The extraordinary and highly damaging revelations in Heather Roy's 82-page statement of defence prepared for Tuesday's showdown over Act's deputy leadership raise serious questions about Rodney Hide remaining as leader.

So serious, in fact, that it seemed at one point yesterday that the best thing Hide could do was resign the leadership and let the party's new deputy, John Boscawen, take over the reins and stand for Act in Epsom in his place.

Act then might have a chance of retaining a toehold in Parliament after next year's election.

What will save Hide's leadership is that Roy last night backed away from or disavowed responsibility for some of the claims in her statement which, though endorsed by her, was authored by one of her advisers.

The view that Hide has been unfairly maligned by someone with an agenda has to some degree helped him re-establish his authority within the caucus when, from the outside, it looked to have been weakened by his poor handling of the public fallout from this shabby affair the day before.

The trouble is the horse has long left the stable. After the events of recent days, it takes a lot to believe that last night's belated attempt to bolt the door by getting Hide and Roy seated together for the cameras in what looked like a very stage-managed, very icy and possibly very temporary truce is truly an indication that things are now hunky-dory.

Who and what are the voters to believe? Hide, who last night finally admitted the caucus ructions after erecting a wall of silence following Tuesday's caucus deputy leadership spill? Or the politically salacious details - plus the brutally honest analysis of Act's parlous state - contained in Roy's statement of defence?

If the document's claim that Hide's hold on Epsom is tenuous "at best", then it is even more so after this week's shambles.

National now has to weigh up whether its supporters can still stomach Hide and whether it should cut its losses and stand a strong candidate in Epsom in case continued association with Hide starts to damage its high party vote in the blue-ribbon electorate - or worse, though still highly unlikely, because Act's follies could allow Labour to come through the middle and win the seat.

Act MPs have long boasted - with some past justification - that the party has always proved its critics wrong and made a return to Parliament despite being comprehensively written off before general elections. This time, however, Act looks as if it is very near the end of the road.

Hide has barely 15 months at most to turn things around both for his party and himself. There is absolutely no room for further error. Even then, you would not want to put money on his succeeding.