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Chinese vote key to Banks' victory in Epsom

Friday 4 Nov 2011 6:28 p.m.

By Chris Whitworth

ACT candidate John Banks is courting the Chinese vote to save his struggling party, despite once famously denouncing the Asian community for their “filthy habits”.

The Epsom candidate is ACT’s lifeline into Parliament and sees the Chinese community as key to victory.

“They make up 26 percent of the Epsom electorate - most people don’t realize that. So they’re a huge voting block,” he says.

Mr Banks visited Newmarket today to talk with Chinese shop owners, bringing along a Cantonese and Mandarin interpreter.

Ali Ikram went along - click 'view video' to watch the full report

“We’re communicating with them in their language; we’re sending them direct mail in their language, so today I thought it was important that I take an interpreter.”

In the past two elections, the Epsom electorate has backed an ACT candidate while giving National their party vote and Mr Banks is confident of winning the seat this time round.

“This is a deeply blue ribbon National Party seat 364 days of the year. One day every three years they vote strategically for a centre-right coalition partner for the National Party.”   

However, a recent UMR-Research poll shows National’s Paul Goldsmith leading at 37 percent despite announcing he would only campaign for the party vote.

Mr Banks trailed second with 24 percent but says the polls will close.

“It’s a no brainer: A vote for me is a vote for two MPs for Epsom,” he says.

“Goldsmith will be there anyway and if they vote for me I’ll be there with him, but as well as myself I can bring other MPs in with me.”

But does Prime Minister John Key want ACT as a coalition partner?

 So far Mr Key has skirted the issue and Mr Banks hints at tensions within the partnership.

“None of this is easy. John Key is one of the most successfully Prime Minister’s in our history, and having said that ,  he squeezed out a lot of the small parties.”

And the pressure of keeping ACT afloat, is taking its toll on the politician.

“I’m feeling a high level of responsibility and a huge burden that I need to do well to keep the centre-right in politics’ coalition friends alive and well.”

ACT polling this week shows 40 percent of the Epsom electorate are still undecided.

Mr Banks is the lifeline for ACT, and he’s hoping the Asian community is his.

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