Conservative Party candidates referred to Police

April 17th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Electoral Commission has announced:

On 15 April 2013, the Electoral Commission referred Larry Baldock and Peter Redman, Conservative Party of New Zealand candidates at the 2011 general election, to Police for filing a false Candidate Election Expenses and Donations Return.

It is an offence under section 205N of the Erlectoral Act 1993 for a candidate to file a false return.

The Electoral Commission has also referred Larry Baldock for paying, or arranging another person to pay, election expenses in excess of the $25,000 maximum specified in section 205C of the Electoral Act 1993.  This is an offence under section 205F of the Act.

This is quite rare. Reading between the lines it looks like some election expenses were not declared, and in the case of Baldock those expenses would have put him over the $25,000 limit.

Baldock stood for Tauranga and got 1,512 votes or 4.2%. Peter Redman stood for Bay of Plenty and got 1,306 votes or 3.7%.

Peter Redman declared no donations and $42 of expenses.

Baldock declared a donation of $24,900 from the Conservative Party and $24,900 of expenses so I’d say it is about some sort of undeclared expense. Maybe it was a joint advertisement for Baldock and Redman and they attributed it all to the party, rather than to each candidate? We’ll find out in due course.

Of course the Police may do nothing, as is often the case. No Right Turn undiplomatically puts it like this:

Of course, we know what will happen: the police will take the complaint, and then forget about it, just as they have with virtually every other complaint referred to them by the Electoral Commission. The police simply don’t care about electoral law. If you steal a television, they’ll throw you in jail. Try to steal an election, and they ignore it.

As they did with Labour in 2005.

This is not the first time the Conservative Party has had issues with its returns. I blogged on these last May.

UPDATE: This NZ Herald story has more details on what may be the issue.

Also of interest to me is that Baldock got only 206 votes more than Redman despite Baldock spending the maximum $25,000 and Redman basically zero. This reinforces again to me that advertising has only a minor impact on votes.

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Are they Scientologists?

October 4th, 2012 at 7:00 pm by David Farrar

Note the free personality test on offer!

Scientology is know to recruit people by offering them free personality tests also. Is there a link? :-)

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Conservatives and Epsom

September 24th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Isaac Davidson reports:

The Conservative Party has refused to say whether it will compete for Act leader John Banks’ Epsom seat.

After its first annual conference at the weekend, the party said it was focused on reaching the 5 per cent party vote threshold.

Leader Colin Craig believes the party has already won votes from disillusioned Act supporters and that its fiscal and moral conservatism will appeal to the Epsom electorate.

“I think Epsom is quite a morally conservative electorate,” he said yesterday. “If you look at the ethnic breakdown of Epsom, particularly the Asian community … they are very strong on family, they are very strong on business, and on law and order. They are a good fit for Conservative.”

Actually I would say Epsom is more liberal than other electorates such as Tamaki.

My belief is that Paul Goldsmith will become MP for Epsom at the next election, so long as his name is on the ballot paper. I don’t think Epsom wants to become the tactical voting capital of NZ.

If I was advising the Conservatives, I’d tell them to look for a seat where it is likely a National MP will retire in 2014. Their chances are best there.

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The Helensville poll

September 4th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Conservatives hired Research First to poll Helensville voters on the issue of gay marriage and gay adoption.

About 89 per cent said their MP should consult their electorate over conscience votes and vote the way voters wanted them to, it found.

While the majority did sat y they want their MP to vote as they say (no surprise), there are a few things to note about the poll. If you look at the small print on the pamphlet, it is actually a poll of both Helensville and Rodney electorates.

The full poll results are online on the Conservative Party website. It was done by Research First.

I blogged last year my criticisms of the poll done by Research First for the Conservatives in Rodney. It purported to show Craig ahead of the National candidate and had serious flaws such as mixing results from an unprompted question with a prompted question. It is a matter of record that Craig lost the seat by over 12,000 votes.

I’m pleased to say that this poll is, in my opinion, much sounder than last year’s Rodney one. In fact in some areas it is more transparent than almost any other poll report. There are also some areas you can be critical, and I’ll get into those also, but first I’ll highlight the really good stuff that Research First have done with this poll.

