Gordon Campbell on National’s electorate deals

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For all the talk yesterday from Prime Minister John Key about National being transparent about its electorate deals in Epsom and Ohariu, that transparency is entirely front-loaded. Yes, we know a lot about how Act and United Future are going to get into Parliament, but we know nothing at all about the policy concessions lying in wait in their coalition agreements afterwards. The rorting of MMP is not so much in the manner by which these sham parties get into Parliament – it is in the secretive way their pet policies are foisted on the electorate once they’re there.

After the 2011 election for instance, the country was suddenly landed with charter schools – a policy that cost tens of millions of dollars and has major implications for our education system. Yet there was not a whisper about charter schools during the election campaign. It received no mandate from the voters who ended up paying for it. By such means, the Act Party gets a free ride for ideas it has imported from the US lunatic fringe, and for which it is unable to earn a mandate from voters. That’s pretty rich for a party that preaches an ideology of self reliance for everyone else. Routinely, Act gets policy gains it hasn’t earned.

National has to come clean about the policy implications of its electorate deals. On the campaign trail it needs to promise it will not accede (in a coalition agreement) to any policies that voters have not been told about, and not been given the chance to vote upon, beforehand. Voters need to have full knowledge of what policies a party vote for National nationwide – and an electorate vote for Act in Epsom – will bring to pass. Without such transparency, the Act Party – now a fully owned and operated franchise of the National Party – will continue to be a vehicle through which National gets to funnel policies of the extreme right, without doing harm to its own moderate, mainstream brand. That image of moderation is deceptive, if the extremism is merely being outsourced. All we got yesterday were the mechanics of the electorate deals. What we need to be told – well before September 19 – are their policy implications for a third term John Key government.

What a bad, bad week Colin Craig is having. National didn’t want to do a deal with him, and the Electoral Commission rejected his election logo.

It has been an entirely bad 2014, for that matter. For a while there late last year, Craig and his Conservative Party had looked like the Next Big Thing, the must-have ingredient in any electable centre-right coalition government. There were headlines aplenty for the Conservatives : some good, some not quite so good. Yet by yesterday… it had all come to ashes. Prime Minister John Key went out of his way to do electorate deals with rank dependents like the Act Party in Epsom, and United Future in Ohariu. National candidates would run in those seats, but would focus only on the party vote.

When it came to the Conservatives, there was nothing. Nothing for Craig but the unpleasant prospect of an uphill battle against Murray McCully – who is such a shoo-in that he probably needn’t even bother to turn up, while Craig will be condemned to stumping the mean streets of East Coat Bays for every last vote he can get, hoping for charity from some kind centre-right voters willing to throw a few tactical ballots in his direction. The only thing that Key is offering is the possibility of looking at working with the Conservatives, if and when Craig and the Conservatives get across the 5% threshold under their own steam. In last weekend’s ONE Colmar Brunton poll, the Conservatives were well shy, at 2%.

Golly. Darn. Craig could be forgiven for feeling vexed. This is what he gets for steadfastly dialing back and dialing back the ultra-Christian propensities of the Conservatives, so they could brush up nice and look like a right and proper secular partner for National in government. Craig did that. He kept saying the Conservatives were a modern secular party with values, and that they were not…you know…the political arm of the Promise Keepers in disguise.

Craig could be forgiven for thinking that he might have done a whole lot better by roaring out of the gate like a genuine Christian party, and dialing it back later. After all, the fully branded Christian Coalition got 4.33 % back in 1996 and came within a whisker of getting into Parliament.

Armed with Craig’s deep financial resources, surely a pro-smacking*, Dad’s the Boss, anti-gay marriage, Just Say No Christian political party could by now be sitting far closer to 5% than where the eccentric, avowedly secular Conservative Party finds itself today. After all, the Lord Himself wasn’t all that keen (see Rev. 3:16) on the lukewarm, middle of the road stuff.

Usher has the answer. Oh burn. If Colin Craig wants a little consolation about the relationship that went wrong – what better consolee than Usher, and his epic torch song “Burn”….

Really wanna work this out
But I don’t think you’re gonna change
I do but you don’t…
Think it’s best we go our separate ways
Tell me why I should stay in this relationship
When I’m hurting baby, I ain’t happy baby
Plus theres so many other things I gotta deal with

When your feeling ain’t the same and your body don’t want to
But you know gotta let it go,

Cause the party ain’t jumpin’ like it used to…
Let it burn

Exactly. Unrequited, love-gone-cold is hard, but it can feel liberating to leave the heartache behind, and if you’ve got the right moves and the right set of wheels…good things may still happen.

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* formerly and incorrectly this said ‘anti-smacking’