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A cup of tea with John Key could be in order for ACT's Epsom candidate, David Seymour.
A TVNZ-Colmar Brunton poll, released today has shown National's Paul Goldsmith with a clear lead, 44% to Mr Seymour's 32%.
According to the survey, nearly one third of Epsomites are unaware Prime Minister John Key has openingly called for National Party supporters in the seat to cast their vote strategically.
When respondents were made aware of the PM's push, the tables were turned with Mr Seymour jumping ahead 45% to 31%.
47% said they support the arrangements Mr Key has made with the Act Party in Epsom.
Goldsmith sharpens don't vote for me message
In response to the poll, National's Mr Goldsmith sharpened his message that people should not vote for him.
“If you want John Key to remain Prime Minister and National in power, party vote National. That’s the crucial message. In Epsom we've said we're encouraging National supporters to vote for the ACT candidate, and we're very happy with that," Mr Goldsmith said on TVNZ's Q+A, which hosted an Epsom candidates debate.
The poll of 501 eligible Epsom votes was carried out August 4 to 8. The Conservative Party's Christine Rankin was announced as a surprise late entrant on August 1.
Ms Rankin registered 4% support — a modest total, but one that could prove vital if the contest is as close as 2011, when 36,929 ballots were cast in Epsom, and then ACT leader John Banks won the seat by just over 2000 votes. National won 64.24% of the list vote; ACT 2.54%.
Cllick to zoom
The Epsom result was close in 2011 as some National Party voters, either through ignorance or being fed up with MMP games, voted for Mr Goldsmith. They were joined by Labour, Greens and others on their left who cast a mischevous ballet for the National candidate in a bid to derail ACT's coat tails plan.
Ms Rankin focussed the fact the Conservatives were polling higher, meaning she would bring in other MPs on her coat tails if she took the seat.
“I don’t agree that I don’t have a chance of winning Epsom. I think this is going to be greatest turnaround the country has ever seen. We are the opportunity to maintain stable centre right government. And if I'm elected at the polling that we've got at the moment across the country I'd take in three or four people. David Seymour would take in David Seymour," Mr Rankin said.
Elsewhere in the debate, Green candidate and lsit MP Julie Anne Genter (expected to be Transport Minister in the event a Labour-led government is formed after September 20, said, “I have to be honest most people talk to me about transport because that’s a big reason why the Greens are popular. We've launched a very comprehensive policy to get world class transport system for Auckland and I think the people at Epsom want to live in a one class city and unfortunately the National Party is denying them that by holding up progress in the city rail link and other issues like that. Newmarket station is in the heart of the electorate and I think people deserve to have a train every five minutes.”
Labour's Michael Woo offered, “Well what's very clear on the street when we door knock people and we talk to them at the shops, is that people have had enough of the games. People don’t want the deal again, and what your poll reveals this morning is that people actually when they're asked the direct question, do not want ACT to be re-elected in this electorate.”
Mr Seymour said, “Well first of all there's a lot of things that we'd like to change about education. We'd actually like to open up the supply of education by allowing schools to run themselves with more flexibility."
In a recent Ask Me Anything session with NBR readers, ACT leader Jamie Whyte was questioned on why he had not lead from the front and stood for Epsom himself.
Mr Whyte said he did not have time for electorate-level campaigning.
The downside of that strategy is that if ACT's list vote support remains at its current level, former youth wing leader Mr Seymour will be the party's only representative in Parliament (if he wins Epsom), with Mr Whyte left on the sidelines.
Watch the full Epsom candidates debate here.