'No-nonsense' gun advocate Victoria O'Brien part of New Conservative's fresh leadership team as Leighton Baker departs

A Singapore-born gun advocate with a background in finance described as having a "no-nonsense approach" has been appointed to the New Conservative party's fresh leadership team. 

Victoria O'Brien, a firearms owner with a background in private equity and investment banking as well as investments in start-ups and running her own business, is the party's new deputy leader.

She replaces Elliot Ikilei who has been appointed leader after incumbent Leighton Baker announced that the New Conservative board had decided to bring in a new leadership team.  

"A tough day in the office as I leave the leadership of New Conservative, which I have enjoyed immensely," Baker said in a statement posted on Twitter. 

"Elliot and I have worked on two election campaigns together and although our styles and focus are different, they have complemented each other, however, the board has decided that now is the time to try another leadership style, and I wish them well in that."

New Conservative board chair Simon Gutschlag confirmed the leadership change in a newsletter sent to supporters. 

"After a thorough and robust review of the party leadership by the New Conservative Board, we have come to the difficult decision to look for a fresh approach to the leadership of New Conservative and have relieved Leighton Baker of the leadership of the party at this time," the text says.

"Elliot Ikilei will step into the position of Leader and Victoria O'Brien into Deputy Leader effective immediately. We welcome them to their new roles and know that they both have strong support within the party and huge respect outside the party. They both have what it takes to lead us through the next phase of our journey."

New Conservative leader Elliot Ikelei and deputy leader Victoria O'Brien.
New Conservative leader Elliot Ikelei and deputy leader Victoria O'Brien. Photo credit: Supplied

O'Brien was announced as the party's third-ranked candidate in the lead-up to the October election and the party highlighted her advocacy for firearms as a competitive shooter. 

"The firearms community has been impacted by poor legislation, undemocratic process, and used as a political scapegoat," it said at the time. 

"It is a specialist issue and having a representative for the firearms community is essential for New Conservative to deliver the best outcomes. By having Victoria O'Brien as its third-ranked candidate, New Conservative is clear in its stance."

ACT ran a similarly pro-gun candidate in Nicole Mckee, the former head of the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners. Mckee has been elected to Parliament thanks to ACT winning 7.6 percent of the vote resulting in 10 seats. 

The New Conservatives weren't so lucky, picking up just 1.5 percent of the vote - well below the 5 percent needed to enter Parliament. 

The party's original incarnation, led by Colin Craig, nearly made it into Parliament with 4 percent of the vote in 2014. 

Former New Conservative leader Leighton Baker.
Former New Conservative leader Leighton Baker. Photo credit: File

The party's same-sex marriage policy drew attention during the 2020 campaign, with their Instagram page hacked to make it look as though they were planning to amend their policies to be in support of the rainbow community.

Baker confirmed to The AM Show it's a misconception the party wants to overturn the 2013 law which legalised marriage between two people of the same sex.

While the party believes "in the traditional definition of marriage as between one biological man and one biological woman" and everything else should be a civil union, Baker said if two men or two women wanted to marry under the present law, "that's their choice".

"We're just putting a line in the sand and saying we believe this is the best thing for children. It's not a policy - it's what we say we believe, but we're not going to force it on people." 

The New Conservatives lost a court battle in the lead-up to the election against TVNZ to be included in its multi-party leaders debate. For parties to participate they had to be polling at 3 percent or have a seat in Parliament.

Baker described the 3 percent threshold as "a huge hurdle".