  1. The full report has been made available online.
  2. They disclose their call-back policy – a laudable six times.
  3. They disclose their response rate, and detail the reasons for non-response. This is an A+ level of transparency. I don’t think I have seen another NZ poll report that does this.
  4. They disclose their demographic breakdown, and what variables they weighted on.
  5. They include the full questionnaire as an appendix to the report.
  6. The question order appears to be sound, with the question on marriage vs civil unions at the beginning of the poll
So full credit to Research First for their report. In some ways, it is a model of transparency.
It is only by being so transparent, can one have full scrutiny of results of a poll. Now with that in mind, I am going to comment on a few areas, where I would have done things differently. But bear in mind that almost all polling reports will have areas where you can argue about question wording and the like. This would not be unique to Research First. I do think the Rodney poll last year was a long way short of best practice, but this poll is a huge improvement, and in some areas excellent.
But I would make the following points, in interpreting the poll.
  • The poll is of both Helensville and Rodney residents, but does not disclose the actual number of respondents in each electorate. The 355 responses have a margin of error of 5.2% but if half came from each electorate the margin of error for each is 7.5%. As it was used for a pamphlet targeting Helensville, it would be nice to have the numbers for that electorate only, and even the results for each of the two electorates if they are statistically significant.
  • The question asking if they agree or disagree “Environment, upbringing, life experiences and personal relationships all influence personal choice when it comes to sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity” is not a particularly helpful one as it mixes in sex and sexual orientation. Of course upbringing, life experiences and relationships influence your personal choices when it comes to sex. But for most people it does not influence their sexual orientation. It is best to avoid questions that list several things, with the possibility they agree with some and disagree with some. I don’t think the results to that question can be interpreted to mean anything. I personally could not answer agree or disagree to that question as it is both.
  • The question “It is ideal that adopted children be raised by a mum and a dad (ie a heterosexual couple) rather than two mums or two dads (ie a homosexual couple)” is a perfectly valid question. However I would note that this does not mean someone agreeing is against same sex couples being able to adopt. I would agree with that statement as an ideal, yet I also think same sex couples should be able to adopt if it is in the best interests of the child. So nothing wrong with that question, but be careful that it is not interpreted beyond what it said.
  • The statement “Are you aware that the proposed change will enable gay couples to adopt children as a couple under the Adoption Act 1955?” makes an assertion that is not necessarily the case. It is unclear whether the changes to the Marriage Act will enable a married same sex couple to adopt. One part of the Adoption Act refers to merely spouses, while another refers to “husband and wife”. There is a diversity of opinion on what the impact will be, and I suspect a Judge would eventually decide. So it would have been better to say “may” rather than “will”.
  • The Conservative Party pamphlet claims 89% agree that your local MP should consult their electorate and vote the way you want them to. This is wrong. The findings are 69% say they should consult and vote as the electorate says. 20% say they should consult and make up their own mind. Note that this error is not anything to do with Research First, but instead the Conservative Party.
  • I’d also make the general point that while people were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with a number of statements, respondents were never asked a direct question on the Wall bill such as “Do you think your MP should vote for or against Louisa Wall’s bill which would allow same sex couples to marry”. This is not a criticism. There is no obligation to ask questions that you may not like the results of. I’m just pointing out that agreement with an assertion over civil unions and marriage is not the same thing as a more specific question on the bill.
  • This is debatable, but you could make a case for using the term “same sex marriage bill” rather than the “gay marriage” bill. Likewise the statement “If the definition of marriage is changed, as proposed by the bill, it will enable gays to adopt children as a couple under the Adoption Act 1955″ is less than ideal, talking about “gays” rather than “same sex couples” or even “gay and lesbian couples”.

None of the above are show-stoppers. As I said, I’m pleased with the level of transparency, which allows a critique to be done. Alison McCulloch did a critique of polls done by Curia earlier this year.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention one other issue which occurred to me. Respondents were told up-front that the poll was on gay marriage, and this led to around 100 people saying they didn’t want to take part. This may have impacted the results a bit also, as it is more likely those with strong views on the issue will want to take part. Ideally, in my opinion, you want to tell respondents generally what the poll is about (such as saying “on a current political issue) but need to be careful not to be too specific as it may then become a bit self-selecting.

