggery pokery the right-wing party bosses are expecting of them, and reverting to type.

New boy National candidate Paul Goldsmith, who is supposed to throw the contest for the greater good, is miles out in front without even trying with 32.9 per cent of the support, compared to Mr Banks' 18.9 per cent.

Labour's David Parker, one of the contenders for party leadership after Phil Goff's departure, is on a derisory 4.3 per cent, and 41.5 per cent have not decided.

As to party allegiances, 67.6 per cent said they'd vote for National, 9.7 per cent Labour, 5.7 per cent Act and 5.3 per cent Green.

Poll results revealed in mid-September by Conservative Party leader and failed mayoral candidate Colin Craig painted a similar picture.

Mr Craig has issued no provenance for the poll, but claims it had the National candidate with 35.3 per cent support, Mr Banks on 31.4 per cent and Mr Craig on 27.4 per cent.

It was this result that persuaded Mr Craig to stand in Rodney electorate instead, so as not to split the right-wing vote in Epsom.

What both polls indicate is Dr Brash's promised dramatic turnaround of Act's fortunes in Epsom is not happening. No doubt the appearance in court of fund manager Peter Huljich late last month will not have helped.

A business associate of both Act men, he pleaded guilty under the Securities Act to misleading investors in advertisements for the Huljich KiwiSaver scheme between 2008 and 2010. His company, formerly known as Huljich Wealth Management, pleaded guilty to two related charges. Both Mr Banks and Dr Brash were directors of the company. Mr Banks is still a director of Huljich family companies.

As for the awful result for Labour's David Parker, that just might be my fault. In July I suggested Labour voters in Epsom should get even, not angry, over their right-wing opponents gaming the electoral system. It was when Dr Brash was taking over Act and bragging about how National voters would again come to Act's rescue by shifting their candidate vote to Mr Banks.

My suggestion was that left voters could get their own back by voting en masse for National's Goldsmith.

Perhaps that's what happening.

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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