Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Act leadership 'not a slam dunk' for Boscawen

John Boscawen. Photo / NZPA
John Boscawen. Photo / NZPA

Act leadership contender and former MP John Boscawen says he will spend the next week trying to highlight the risks of picking someone without his political and parliamentary experience, and highlighting his own experience.

But he believes that his opposition, Jamie Whyte, a former Cambridge University philosophy lecturer and management consultant, has the edge over him at this stage of the race.

"This is not a slam dunk."

The contest will be decided by the nine members of the Act board on February 2.

Party funder and millionaire Alan Gibbs held an invitation-only forum for candidates and members last Saturday at his farm on the Kaipara Harbour.

Mr Boscawen says as well as campaigning as leader, he will make a strong case for the next leader also being the party's candidate for Epsom.

He said the experience last election of having Don Brash as leader and John Banks as Epsom candidate demonstrated why splitting the roles did not work.

Dr Whyte and former leadership contender David Seymour have reached an arrangement to split the roles; if Dr Whyte won the leadership vote, he would support Mr Seymour as Epsom candidate.

Mr Boscawen said he strongly believed the leader should also stand in Epsom.

"I believe we should pick our best and most experienced person as the leader and offer that person to the people of Epsom."

"I believe if split that role we send mixed signals that the person we think is good enough to be the leader, is not good enough to be the Epsom candidate."

The last election showed that there was also a risk of conflict.

"We had Don Brash come out and promote the liberalisation of marijuana and while that may have had the support of five per cent of the population, John Banks knew that was fatal for his campaign and strongly opposed it."

The public then witness a conflict between the leader and the Epsom candidate.

Mr Boscawen believed he had some ground to make up on Dr Whyte. "I am very much aware of a feeling in our party that we need to present a fresh image and that people see that fresh image being presented through fresh faces."

He said the party could be freshened by taking it back to its core values, of promoting the things the party stood for when we first launched: reforms to social welfare, education and superannuation.

But the best way of getting Dr Whyte and Mr Seymour into Parliament was through his strategy, which also included making former Act MP Kenneth Wang Act's deputy leader in a bid to attract more Asian voter.

"While one can't generalise about Asians generally we believe that new New Zealanders' values are most closely aligned with the value of the Act Party," he said.

Those values were self-responsibility, work hard, lower taxes, and having the right incentives for people to work and to save.

I believe my strategy is the best chance that Jamie Whyte and David Seymour have of getting into Parliament.

"That may not be the view of the board but that is the view I am promoting."

Mr Boscawen has stood aside as party president while the leadership contest is being held. Mr Banks last year announced his intention to resign in March after being committed for trial on electoral charges relating to his bid for the Auckland mayoralty in 2010.

- NZ Herald

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