The ap­peal of the Con­ser­va­tives

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

In re­cent weeks, there has been a mount­ing drum­beat of sup­port for Colin Craig and his Con­ser­va­tive Party as the Na­tional Party’s top coali­tion pref­er­ence af­ter next year’s elec­tion.

The gam­ble that Na­tional Party leader John Key is tak­ing is that Craig can pack­age the Con­ser­va­tives as a sec­u­lar party with staunch Chris­tian val­ues, and not as a re­li­gious party seek­ing sec­u­lar power to foist its moral agenda on us all.

New Zealand has had some close shaves be­fore, when Graeme Lee and Gra­ham Capill al­most led Chris­tian po­lit­i­cal par­ties into Par­lia­ment.

In 2002, a band of Chris­tian fun­da­men­tal­ists did fi­nally get there un­der Peter Dunne’s United Fu­ture ban­ner.

Dunne ended up as a vir­tual pris­oner in cau­cus gath­er­ings that of­ten seemed more like prayer meet­ings. There was no- one hap­pier than Dunne when his col­leagues got voted out at the next elec­tion.

Of late, Craig has been do­ing his darn­d­est to dis­pel any ‘‘churchie’’ im­pres­sions that the pub­lic may have of the Con­ser­va­tives.

Craig’s model could well be the tele­genic Amer­i­can pas­tor Joel Os­teen, who man­ages to fill his megachurch ev­ery week with a feel- good ‘‘ Chris­tian’’ mes­sage that rarely men­tions Christ, let alone the sin, hell­fire and damna­tion stuff.

For his part, Key has been at pains to ar­gue that the Con­ser­va­tives couldn’t do much to ad­vance their moral agenda even if they tried, since, as Key says, is­sues such as gay mar­riage are con­science votes in Par­lia­ment.

Sup­pos­edly, any at­tempt to releg­is­late against ac­cess to abor­tion would face the same hur­dle.

Key is be­ing disin­gen­u­ous. The re­al­ity is that the cur­rent abor­tion law is quite con­ser­va­tive on pa­per, but has been in­ter­preted in a lib­eral fash­ion in prac­tice.

Mean­ing: if the Con­ser­va­tives tried to al­ter the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion on abor­tion, fresh leg­is­la­tion may not be re­quired.

Ob­vi­ously, Craig first needs to get into Par­lia­ment. An elec­torate deal – such as with the Act Party in Ep­som – would pro­pel Craig into Par­lia­ment along with Chris­tine Rankin and three or four other MPs, as­sum­ing that the Con­ser­va­tives’ na­tion­wide party vote reaches the lev­els that Chris­tian po­lit­i­cal par­ties have won in the past.

No doubt, the elec­toral maths ex­plains Key’s re­fusal to en­act any of the re­forms to the ‘‘one elec­torate seat’’ rules for MMP, along the lines ad­vo­cated by the MMP re­view, for which Na­tional had cam­paigned for over a decade.

Al­ready, there is talk of Craig in­her­it­ing Mur­ray McCully’s East Coast Bays seat ( McCully is ru­moured to be shift­ing to the list).

Oth­er­wise, Craig might be given a clear run at a new seat be­ing cre­ated by pop­u­la­tion growth on the North Shore.

The most in­ter­ested by­s­tander is, of course, Win­ston Peters.

If Colin Craig truly is the Cho­sen One for Na­tional, that lev­els the play­ing field faced by the New Zealand First leader.

On the cen­tre left, he is the least wanted ex­tra in a Labour/ Greens gov­ern­ment. A sim­i­lar sce­nario now ex­ists on the cen­tre right, as Na­tional read­ies the bed it in­tends to share with the Con­ser­va­tives.

From king­maker to third wheel? Peters will see about that.

In all like­li­hood the Con­ser­va­tives will func­tion as a use­ful sta­bil­is­ing force in a cen­tre- right coali­tion that in­cludes Peters, lest once again Peters should walk out later in a huff.

GOR­DON CAMP­BELL

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