NBR: ‘Hide gone, Brash to lead ACT’ + my comments
Hide gone, Brash to lead ACT
UPDATED 12 NOON: Rodney Hide has resigned as Act leader and Don Brash is to take over after becoming a member of the party this morning.
His party leadership will be formalised at an ACT party caucus meeting on Saturday. He will be a leader outside Parliament.
At a joint media conference in Auckland, Dr Brash said it wasn’t the time to comment on plans for the party, but said New Zealand’s indebtedness is one of his most serious concerns.
A key objective of Act under his leadership will be to raise the income levels of all New Zealanders, he said.
Dr Brash said he and Mr Hide had been friends for over 15 years and that if Mr Hide hadn’t won the Epsom seat in 2008 the country could still have Helen Clark as a leader.
“For that New Zealand owes him considerable gratitude,” Dr Brash said.
Mr Hide will remain as an MP until the November 26 election. He said he would like to stay on as a Minister (he is Minister of Local Government, Minister for Regulatory Reform and Associate Minister of Education) but that that was a matter for Prime Minister John Key.
Mr Hide told reporters he didn’t see the coup as a kick in the guts on a personal level and that he was supportive of anything which helped Act succeed even if there was no place for him.
“A change of leadership is never easy but we’ve managed it,” he said.
Asked at the press conference whether Act had lost its focus on its core economic message, Dr Brash recalled a conversation he had had a few years ago with Mr Hide.
“He said I give a speech every day of the week about the economy and get no coverage. I do something about taxi bills and it gets on the front page.”
Mr Hide said he was planning to stay with the Act Party but wouldn’t comment on his future in Epsom.
“Rodney and I have been friends for more than 15 years,” Dr Brash said. “In the last week or so I have put our friendship to considerable strain.”
He said Mr Hide has “consistently espoused the values for which Act is most known” but defended his earlier comments that Mr Hide’s brand had become “toxic”, which he blamed partly on a “media witch-hunt.”
The leadership change follows a public challenge to Mr Hide’s leadership by Dr Brash, a former National Party leader and ex-Reserve Bank Governor.
Earlier today, Dr Brash was “cautiously optimistic” he had the numbers to oust Mr Hide.
While media reported he had achieved this by turning the vote of Dunedin-based MP Hilary Calvert, the 70-year-old former National Party leader said he “doesn’t know that for sure.”
He needed at least three of Act’s five MPs to back him and, as of then, had two of them — Sir Roger Douglas and Heather Roy.
Deputy leader John Boscawen supports Mr Hide and, until yesterday, Ms Calvert was committed as well.
Dr Brash yesterday met Sir Roger and Ms Calvert in Auckland to explain his reasons for wanting to replace Mr Hide, whom Dr Brash said had a tainted brand and would lead Act to certain defeat in the November 26 general election.
Mr Hide yesterday posted an open letter on Facebook, saying he had been surprised by Dr Brash’s weekend announcement that he was going to seek the leadership of ACT.
He said he had previously invited Dr Brash to join the party and had discussed co-leadership, and Dr Brash had turned him down.
“We reviewed various options on how we could work together in a collaborative way to build a strong party for the future,” Mr Hide said.
“Don then wrote me a letter setting out his decision to turn down the opportunity. The letter alarmed me because I thought it was a letter designed to be leaked, as it was especially one-sided.”
The Prime Minister, who is in England this week, said yesterday he could see no reason why Mr Hide would not be able to keep his ministerial roles if Dr Brash took over as leader.
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