Gordon Campbell on Colin Craig’s move in East Coast Bays, and the Liu affair

The dancing-at-a-distance relationship between National and Colin Craig’s Conservative Party has just entered a new phase with the announcement that Craig will be contesting the East Coast Bays seat held by Foreign Minister Murray McCully. For National, this arrangement will preserve the fiction for as long as possible that National will not really be responsible for Craig getting into Parliament. For Craig, the apparent lack of an electorate deal will be the best way to motivate the faithful nationwide to try and hit that 5% MMP threshold. Thus, if and when an electorate deal finally gets unveiled, National will have got more bang for its buck – and more Conservative MPs in Parliament – than a simple, premature deal in East Coast Bays would have produced. All up, it looks like a classic piece of MMP politicking.

Meanwhile, Labour continues to struggle to extract itself from the Donghua Liu affair, which has now sunk into a form of political trench warfare. Claims and counter claims are being lobbed over a No Man’s Land of no electoral value whatsoever. More to the point, the time when Liu could be usefully portrayed as the poster child for National’s links to its wealthy donors now seems like a very distant memory – regardless of whether Labour did or didn’t have a relationship with him as well.

At the very least, the photograph of Rick Barker – at the time, a Labour Cabinet Minister – with Liu’s partner and a bottle of wine looks embarrassing. It can only fuel the perception that Donghua Liu has made a point of being on friendly terms with who-ever is in power, regardless of their political hue. Could Labour have avoided all this if its leader hadn’t walked straight into an obvious media trap early last week – and had issued less sweeping denials (a) of advocacy on Liu’s behalf and (b) of taking donations from him? Undoubtedly.

Well, he didn’t. As a result, the Liu affair has pinned Labour down around its own goal line for over a week, appealing in vain to the referee because its opponents have been running a smear campaign. (Well, yeah. That’s what they do. There’s no sympathy vote to be won here.) For National, it has meant that Prime Minister John Key has been given room to play the international statesman at the White House with his golfing buddy and holiday home neighbour, Barack Obama. It doesn’t get much easier.

Given its current troubles, Labour’s party list – which will be released later today will need to be read in conjunction with the next round of political polls. Labour will be hoping that last week’s 23% poll shocker will not be repeated. On current list rankings, even a 25-27% outcome for Labour would put Jacinda Ardern, Clayton Cosgrove and even Andrew Little and Maryan Street at risk. During the campaign proper of course Labour can expect to do much better – but for now, it does put an edge on just where the balance is to be struck between existing MPs and new blood, especially given the need to boost the representation of women in the parliamentary caucus. Labour would need to be polling in the mid to high 30s in order to juggle all of those factors painlessly.

Deliverance, Rockabilly Style
In the late 1950s, rockabilly was the Lotto of the white working class. It you could catch rock’n’roll lightning in a bottle just one time – maybe you could get the hell out of Hicksville and have yourself a good time, with a fine car and a fine-looking woman riding alongside ‘a yew. Wouldn’t that be fun? A lot of hillbilly kids were willing to give it a shot, and they’ve left behind a string of classic one-off records. Here’s three – from about fifty that I can think of, offhand. In Kip Tyler’s “She’s My Witch” even the sax solo sounds downright dirty. Dwight Pullen’s “Sunglasses After Dark” proves that hipsters are eternal, and in “Gang War” by Gene Maltais, even shining up your boots with shoe polish can be taken as a sign of evil intentions.