Act's move not to contest key marginal electorates in return for National not contesting Epsom shows Don Brash's party is desperate, according to a Labour candidate, Andrew Little, who is targeted in the strategy.

But Labour is to make a show of strength in the blue-ribbon seat by fielding high-profile frontbencher David Parker as its candidate.

The Herald reported yesterday that National and Act were working on a deal under which Act would be given a clear run in Epsom in return for not standing candidates in marginal seats, including New Plymouth and Waimakariri, to increase National's chances of holding or winning them.

Act's Epsom candidate, John Banks, said such a deal, which has not been confirmed by Dr Brash or Prime Minister John Key, makes sense for Act as it would help ensure a "centre right" government by ousting Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove in Waimakairiri and by shutting party leadership prospect and former union chief Andrew Little out of New Plymouth.

Mr Little said the deal didn't reflect well on Act or National.

"It shows a level of desperation on Act's part that the only way that they can mount a credible campaign is to not have candidates in various seats and concentrate their efforts in a small number of places."

It was "equally desperate of National, certainly in New Plymouth", where Mr Little is banking on mobilising the 9500 or so voters who didn't vote last election. "A combination of the 105-vote majority for Jonathan Young and 700-odd votes for Act is not going to be enough to turn around a large chunk of that enrolled non-vote. I'm not worried."

Mr Cosgrove said National lacked a track record in delivering for the people of Waimakariri, "so now what they're trying to do with their mates in Act is to hoodwink people and jack it up".

Mr Parker, Labour's associate finance spokesman, confirmed he was seeking his party's nomination to run in Epsom.

"National's taking the people of Epsom for granted and I'm going to offer them a choice. What lies behind that choice is that I view John Banks and Don Brash as extremists and their vision for New Zealand is divisive and as repugnant to me as Hone Harawira's extreme views are on the other end of the spectrum."

Mr Parker has long been associated with Dunedin but has been increasingly Auckland-based. He is unlikely to pose a serious threat to Mr Banks in Epsom, where former Act leader Rodney Hide won with a majority of 12,882 in 2008.

National's candidate, Paul Goldsmith, has confirmed that his focus will be on the party vote rather than the electorate vote.