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Chris Ford: The Colin Craig saga: Why do the Right's other parties hate the Conservatives?

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

It seems that Colin Craig's Conservative Party - and Craig himself - are coming apart over his 'inappropriate' behaviour plus other internal party frictions. What does intrigue me is that the real antipathy towards the Conservatives by the other main parties of the Right - National, ACT,  New Zealand First and United Future - has really come to the fore in recent days.

The nation first got wind of the allegations against Craig via Cameron Slater's Whale Oil blog late last week. This caused me to think why would allegations about Craig appear on this awfully notorious Right wing website? The only thing I could think of is that the supporters of Judith Collins would like nothing more than a few hundred or so more members to drift over to National and, therefore, be ready to support her when the time comes to mount a leadership bid against John Key.

For the rest of the National Party, it seems that there is an opportunity to get rid of an irritant party. I say that they may well view it as an irritant party given that the Conservatives polled 3.9 percent of the vote at the last election. Otherwise, the Conservative vote would have overwhelmingly favoured National. If that had been the caste John Key and the Nats would today be governing in their own right as a single-party majority government which wasn't necessarily reliant on the votes of ACT, United Future and the Maori Party. No wonder that the PM is showing barely disguised delight at the impending death of the Conservatives - even if the allegations swirling around Craig relating to his 'inappropriate behaviour' (as Craig himself put it) are a bit too uncomfortable for Key given his own recent exposure for pulling the ponytail of a young waitress (even though the exact allegations against Craig being implied by his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor are not yet publicly known due to a gagging order).

New Zealand First, meanwhile, has hated having another socially conservative movement touting a no assets sales pledge around. The fact that NZ First wants both the centre and socially conservative spaces on the political specturm to themselves is why Winston Peters and his merry band of travellers would be happy to see the Conservatives scattered to the four winds of the earth.

ACT, on the other hand, would no doubt see the demise of the Conservatives as a phyrric victory for their brand of social libertarianism. Intrinsically, all parties of the centre-right share (more or less) an attachment to laissez-faire market economics but the Conservatives and ACT differ on such issues as, for example,  drug and alcohol law reform.

United Future would probably share similar sentiments to those held by both ACT and New Zealand. In fact, in one parliamentary debate last year, Peter Dunne signalled out two parties, one being the Conservatives and the other being Internet-Mana, as being personal vanity projects for their leaders. To an extent, he was right about Internet-Mana but moreso the Conservatives who have existed as a one-person band for so long.

Thus, the New Zealand Right is now breathing a sigh of relief (for various but not totally dissimilar reasons) about the impending demise of the Conservatives. I have to say that, frankly, the Left have shared some reactions with the Right in terms of being pleased to see the back of another 'holier-than-thou' Christian-oriented party and another leader who has not lived up to the moral and political imperatives of social conservatism.

At the end of the day, hypocrisy will see the end of Colin Craig - and there's a lesson for all political parties and their leaders in what has happened to him and his party, especially for those parties of the Right.

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