Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Banks and Nats - Epsom's double act's battle of the brands

John Banks. Photo / Greg Bowker
John Banks. Photo / Greg Bowker

Act's Epsom candidate, John Banks, and party leader Don Brash are campaigning separately, but Mr Banks denies he is promoting himself at the expense of his party to try to win the Epsom seat.

Asked on Campbell Live what brand he was presenting to Epsom voters, Mr Banks said, "Brand Key", and talked about the popularity of Prime Minister John Key and ensuring National remained in power.

Yesterday, he denied he was downplaying the Act brand to try to win the seat. He said he was trying to persuade Epsom National needed Act not only now, but in future elections.

"I proudly carry the banner for the Act values in Epsom. I make no secret of that. I have the responsibility to keep the dream alive in Epsom."

Polls have shown National's Paul Goldsmith could win Epsom, despite his party indicating it wants only the party vote there.

Mr Key is now likely to meet Mr Banks at some stage to send a more explicit message to Epsom voters, but despite being asked daily, he has refused to say when this will happen.

Yesterday, he said it was "a topic for another day", but added that National liked a "moderate and balanced government".

Mr Banks said a meeting would be "helpful" but he had not asked for Mr Key's assistance and had not heard from him.

"I'm a proud person. And I've got to paddle my own canoe here. I can't be spending all day in bed with a lemon drink waiting for the Prime Minister to call me."

He said Epsom voters did not want to be told how to vote, "but I'm sure they would be pleased to hear that the Prime Minister would be happy to have me in the Parliament".

Last night, at a candidates debate, the Mana Party's candidate, Pat O'Dea, said the "backroom deals" between National and Act had not worked because Mr Goldsmith was ahead of Mr Banks in the surveys.

Mr O'Dea also admitted he did not want to be MP for Epsom. He said he would not know how to represent people on "$500,000 salaries". He said he was standing to counter Act.

Victoria University political scientist Jon Johansson said Mr Banks needed Mr Key's endorsement. "It is entirely at the whim of John Key as to whether Banks is a successful candidate. That is the beggar's status Act now stands on."

Dr Johansson said the apparent sidelining of Dr Brash in Epsom would be "peculiar" in any other political party, "but it seems completely orthodox in the Act Party".

Mr Banks denied Dr Brash had been sidelined from Epsom. "I told him, 'Get out and about, go and work on the party vote and I'll give Epsom my best shot'."

- NZ Herald

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