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.