Guest post by John Stringer.
CHRISTIAN POLITICS in NZ, National and 2020.
The conservative “family values” vote is the largest unrepresented block in NZ. It’s often bigger than the Maori roll vote results and has polled strongly (4.2-3.9%) and consistently (1996-2014) when viable leadership has been in place. The ‘Christian vote’ on occasions in the past achieved 4x that of combined smaller parties who were ‘elected’ to parliament on coat-tail arrangements but remained unrepresented. The system is worked and accommodated, but so far Christians have remained unrepresented at party level (although many MPs share these values inside other parties). One of the issues is the reticence of mainstream parties to accommodate the contentious issues such as abortion or gender-politics at party level.
I’ve been at the forefront of this for many decades while still a National supporter and even staffer. I was seconded by National to assist the Christian Coalition in 1996 (the first MMP election) and was one of the pioneers of the Christian Democrats party set up under National minister of Internal Affairs Hon Graeme Lee. His daughter is now a National MP and ex-president of the United party (an ostensible Christian entity) under Dunne who eventually absorbed the remnants and morphologies of the Christian Democrats (United, Family parties etc).
I was Campaign Director of the Coalition campaign in 1996, and a List candidate for the Conservatives in 2014, so I’ve seen up close and personal with the interface of Christian politics and progressive liberalism in NZ. In 1996 the Christian Coalition got 4.2% of the party vote in a high turnout election, which worked against them; as did Rev. Graham Capill’s undesirable co-leadership (eventually jailed for sex crimes).
In 2011 and 2014 the new Conservative party got 2.6% and 3.9% of the List vote, hindered by Colin Craig’s leadership. I finally blew the whistle on Craig, after much long suffering, in 2015 after trying to salvage the Conservative party and build a stronger team leadership model internally for 2017, to help offset some of Craig’s excesses and give him space to attend to his private life and family. He simply sued me, not once but twice, as Capill also tried to do.
As many political commentators and media have agreed, there remains a place for a Christian values type party in NZ, as there is in Germany and Israel (both of whom have MMP). But the 5% threshold in NZ is too high for our population base, as the Electoral Commission review noted, which has effectively kept a Christian voice out of party politics here. A seat accommodation is the only prospect, as sought quite strongly by the Conservatives in 2013-4 but mismanaged by them with John Key.
Of interest is the growing conservative movement against abortion amongst young people in America that transcends Republican or Democrat tribal affiliations. Millennials see abortion essentially as a human rights issues. Liberal legislative moves to effectively allow infanticide under the umbrella of abortion, has polarised opinion. Montana State’s legislative ban this week on abortion after eight weeks, is perhaps a milestone of that growing development in the US. It may spread inevitably here and to Australia.
Like Dunne and Seymour, if National MP Alfred Ngaro was to be supported in Botany by National, and won that seat, then there is a 4-5% List vote block available in the spectrum for a party with perspectives on abortion, cannabis reform, gender politics, euthanasia, smacking bills, family politics and other issues of distinct interest to conservative, religious and values-minded NZers. The Israel Folau debacle in Australia, with obvious ties to us here, has added ‘freedom of religion’ to freedom of speech debates, so the spectrum of interest has only widened, enlarging the potential voter pool. In 1996, many voters, including Jews, Buddhists, Mormons and Muslims, joined the Christian Coalition as it was a political base they wanted and could support.
Watch this space.
John Stringer is a long-time advocate of a conservative/Christian model in NZ politics; was a National candidate in 1999 against NZ’s first openly gay MP; founded the widely supported special interest group Christian Voice inside National in 2000s; Campaign Director of the Christian Coalition in 1996 (seconded from National); and a ‘make-up-the-numbers’ Conservative list candidate in 2014.