Final act for Hide and Act?

The extraordinary and highly damaging revelations contained in Heather Roy's 82-page statement of defence prepared for last Tuesday's showdown over Act's deputy leadership raise serious questions about Rodney Hide remaining as leader.

So serious, it seemed at one point yesterday the best thing he could do was resign the leadership and let the party's new deputy, John Boscawen, take over the reins and stand for Act in Epsom.

Act then might have a chance of retaining a toehold in Parliament after next year's election.

What will save Mr Hide's leadership is that Mrs Roy last night disavowed responsibility for some claims in her statement which, though endorsed by her, was authored by one of her advisers.

The view Mr Hide has been unfairly maligned by someone with an agenda has to some degree helped him re-establish his authority in the caucus when, from the outside, it looked to have been weakened by his poor handling of this shabby affair the day before.

The trouble is, the horse long since left the stable. After the events of recent days, it takes some swallowing to believe last night's belated attempt to bolt the door - getting Mr Hide and Mrs Roy seated together for the cameras in what at best looked like a stage-managed truce - is truly an indication things are now hunky dory.

Who and what are the voters to believe? Mr Hide, who finally admitted the caucus ructions last night after erecting a wall of silence after Tuesday's caucus deputy leadership spill? Or the politically salacious details, plus brutally honest analysis of Act's parlous state, in Mrs Roy's statement of defence?

If the document's claim that Mr Hide's hold on Epsom is tenuous "at best", then it is even more so after this week's shambles.

National now has to weigh up whether its supporters can still stomach Mr Hide or whether it should stand a strong candidate in case continued association with Mr Hide starts to damage its high party vote in the blue-ribbon electorate - or worse, though still highly unlikely, because Act's follies could allow Labour to win the seat.

Act looks near the end of the road. Mr Hide has barely 15 months at most to turn things around for his party and himself. There is no room for further error. Even then, you would not want to put money on him succeeding.


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