And then there were none. The surprise decision by Act deputy leader John Boscawen to retire at the election means none of the five Act MPs who were elected to Parliament in 2008 will be back.

Boscawen announced his decision on Saturday afternoon, after telling the Act board on Saturday morning at its regular meeting.

It's only a month since the board finalised the Act election line-up, placing Boscawen at number two, and only two months to the election.

His decision means what is on offer from Act this election is a lot more than a fresh look.


Don Brash and John Banks have been in Parliament before but as National MPs.

In the absence of any continuity, it means the Act brand is in danger of being obliterated altogether.

But given that the old brand has been badly tainted this term by scandal, infighting and ruthless purging, that is not necessarily a negative.

Boscawen has not been as deeply implicated in the infighting as caucus colleagues.

He plays the ball and not the man, works well across parties and with an intensity that has won him cross-party support.

That may puzzle a public that is relentlessly reminded of a campaigner in the Mt Albert byelection so intent on delivering his message at a meeting that he ignored the lamington put on his head by an opponent.

But Boscawen is appreciated in his party and probably never more so than now as it struggles for relevance.

It is no wonder some colleagues are hoping he will change his mind.

The chances are remote. What he may change his mind about is in saying why he is going.

The reference to wanting to spend more time with his family was ill-advised: it has become such a euphemism that its very use conjures up alternatives such as a rift with the leader, ill-health, a simmering scandal that is about to bubble into the public arena.

With Boscawen, the reality is more boring. He works too hard and doesn't handle conflict that well.

The past month has been stressful because he has been the pivotal person dealing with two highly controversial pieces of legislation.

That is on top of pulling together a dysfunctional party.

And while he clearly loves his job, his job is not going to be the same again.

The chances of his being a minister again or a parliamentary leader again are slim; Brash and Banks will be calling the shots.

Boscawen doesn't have to work and so he has decided he is going get his life back.

He should have made his decision a month ago.

But that is about the worst of it.