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Some Conservative legal problems

May 28th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig loaned $1.9 million to his party for its election expenses, but this month wrote off $1.6 million of that loan as a donation.

A $1.6 million donation was disclosed to the Electoral Commission on May 18 under the law requiring donations of more than $30,000 to be declared within 20 working days.

The party’s election return was also filed with the Electoral Commission on May 18 – about two months late – and it listed no donations over the disclosure threshold of $15,000 and only $11,791.50 in smaller sums.

There are numerous issues here, which may have some legal consequences. For a start one could dispute whether the loan was even a loan, when there was obviously no capacity to repay. So the first issue is was it a genuine loan, or should it always have been treated and disclosed as a donation.

The second issue is the interest on the loan. Let’s start with what the Electoral Act says on interest free loans. S207 defines a party donation as including:

where credit is provided to a party on terms and conditions substantially more favourable than the commercial terms and conditions prevailing at the time for the same or similar credit, the value to the party of those more favourable terms and conditions

So how big is the value of a $1.9m interest free loan?

Mr Craig said his company, Centurion Management, had paid the bills for the Conservatives’ campaign totalling $1.55 million during 2011, and subsequently billed the party for the amount.

We’ll come back to the legality of having a company pay bill on behalf of a political party.

The auditor’s report with the donation return said it was possible that Mr Craig’s $1.6 million should be listed in the donation return for election year – rather than now – if it was deemed to be a donation on the date the bills were originally paid by way of a loan, rather than the date the debt was forgiven.

And if it was a donation at the time the bills were paid, it was not disclosed when it was meant to.

Mr Craig said the party had treated the bill payments by Centurion on its behalf as credit on favourable grounds and declared interest on that at a rate of 12 per cent, which totalled a $10,590.50 donation in its return.

This is where the numbers do not add up. An annual interest rate of 12% is equal to a daily rate of 0.033%. Which means from the day the $1.6m bills were paid, daily interest of $526 is accrued.

Now if over $15,000 of interest was accrued before 31 December 2011, then a donation should have been disclosed in their donation return. This means that if the bills were paid before 3 December 2011, then the Conservatives have failed to disclose the donation in their annual return. The Electoral Commission needs to determine when bills were actually paid, to determine this.

However the larger problem may be the requirement to immediately disclose any donation over $30,000. Once that $1.6m had been paid for more than 57 days, then it needed to be disclosed. Now the overall donation was disclosed on 17 May 2012. S210C(6) states:

A return must be filed under subsection (1) or (2) within 10 working days of the donation being received by the party secretary.

This means that if the value of the foregone interest exceeded $30,000 by 03 May 2012, then it should have been disclosed before 17 May 2012. Now when is the latest the expenses should have been paid. S206E states:

A claim that is sent to the party secretary in accordance with subsection (1) must be paid within 40 working days after the day on which the declaration required by section 193(5) is made.

The declaration referred to is the declaration of election results. This was on 17 December 2012. So the bills must be paid within 40 working days. But a working day excludes any days between 25 December and 15 January. So 40 working days after 17 December is the 5th of March. This is the last possible day the advertising bills were paid. Personally I would be surprised if they were not paid in December, as people get grumpy if not paid.

The interest that would accrue between the 5th of March and the 3rd of May is $31,000 approx. So even under the most favourable legal timings I would say they also breached the continuous disclosure rule.

But on top of this we have the murky fact that the bills were paid by Centurion Management. One can either treat Centurion as an agent of the party, or as an outside entity. If it was an outside entity, then Centurion should have billed the Conservatives by the 5th of February and been paid by the 5th of March. It appears they were not paid until the mid May, when Craig repaid them. So that arrangement is also legally suspect.

If they were acting as an agent of the Conservatives (like an ad agency would), well was this documented. Of importance is that Centurion is not the private company of Colin Craig. He owns 55% and his wife 40%, but 5% is owned by a Stephen and Sarah Plummer.  Mr Plummer is a director. Did the Board formally approve the use of Centurion to act on behalf of the Conservatives and pay all their bills for them?

So I’d say there are a huge number of issues for the Electoral Commission to gets its head around. At a minimum they need details of when actual bills were paid, and then calculate foregone interest from those dates.

