Don Brash grabbed the leadership of Act in an unorthodox manner with reportedly the support of only three MPs.
Former leader Rodney Hide has been gracious in defeat and given the new leader his support. The fifth member of the Act caucus, John Boscawen apears to be demonstrating that loyalty to the party is paramount and is supporting the new leader.
The party board will ratify the leadership decision today but that still doesn’t give Brash any mandate for making demands of Prime Minister John Key.
He is leading a wee party which got into parliament with only 3.65% of the party vote thanks to the seat of Epsom which was won by Hide, the leader he’s deposed.
He is confident he will lift the vote well above that in November and he might well do so. If he does and National is in a position to form a government he could start negotiating for ministerial places then, but only then.
However, he wants some influence sooner:
Mr Hide has said he wants to stay on in his roles as local government and regulatory reform minister.
However, Dr Brash said last night that he expected to discuss the issue with Mr Key next week.Those are held at the discretion of the Prime Minister but it is also the convention in a coalition that the leader of the party in which those portfolios are held has a view on that.”
He indicated he would ask Mr Key to give Mr Hide’s portfolios to another MP, citing as a precedent Mr Hide’s decision to strip Heather Roy of her portfolios because of her coup attempt.
That isn’t a valid comparison. Roy had done her best to replace Hide inflicting great damage on her party in the process.
Hide by contrast has put the party first by stepping aside without any public display of acrimony.
If his replacement insists on attempting to take his portfolios from him it would be understandable if Hide decided the party, and the man who calls him a friend, no longer deserved his loyalty.
Regardless of that, the election is only seven months away and it would be unnecessarily disruptive to change ministers at this late stage without a much better reason than to reward someone else for disloyalty to her leader who happens to hold the portfolios.
I have a great deal of respect for Dr Brash but if he attempts to replace Hide as a minister he will be attempting to wield influence well out or proportion to his position. He should put his intellect and energy into helping his new party become part of the next government and leave this one be.
To do otherwise would risk damaging this government and reduce the chances of both National and Act being part of the next one.