Hide merciless in pushing strategic vote

By Carroll du Chateau

Deflated by the Act Party's 1 per cent result in the latest political polls?

Not Rodney Hide, leader of the Party and would-be MP for Epsom.

"I'm on 1 per cent in the polls - nothing can bother me," he says, setting off along St Stephens Ave, Parnell, in his baggy, pin-striped suit, blue tie firmly knotted, for a spot of door knocking.

Everyone Hide passes recognises the fat face, bullet head and big smile.

He stops them all: "Hi, I'm Rodney Hide. Are you going to give me your vote?"

Jan Whitley and Jenny Vahrey, who are pruning the roses at Bishop's Court, take him seriously.

They run a gardening business together. Jenny worries about amount it costs to keep her family of five in groceries.

Hide's answer is standard - the same one I've heard all morning: "We'll cut taxes. You'll have more money in your pocket."

As for the Resource Management Act which "bugs" their clients, "we won't just review it, we'll throw it out the window!"

And, as with many of the unfailingly polite, intelligent people we've met, both in Parnell and at the University (where he was greeted with genuine enthusiasm by students), the Act message has appeal.

"I don't mind paying for people who genuinely need support, but I'm working to keep my kids out of student loans." After a little more chat, they both take off their gardening gloves, get up from their kneeling pads and shake hands.

Says Hide as we set off down the street, "See, we may get those votes."

Teresa Riordan, a retired anaesthetist, understands Hide's strategic voting message.

"You've got to get the electorate seat to get past the threshold," she says.

So true. As Hide explains till he's red in the face, a vote for National's Richard Worth will do little to secure a right-wing government.

"There's a big mood for change, an overwhelming desire to get rid of Labour and move to the centre right," he says.

Where the voters have got it wrong is by voting en bloc for National, rather than using the kingmaker abilities of Act.

A win for him, explains Hide, would give Epsom two MPs (at 16 on National's list, Worth is a certainty) and Act a minimum of two seats.

But his great ambition is to push the party over the 5 per cent threshold making Act a realistic coalition partner for National, rather than the "ugly" prospect of a Winston Peters/Don Brash duo.

And so it goes, burning the shoe leather, spreading the message, smiling.

"Hello, I'm Rodney Hide."

"I know who you are."

"Is that you Rodney? Yes, you've got my vote."

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