It is worth noting that Craig was open about the fact he was bankrolling the campaign for the party he leads. However that doesn’t mean one can ignore the rules. What Colin Craig should have done is set up a bank account for the Conservatives from the moment it was registered, donated the money to them upfront, and then have the party pays bill directly and disclose his donation within 10 working days. The way he has gone about it, has not been clean. Private companies should not be paying bills on behalf a registered political parties, and the loan should have been treated as a donation from the start as there was never any possibility of significant repayment.

It will be interesting to see what the Electoral Commission determines.

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In bed with the Conservatives

May 11th, 2012 at 11:56 am by David Farrar

My column in the NZ Herald is on the potential coalition partners for National in 2014, with most focus on the Conservatives:

But then came Craig’s comments on National’s plans to provide free contraceptives to women on a benefit. He said young New Zealand women were the most promiscuous in the world and that a monogamous 70 year old woman shouldn’t pay for a young woman to sleep around.

Mr Craig’s effective labelling of young New Zealand women as sluts was bad enough, but the lack of any recognition that it takes two to tango, and no condemnation of young promiscuous men outraged women (and men) from across the political spectrum. Twitter, as usual, was a source of equal mixtures of outrage and humour as one man tweeted they he for one “welcomes our new promiscuous women overlords”.

John Key himself came out and dissed the comments by Mr Craig. The next day he declared he was not opposed to gay marriage – something we can assume the Conservative Party is vehemently against. So even if the Conservatives can make it into Parliament, any relationship with National is likely to be rather stressful.

In summary there are not a lot of good options for National in terms of post 2014 partners, just a variety of “less bad” options. 

Sigh!

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Will CCCP replace ACT?

May 5th, 2012 at 4:14 pm by David Farrar

An interesting discussion on The Nation with Colin Craig of the CCCP. Some extracts:

Duncan        Well is does, it means 5% probably, but economically you don’t line up with those on the right do you, because you don’t believe in those taxcuts that John Key did.  You don’t believe in asset sales.

Colin            Be a matter of timing only…

Duncan        We’ll get to that, but you don’t believe in the foreign investment around Crafer Farms, do you?

Colin            No I don’t, I think the Crafer Farms is a bad deal for New Zealand.

I see little to distinguish the CCCP economic policy from NZ First. I guess one difference is the leadership – Colin Craig better a slightly more palatable option than Winston.

Duncan        What would be a deal breaker around policy for a Conservative Party, what is so important to you?

Colin            I think issues for us very much fiscal and budget issues.  We can’t support continued increase in government expending.  Now National made a clear promise they would cut the spending, but did not.  Now for us we’ve got to bring the budget back under control.

Duncan        So you’re saying they’re not doing enough?

Colin            No, they’re not.  I don’t think they’ve made the brave or the hard decisions they should have made.

Duncan        Well you’ve had two zero budgets, with the second one of course coming up in two weeks’ time.  What would you have done differently.  Are you saying you would have gone much further than that.  Conservative Party in a future government would be pushing for much tougher cuts?

Colin            Yeah, in our current situation absolutely.

Duncan        What would you get rid of?

Colin            I would look at any spending that’s not delivering results and say well no results no money.

Duncan        But can you give me examples of what you would get rid of?

Colin            One example would be say the Family Court where we spend heading towards 200 million.  Now the model that’s used overseas that works very well is not one where we arm you know disputing partners with lawyers and put them in a court.  It’s a mediation model, it has a much higher success rate, and it costs less money to run.  So that’s just one example where we’d say gotta be far more innovative around our spending.

Here though they have some appeal. Winston demands extra spending/bribes regardless of the fiscal situation. Craig wants to cut spending. Not sure I agree on the Family Court (and the cost is $137m, not $200m) but all for a party supporting cutting wasteful spending.

Duncan        Colin Craig do you think that you could be a long term partner for a National Party?

Colin            Oh I think we could be obviously.  We’re a small party, we’re only six months in, so we’re very young, but we’re growing, we’re still growing.

Duncan        But you’d put aside some of your disagreements around those central economic…?

Colin            Inevitably in politics you can’t get everything you want.  That’s just how politics is.

This is a significant change from the election. Maybe Colin Craig is listening to some good advice now. He went into the campaign declaring he could support National or Labour, so why would centre-right voters vote for him? He also declared certain policies non negotiable, which is unwise at 2%.

