John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Goff shows 'silly' Hide how to act

Act Party leader Rodney Hide. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Act Party leader Rodney Hide. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

Rodney Hide's leadership of Act should have been strengthened by yesterday's dumping of his deputy, Heather Roy.

The manner of her going has, instead, dented his credibility and potentially weakened his hold on his party's leadership.

It is possible that reasons other than Roy's attempted destabilising of Hide may yet emerge as the grounds for her being replaced by rising star John Boscawen and her ministerial warrant being withdrawn.

If this is the case, Hide could at least have alluded to those reasons during yesterday's post-caucus press conference, where it was assumed he would provide some information on the rationale for her ousting.

He didn't. He point-blank refused to offer any explanation.

In the space of the 20-minute-long press conference, he completely lost the political initiative.

The contrast with Phil Goff is striking. Faced with an errant MP, Goff was fair, but firm. He explained why Chris Carter was being disciplined. He had no qualms in admitting this was the result of Carter's efforts to destabilise his leadership. Goff emerged stronger from the episode.

Hide's repeated plaint that he was not prepared to discuss what had happened during the morning caucus meeting just made him look silly.

The days when a New Zealand politician could get away with a "no comment" response in such situations are long gone.

On top of that, Act has made a song and dance about politicians being accountable.

What has been exposed is the turmoil in the Act caucus which has plunged relations between Hide and Roy to ever more poisonous levels.

Voters switch off listening to parties in Act's condition. Act is now polling around just 2 per cent. If that support falls further to the point where only Hide would be returned to Parliament next year, the four other MPs would have to consider whether their only option for saving their parliamentary necks would be to try to go for broke and secure 5 per cent or more of the party vote.

If so, Hide would be quickly ditched and Boscawen, the embodiment of Act's self-help ideology, would replace him.

It sounds far-fetched. But stranger things have happened in politics.

- NZ Herald

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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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