He’s turning out to be a bit of a slut himself. Since losing his political virginity in 2009 organising a pro-smacking march, Colin Craig has been all around town.
In 2010, he promised undying love to Aucklanders if they made him mayor. In 2011, he spent much of his Conservative Party’s $1.9 million war-chest wooing the people of Rodney. By election day, 8031 were seduced. Now, with Epsom MP John Banks on palliative care, Mr Craig is strutting his stuff around the streets of Remuera and Newmarket. Like a wannabe third wife, he’s not waiting for the funeral.
Mr Craig’s policy positions are just as promiscuous.In 2009, it was all spanking. For the mayoralty, he flashed extra cash to victims of leaky homes. In 2011, his only published policies were on law and order, citizens-initiated referenda and drugs.
Now that he’s cruising Epsom, it’s all fiscal responsibility, tax and lifting his skirt to John Key. Mr Key, still in trouble at home after a chaste cuppa with Mr Banks, would be wise to avoid a fully fledged fling with Mr Craig.
Mr Craig has no chance of winning Epsom, in a by-election or otherwise.With apologies to my fellow columnist Rodney Hide, Epsom voters have had enough of being told to vote for somewhat unusual third-party candidates to help the overall cause.
In any case, whereas Mr Hide (and even Mr Banks, theoretically) stood for mainstream free-market economics and classical liberalism, Mr Craig’s outfit is, in practice, just a vehicle for Christian fundamentalism.
His party list consists of veterans from the anti-smacking movement and Larry Baldock’s Kiwi Party, and his campaign director was drummed out of Act for calling Mr Key “John the Jew.”
The last time a similar movement got up in New Zealand – Graham Capill and Graeme Lee’s Christian Coalition in 1996 – Epsom voters were among the least susceptible to its charms.
The Christian Coalition scored 4.33% nationwide.In Epsom it pulled just 3.08%, the fifth lowest of any general seat (see table).
Epsom is a high-income, internationally sophisticated electorate where voters are less concerned about their teenagers having sex than indulging in something reckless like marriage, straight or gay. It is unlikely Mr Craig will find it fertile ground.
If his party wants to base its electoral strategy around an electorate, the 1996 data suggests he should recommit to Rodney or put down new roots in provincial New Zealand or West Auckland.
Tauranga’s 1996 result is obviously no longer relevant, with the region now a vibrant economic hub, but Mr
Craig could take his pick from the rest of the top 10 most Christian electorates, with Bill English’s Clutha-Southland and Nick Smith’s Nelson at the top of the list.
Party vote strategy
Mr Craig’s best strategy, however, is to forget about a single electorate and share his love around.
The 4.33% notched up by Mr Capill and Mr Lee in 1996 suggests the more charismatic Mr Craig can be confident of scoring 5%, especially if he focuses on core Christian fundamentalist issues.
There is no doubt that at least 5% of New Zealanders find moral degeneracy everywhere they look for it, are appalled Mr Key did a deal with Helen Clark to stop them spanking their kids, and worry that gay marriage will be forced upon them.
These are Mr Craig’s people. He is their messiah.And the MMP review is set to reduce the threshold for seats to 4%. Under that rule, even Mr Capill and Mr Lee would have made it in 1996.
Matthew Hooton is a public affairs consultant and columnist for the NBR.