In 2004, not long after Rodney Hide became leader of Act, I was driving the two of us to a meeting at Hotel du Vin south of Auckland. I thought I knew a shortcut, but got lost and started panicking because I would deliver this important guest late.

But Hide was unperturbed. "I have total faith in you," he said as I muttered something about getting there eventually. We did, and on time.

I believe that story illustrates the libertarian in Hide. He essentially believes individuals can take care of themselves, has faith they won't get lost; and ultimately Government's only role is to step in when, for whatever reason, they go astray and need help.

However, that trust in his colleagues has let him down badly. Hide can no longer have faith in his maverick caucus not to get lost.

It's time for Hide to stop forgiving bad behaviour, take a leaf from his predecessor's book, and start roaring in caucus meetings.

Previous leader Richard Prebble's anger was usually justified, but it wasn't pretty, and was directed at stupidity, anyone using acronyms, jobs left undone, arrogance, and superiority - I think you can guess the culprits. Heather Roy blushed, Gerry Eckhoff blustered, Ken Shirley and Stephen Franks argued with him, Hide texted on his phone, and Donna Awatere Huata ate something. Muriel Newman didn't.

But Hide never did get angry. His mind went to dark places and he could sulk, but current MP David Garrett, for instance, should have been roasted alive long ago, so his sterilisation remarks remained just ideas in a peculiar mind. Now Garrett has destroyed the Act brand.

Because what 21st-century liberal would vote for a party whose caucus supports a man who makes lewd remarks around the office, justifies that behaviour by saying it was okay in Tonga, then advocates bribery and sterilisation as a means to control child abuse and the population of the underclass?

Does Act stop to think that the 21st-century liberal is both an economic and a social liberal? We want low taxes and small government, but we're not redneck, pro-smacking, tough-on-crime unforgiving mutants.

Heather Roy's perfidious speech at last month's Act conference was, hopefully, the final message Hide needs that his party desperately wants saving from itself.

Illiterate, hopelessly muddled, with references to black swans and jumping jackrabbits, Roy began by quoting the founding fathers' Declaration of Independence - "we hold these truths to be self-evident" - then went on to declare the Act Party to be self-evident.

Advocating choice and freedom, Roy's bizarre conclusion then ordered shrilly, "bring our children home".

Moreover, I think she's a fool to "bury the hatchet", as John Armstrong put it in the New Zealand Herald, "in Hide's back".

She owes her Parliamentary baubles to Hide, not just for his Epsom seat.

In 2005 when MPs made their case to the Act board for list placings, according to a board member, Roy said she could keep Hide under control, as opposed to then deputy leader Newman, whom she should displace. She got her wish.

Now she's Minister of Consumer Affairs, but worse than Judith Tizard, and that's saying something.

When Roy should have spoken out on Morning Report about the effect on shoppers of the duopoly of supermarkets, we were told she preferred not to comment.

Rodney Hide made a monumental cock-up last year at taxpayers' expense, but his apology was genuine, and must be accepted by his MPs.

Roy needs to get over it. It took some time, but if I can get over everything Hide did to me, anyone can.

If Act dies it won't be for reasons of a small party supporting Government - the agreement with National is too cleverly written for that.

In the short term, whether Act MPs like it or not, Hide is their only chance of saving the party. Longer term, the board needs better candidates.

Richard Prebble once said small parties don't survive leadership changes - maybe Heather Roy is determined to prove him right.

She certainly has the capacity to destroy Act, and she has some backing within the party. Hopefully they'll find her a job back in physiotherapy if that tragic day eventuates.

deb.coddington@xtra.co.nz