I would prefer a classical liberal partner for National. But I’d take a Conservative Party partner over having no partner at all – so long as their policies are not worse than the alternative of a Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana Government.

 

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Obviously not a compassionate conservative

December 11th, 2011 at 9:58 am by David Farrar

Dave at Big News blogs:

Kevin Campbell is the campaign manager for the Conservative Party. Prior to the election he was very happy in using Facebook to promote the party and most comments were of a political nature. But after the election he appears to have closed ranks after something he posted that many found offensive. Incidentally I was told by a Conservative Party candidate that they were not to use social media during the campaign.

Campbell questioned whether new Green MP Mojo Mathers, who is the world’s fifth profoundly deaf MP, should even be an MP as she didn’t have all her “faculties” – and only people who have all their faculties should be MPs. In other words, because she is deaf, she is unsuitable as an MP. Mathers became an MP after special votes were counted and I think she is perfectly suitable to be an effective MP.

I don’t support her politics, but I certainly also think Mathers is perfectly suitable to be an effective MP. We should celebrate people who overcome adversity and disability, not denigrate them.

Incidentally one of my favourite actresses is Marlee Matlin who played pollster Joey Lucas on West Wing. She’s currently on the Celebrity Apprentice and doing well.

As for Mr Campbell, I presume it is the same Mr Campbell who used to refer to the Prime Minister as “John the Jew”. Need more be said.

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Conservatives

December 1st, 2011 at 12:32 pm by David Farrar

MPs in

None

Result

5.0/10.

The Conservatives did not get into Parliament but they attracted over 55,000 votes gaining 2.8% of the vote. This exceeded expectations for a first time party with no current MPs, and wasn’t included in any of the debates. Obviously it helped that their leader, Colin Craig, could fund their campaign, rumoured to cost $1 million.

Craig came second in Rodney but only attracted 22%, miles behind Mark Mitchell who got 53%.

The Conservative tag line was “Every vote counts” which is especially ironic as none of their 55,000 votes counted. It is unknown how many people only voted for them because they believed Colin Craig would win Rodney, and hence their votes would count. I debunked the Rodney poll they pushed out, in this post.

Challenges

A major challenge for them in 2014, will be to convince people that a vote for them won’t be a wasted vote. No one in their right mind will ever again believe a poll commissioned by the Conservatives purporting to show them ahead, unless the methodology and questions are fully revealed.

A related challenge will be how to maintain momentum over three years. Not being in Parliament makes it very hard to gain publicity.

There is definitely room in the political spectrum for a conservative party. IF NZ First had failed to make it back, they could have picked up a significant portion of their vote. It is hard to see how the Conservatives can make 5% in 2014, especially with the fear of wasted vote.

Hence there is much logic to exploring a merger with John Banks. Banks seat of Epsom means they would gain seats, even if they get less than 5%. Banks has the profile and the seat, while Craig has the money and the activist base. But I am unsure that Colin Craig would accept any sort of shared leadership.

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Conservative Party policy?

November 17th, 2011 at 9:32 am by David Farrar

The Conservative Party said that they have not written all their election policy yet. Stuff reports on what it could be:

THE MIDDLE FINGER: Swearing and making rude gestures are criminal acts … and may result in significant penalties.

KISSING: Public displays of affection, such as holding hands and kissing, are socially unacceptable … arrests for public displays of affection.

UNDRESSED: In situations other than the beach or swimming pool, a woman’s clothing might be considered indecent if it is tight, transparent, above the knee or shows her stomach, shoulders or back.CHATTING UP WOMEN: It is illegal to harass women. This includes unwanted conversation, prolonged stares and glaring.

SEX: Sex outside marriage is banned. Homosexual acts and prostitution are illegal and subject to severe punishment.DRINK DRIVING: It is illegal to have any alcohol in your blood when driving.

DRUGS: a zero-tolerance policy towards drugs and penalties for drug trafficking include the death penalty or life in jail.

Dime should be very worried!

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Guest Post: John Stringer

October 28th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by John Stringer. John is indirectly responsible for my parliamentary involvement as I was hired on a four month temporary contract to replace him in 1996. I left eight years later!

