Murray will take one for the team
Prime Minister John Key says Murray McCully would stand aside in Auckland's East Coast Bay's electorate, if he asks him to.
Mr McCully has held the safe National seat since 2007. Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has said he can't beat a sitting National MP (a reasonable assumption in the Bays, where National received 21,079 list votes in 2011 to the Conservatives' 1254).
The Conservatives are polling at a level that should see two or three MPs, at least, enter Parliament on Mr Craig's coat-tails if he's gifted East Coast Bays.
The PM has promised a decision on East Coat Bays soon. It could come at this weekend's party conference, which will see around 600 delegates gather in Wellington.
Mr McCully — who lured Shane Jones out of Parliament — is regarded as one of the party's leading strategists. Now he finds himself at the centre of events.
Mr Key told reporters on Friday that the decision would be made with select cabinet ministers, including Mr McCully.
National is expected to release its candidate list at the conference. If so, it will necessitate a decision on whether Mr McCully stands again in his Auckland seat, or joins the party's MMP list.
Current National Party allies ACT and UnitedFuture, both polling within the margin of error, will be looking on nervously. National giving a leg-up to the socially conservative Mr Craig would be felt especially keenly by the fiscally conservative, socially liberal ACT.
Beyond list speculation, delegates have been told to expect a major policy announcement Sunday afternoon.
Guarding against complacency is expected to be another theme of the conference as the the party continues to ride high in the polls.
Delegates might be reminded that the final polls ahead of the 2011 election all over-estimated National's support:
National Party support, November 2011
- Election result: 47.3%
- UMR: 48.6%
- One News Colmar Brunton: 50.0%
- Herald Digipoll: 50.9%
- Roy Morgan: 49.5%
- TV3 / Reid Research: 50.8%
- Fairfax / Research International: 54.0%
See more party poll results vs 2011 actual election results here.