Some want Act ex-leader to replace Banks, others pushing for fresh neo-liberal party.

Former Act leader Rodney Hide is being courted by supporters in the party to make a comeback in Epsom to replace outgoing leader John Banks, the Herald understands.

But Act's fading health is fuelling speculation that the party could be replaced by an alternative neo-liberal party under younger leadership.

Several sources told the Herald Mr Hide had been approached recently and urged to consider a return to Act and to national politics.

One insider said Mr Hide would be nominated by Epsom party members whether he liked it or not. Mr Hide did not return calls yesterday.


Mr Hide won Epsom in 2005 and 2008 but was ousted as leader by former National leader Don Brash in 2008 and replaced in Epsom by former National minister and Auckland City Mayor John Banks.

Nominations to replace Mr Banks as Epsom candidate are expected to be opened before Christmas after the MP said yesterday that he would not stand again. A selection will be made in February.

Insiders suggested the party would want a "hardwired Act" candidate rather than parachuting in a high-profile outsider.

Auckland councillor Cameron Brewer has often been tipped as a potential successor to Mr Banks, given his high profile as leader of the opposition to Mayor Len Brown.

But last night he ruled out seeking the nomination. "I've been a member of the National Party since 1996, and that is where my political loyalties remain. I am also completely committed to local ratepayers."

He believed Prime Minister John Key would win a third term with or without an extra seat in Epsom.

Former Act president Catherine Isaacs also ruled out seeking the nomination. But Act member Jamie Whyte confirmed he would put his name forward. He has recently returned from Britain where he was a management consultant for Oliver Wymann and the Boston Consulting Group. He is also an ex-foreign currency trader and a former philosophy lecturer at Cambridge University.

Former Act president Chris Simmons did not rule out standing. He said that despite criticism of the party, he was positive about its past and future. "It's still got a heart-beat."


Right-wing commentator Matthew Hooton has occasionally been mentioned as a potential saviour for Act but said yesterday in a National Business Review column that a new vehicle was needed, with a leader in their 30s or 40s. "The new party would need to put the neo back in neo-liberal."

Otago University political scientist Bryce Edwards believed Mr Hooton's column yesterday was significant.

"He's pretty much declaring in my view that he's setting up a right-wing party ... Something's brewing."

- additional reporting: Adam Bennett