The Parson’s Nose
A Conservative Column that ain’t Chicken.

Electoral Hedgehogs and CCCP (NZ).

The October registering of the new Conservative Party of New Zealand 50 days out from the 2011 general election is neither conservative nor new.

Colin Craig’s Conservative Party, forming the unfortunate acronym CCCP (Russian for USSR), is radical rather than conservative, because the party proposes to contest the sixth MMP election with less than six weeks to go.

It is not new, because in 1996 the then Right-of-Centre party – founded by disgruntled National MP and now Eastern European Ross Meurant joined by disgruntled National MP and anti-pornography campaigner Trevor Rogers – rebranded itself as the New Zealand Conservative Party. Ironically, this was in response to then Prime Minister Jim’s Bolger’s sacking of Meurant as Undersecretary for Agriculture due to a conflict-of-interest involving a CCCP-owned bank registered in Vanuatu.

Colin Craig’s NZ foray is an extension of the rise of politicised conservatism in America. Sarah Palin, Rick Perry and the Tea Party movement are all significant political players in the 2012 GOP runoff for the 45th President of the United States against arch liberal Barack Obama.

CCCP NZ is the latest Christian/conservative hedgehog on the electoral super highway. Christians were among the earliest newbies to organise for the first MMP election in 1996.

Christian Heritage (later – bemusingly – “Christian Heritage Graham Capill Party,” its leader now a convicted paedophile freshly out on bail) were among the first, working as a political party/cum lobby group from 1989 under FPP. Their particular brand of narrow Dutch Reform conservatism based on Reformed Church theology and perhaps cloistered around a narrow segment of Dutch society from our mother namesake Zeeland, was joined by National MP Graeme Lee who formed the “United Party,” later re-branded “Christian Democrats” (after the successful German MMP party), a more New Zealand-friendly model. These two were forced into a shotgun marriage by Christian leaders as the “Christian Coalition” that fought a credible first MMP campaign but missed the 5% threshold.

Earlier, Peter Dunne, a de facto National MP in Ohariu-Belmont where the Nats refrained from standing, formed his “Future NZ” party later stealing Lee’s old name “United New Zealand Party.” Ironically, the failed Christian Democrats then adopted Dunne’s cast-off “Future NZ Party.”

Perhaps to avoid further confusion, the two fused in 2000 as the “United Future NZ Party,” later “United Party.” In 2003 ‘Bishop’ Brian Tamaki founded the political wing of his church franchise “Destiny New Zealand,” Christian Heritage wasted away, and United birthed two stillborns: Kiwi Party and Family Party.

But if constant renaming is symptomatic of political minnows trying to expand themselves like electoral puffer fish, their vote results are somewhat deflating. The best chance a dedicated conservative political party has had in NZ was the Christian Coalition campaign in 1996, achieving upward of 9% poll results on the East Coast of the North Island and more votes than the Maori seats combined. But there it has climaxed, and NZ conservative politics collapsed like a CCCP wall in Berlin.

John Stringer is an ex-Anglican pastor from Christchurch, has spent 25 years in NZ politics including a stint with the Conservative Party, London, and lost his home, business, car and job in the 22/2 earthquake.

There has been a varied history of “Christian” parties trying to get into Parliament. As John says, the CCCP is around the ninth to try.

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The Conservative Party

August 3rd, 2011 at 12:11 pm by David Farrar

Colin Craig has announced the formation of a new party, the Conservative Party. Craig is a conservative, so the party is well named.

There is room in the political spectrum for a conservative party. The closest we have at the moment is New Zealand First, but of course Winston makes that party unable to be trusted. I have said in the past that if Winston was not the leader, there would be a place for NZ First.

Looking at their implicit policies, through their conservative test, the Conservative Party looks to have similar policies to NZ First – morally conservative, and economically wet.

There is an opportunity for Craig to fashion a true conservative party, which gains representation in Parliament. But there is also the possibility that it may just be a vehicle for his personal ambitions, as the parties of Peters and Anderton were. Will the Conservative Party be democratic? Will party members be able to elect a board, and select candidates? Or will Craig make all major decisions as he is the funder?

From what I can see, I don’t think I will agree with most of their policies. But there may be a segment of New Zealanders who will. It will be interesting to see how they do.

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