By Andrew Laxon

political reporter

Alliance MP Frank Grover has changed his party plans for the third time since the past election.

From next week he will represent the Christian Heritage Party in Parliament and may start voting with the Government.

Last year Mr Grover said he would stand for the rival Christian Democrats at the election but would still honour his pledge to vote with the Alliance until then.


However, when the Christian Democrats became Future New Zealand the deal went sour. Mr Grover said he would stand as an Independent in Tauranga instead.

He announced his latest decision at a press conference yesterday, saying he could no longer support Alliance policies which conflicted with his personal principles.

For instance, he opposed the Alliance decision to support the lowering of the drinking age to 18 in the Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill, due back in Parliament next month.

He also wanted to oppose abortion and support marriage and the traditional family unit, which tended to clash with Alliance policy.

Although he opposed Christian Heritage's policy to bring back the death penalty, the party had given him a conscience vote on this issue.

Mr Grover was vague about whether he would continue to vote with the Alliance, saying he had not yet discussed the issue with his former party.

He acknowledged that he might vote with National on issues matching Christian Heritage's family-values platform but added that his vote was "certainly not a freebie for the Government."

Christian Heritage leader Graham Capill said the party would not seek the $77,000 of taxpayer funding for which it could apply - as former Alliance MP Alamein Kopu did last month - because it was conscious that Mr Grover was not elected to Parliament on its ticket.

Alliance leader Jim Anderton said it was clear Mr Grover had broken his pledge to voters to support the party.

Mr Grover is the 13th MP to defect since the last election. Nine out of 17 NZ First MPs and four out of 12 Alliance MPs have changed parties.

Although his vote could be useful for the Government, National is less desperate now than it would have been six months ago. It has a 61-59 majority and faces no scheduled confidence or supply votes between now and the election, which is expected to take place late in November.