For many, it's been a bleak Christm' />

I'm eschewing frivolous lists for this year's final column, preferring a state-of-the-nation kind of wrap-up.

For many, it's been a bleak Christmas. Economically we're in a bad way, and it's getting worse. For starters, the 2010-11 deficit of $15.6 billion is the same as Roger Douglas inherited in 1984 when the country was broke.

Sure, as a percentage of gross domestic product it was higher back then, but still we're in the shite.

Prime Minister John Key can't keep smiling on through high polling. New Zealanders have a sense of entitlement; when things go wrong, it's their Key-given right to be bailed out by taxpayers - everything from leaky homes, through to South Canterbury Finance, Pike River and The Hobbit.

The Nats have done a good job keeping Labour's promises, being nice and kind to tertiary students and oldies while workers starve.

Trouble is, a vacuum exists where there should be a big stud-muffin in Parliament, some hunk of a party - neither left-wing nor right-wing - which makes us sit up and take notice of realities, like this country is running out of money fast.

Actually, it has run out of money - it's borrowing $300 million a week to stay afloat while sitting on $52 billion of commercial assets which, in general, only deliver a return to taxpayers of 4 per cent. Four per cent!

It's like throwing a sausage up the middle of Queen St, if you get my drift.

The closest we've got - or had - was the Act Party, but now Rodney Hide's lost all credibility. Act's only chance is if Key lets Hide keep Epsom. I've given Hide third and fourth chances, but from what I've seen, his shallowness and vanity consume him. Who wants to see his nuptials when welfare's a burden, education standards plummet and rates soar?

In the hinterland, former Act hard men say they'd donate and support again, but just see Hide as a city poofter concerned only with Auckland. Certainly rural folk never receive Act visits as they once did.

But maybe all is not lost for the party.

Act could roll Hide if they found someone with magnificent balls. Someone who knows how Hide thinks and can second-guess him.

It has to be a guy, but not John Boscawen, though he's a good MP - on message, unpretentious.

Heather Roy's a real toughie, who deserves the Gloria Gaynor I Will Survive MP of the year Award, despite her stuff-ups. But she's not the leader. I've written the harshest about her, but she's got more guts than Hide, and all National women MPs put together. Roy stared down her troubles, so I hope she stands again next year.

And obviously Roger Douglas is not the man either, because nobody listens to him. Of course, his dire warnings are correct, but so is your mother when you're a teenager and she tells you not to dress scantily, wear red pouty lipstick and date dangerously attractive men in fast cars. What do mothers know?

It's not Don Brash. He's the Mr Magoo of politics, bumping into everything and everybody in his car.

Act needs a leader who can campaign like an old tusker, who's done it before and can get them over 5 per cent, so no more relying on one seat. A mature, experienced leader who knows Standing Orders inside out, and can keep both old parties honest. A tub-thumping, roaring mongrel of a leader who's been in Cabinet and won't be tempted by the baubles of office. While he'll support National on confidence and supply, he will stay well clear of Cabinet positions.

This will allow Act to keep its liberating policies on environment, education, choice, tax and health - forcing National back from the middle ground and differentiating it from Labour.

Act needs a hard taskmaster, a leader who when he barks "jump" has his MPs squeal "how high?" as they work like navvies, punching above their weight.

And with Winston Peters looking like returning, this Act leader must be someone who's already proved to be more than a match for Peters in the House.

It's a desperate situation, and calls for a comeback.

So, Richard Prebble - leave a Brian Lochore note on the kitchen table: "Gone to Wellington. Saving Act tomorrow."