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Keith Ng on the election trail | Sep 12, 2005 06:02

Things are looking a bit dire for Wellington Central candidate Mark Blumsky at the moment. First he was beaten up before the campaign really even got started; his campaign HQ, which he got through some connection or other, got taken back two weeks ago (at least his apartment is nice. Lots of stairs, though.); then I hear from people deserting from his core campaign team that there's a lot of frustration in the ranks (fingers were pointed at one David Farrar, actually); and *then* the DomPost came out with a poll showing incumbent Marian Hobbs 16-points ahead. Ouch.

As if all of that isn't bad enough, the gossip/speculation about his assault early in the campaign has reached saturation point among Wellington's chattering class. Journalists have been on to it for a while now, so the fact that nothing's been published could mean that the gossip was unsubstantiated or at least unsubstantiatable (or they're waiting until later in the week), but at the current rate, it doesn't need to be published - the majority of voters in Wellington would have heard about it before the week is out!

But Blumsky was just a segway, actually, into United Future. Sure, they're just on 2%, so who cares? But it was nonetheless interesting to hear Blumsky - a former president of UF - talk about their membership base. This is from an interview I did with Blumsky last Tuesday - just before Brash got with Dunne:

I just want to ask a few questions about the time you spent as the President of the United Future party last year. Did you consider yourself socially liberal then?

Very. At no stage was I ever actually asked my opinion on civil unions, at no stage did I vote, at no stage did we develop policies. I was only there for 6 months, the whole point was to get the board and the party organised for an election coming up. Don't forget I was only there for 6 months.

Peter Dunne asked me [to be the president] - he's a very good friend - [and] philosophically, they're not that far [a] fit from the Nats, so I was happy to do Peter a favour. But I realised I just didn't fit, at the end of the day, so I was happy to move on.

Hang on, if you didn't fit with United Future, and United Future is philosophically close to the Nats...

No, it's the people. Not so much the close people, because I knew Peter very well, and he hasn't changed his stripes at all. I suppose I was surprised, when I got to the outer regions, [that] the mix of people in the party was different to the mix I had met in Wellington. They had very strong feelings on... how do I put it... I got a lot of emails that were quoting various scriptures or looking for... I mean... and these are the wider... and it's just not my space.

Are you concerned that the same socially conservative element exists in the National Party?

It wasn't the social conservatism that scared me about United Future, it was the... some of them are very fanatical in how they see religion and politics tied up. So that's why I [said] that I get scriptures or [bible] quotes sent through, and [they thought that] these should be driving, divining reasons for me to be doing things, because it was quoted in this Book of Jeremiah or whatever.

When I travelled the country with United Future, I realised just how many of these people were involved in the party. And they weren't slow in letting me know their feelings. I realised if I was to stand tall as the President of United Future, I had to be more all-encompassing to the wider United Future group than just the Wellington team. So it was nothing to do with social conservatism, it was all to do with how they saw their religion in helping decide how they live their life.


So there you have it, the secret is out: United Future is actually a bunch of fundies.

Remember - you heard it here first.

Seriously, though, the role of religion in New Zealand politics is interesting. It is... menacing, really. Maybe it's just us godless Wellingtonian inclusive heathens who think this way, but it seems like any party with a religious undertone is seen as one destined towards theocracy. Why else would UF try so hard to hide their religiosity?

Even Destiny tries (albeit, very very badly) to distance themselves from religion. Their Wellington candidate, speaking at Vic, exclaimed that Destiny Party is completely distinct from Destiny Church, and said that the connection between the two is as loose as the Labour Party and the International Labour Organisation.

All this makes me wonder how big a part our... er... "god-fearing" play in the Exclusive Brethren thing (I hope they haven't named a "-gate" after it and forgot to tell me. My vote is for Heavensgate). Anyway, as with these things, the response has become the story, so I guess the funny church people will be returned to the box from whence they came...

Actually, I'm not so sure about that, either. The Greens have come out with yet another coup - they've found that the pamphlets the Brethrens were distributing are variants of ones used in Tasmania last year. Maybe Exclusive Brethrens don't believe in this whole copyright thing (well, if everything is created by God, then what's property, anyway?).

And the busy bees over at Frogblog also dug up this gem from Brash's "Baloney" speech, in response to Brash calling all the attacks on his credibility a "distraction":

Today, I want you to know that the credibility of Helen Clark, the ability of our Prime Minister to tell the truth, the ability of her Ministers to tell the truth and to give honest answers in our Parliament, is firmly on the agenda as an issue for the 2005 general election. I make no apology for that.

New Zealanders have had enough of the culture of evasion, deceit and half-truth which characterises not just this Prime Minister but her Cabinet, and in a few weeks' time they will have the opportunity to do something about it.

If nothing else, I think the Greens have won the investigative-thriller votes.

[Tom Scott has been delayed until possibly after the election.]

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