Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Rise of Colin Craig...maybe


There has been a lot of talk recently about the possibility of the Conservative Party in partnership with National if John Banks is finally tarred, feathered and tossed out of Epsom.  Of course, Conservative Party Leader Colin Craig would have to run in the Epsom by-election – his Party garnering less than two percent of the vote (ed note: Conservatives got a little over 2%) in the 2011 election – and defeat Paul Goldsmith, but National could still endorse the Conservative Party candidate.
The question is, would the people of Epsom listen?  And would National find an ally in a social conservative?

New Zealand has a long history of social liberalism and never – at least, in my 30-plus years – have we ever been threatened with a socially conservative government.  Social conservatism exists somewhat outside the mainstream in these shaky isles – supported almost exclusively by religious organisations such as Family First and Destiny Church – and religion and politics do not mix here.

While the New Zealand Parliament begins each sitting with a prayer, the religious nature of our politicians is rarely – if ever – a consideration.  Helen Clark was openly agnostic and, while he attends church, so too is John Key – who believes that religion is “doing the right thing”, as opposed to submission to a heavenly being.  Contrast this with the US where, not only would it be near impossible for an agnostic or atheist to be elected to higher office but, atheists are the least trusted segment of the population. 

Coming from New Zealand – where the 2006 Census showed that nearly a third of the population self-identify as ’non-religious‘ – I find rather bizarre that atheists are so reviled.

So where does this leave poor old Colin Craig and his Conservative Party?  Although there is no doubt that Colin Craig is a Christian he doesn’t, in fact, attend church and his Party policy page doesn’t provide much insight into his proposed method of governance – aside from being tough on crime while oddly libertarian in some aspects but a freaking hard line conservative in others.

Will the New Zealand populace accept a religious social conservative comparable to Rick Santorum on sexual issues, Newt Gingrich when it comes to personal wealth and Rick Perry on his bizarre bloodlust when it comes to crime? 

History doesn't seem to be on Craig’s side and the closest New Zealand has been previously to any type of socially conservative and/or religiously motivated political power was the Christian Heritage Party….and we all remember what happened then…

4 comments:

  1. Pascal's bookie10 May 2012 17:01

    I'd like this to be true, so I have a lot of sympathy for it. It's certainly true that we are much more secular than the US, and 'culture war' issues are not as pronounced here.

    Obviously I have a 'but' coming, and it's more in the sense of a devil's advocate than anything else.

    Consider:

    1) The civil union deabate was vicious and close run. The National opposition used the debate quite effectively to frame Clarke's government as not 'mainstream'. The reputation labour still has of having strayed from its roots and of being more concerned with 'urban liberals' than of 'normal hard working kiwis' largely stems from the debate around Civil Unions.

    2) Christian Conservative parties have managed to get 3-4% quite regularly, and Craigsparty did better than many expected on its first run out, even with very little media coverage and no realistic chance of getting into parliament.

    3) ACT, campaigning in Epsom, never really campaigned as ACT. They campaigned as 'some extra seats to keep the dreaded red hordes away from your money'. Conservatives would be running the same role.

    The question is not, "Do Epsom voters want Craig"; It's "Is having Craig+National worse than having Labour+Greens"

    Given they voted for Banks, I'm not sure they'd throw away 3-4 seats for a National govt in a clsoe race.

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  2. Interesting points, I'll respond as you raised them...

    1) The civil union debate was very close, both politically and publicly, an National quite logically took the contrarian route (mind the pun) as most opposition parties do in relation the the ruling parties position. Tellingly though National has made no move to repeal it.

    2) Agreed, Craig's party did do alright but their message through the campaign was quite populist and they never really gave much away in policy

    3) National could quite comfortably win with Paul Goldsmith over Craig so he wouldn't necessarily be stood to keep the red menace at bay.

    Your points are well taken though.

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  3. Another point. The Conservatives got 2.65% of the vote.

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  4. Hey, chuck (sorry for the delay in my response). I'll fix it up

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