Conservative Party Contradictions: To Be or Not to Be?

October 4, 2016 in General

On Monday 3rd October, the Conservative Party put out its response to the Williams v Craig verdict. Like Colin Craig, they were ‘surprised’ at its verdict, which doesn’t suggest a particularly strong legal advisor within the party, or at least not one conversant with defamation law. The Conservatives paid tribute to Colin Craig as party founder and reaffirmed their religious social conservative core values, and then engaged in brave rhetoric about not giving or lying down, despite the fact that the party had sustained hits lately. Oddly enough, given revelations about Colin Craig’s particular values and character, it affirmed the strong values and character of its ‘many supporters and members.’ Really?

On October 4, things got hazy. “It’s not happening.” With those words, the Conservative Party has perhaps dealt a terminal blow to what remains of Colin Craig’s political prospects. Party founder and former leader Colin Craig reportedly hasn’t eliminated the chance that he might return to politics once the dust from his legal battles settles. But it may not be with the party he bankrolled into existence. There’s a chance when the next election rolls around, the Conservatives won’t even be calling themselves that name anymore, given that the party brand is so tainted. Board member Leighton Baker said this on Paul Henry’s morning programme on TV3:

“Colin Craig is not a member of the party, he has no position in the party, he hasn’t been offered a position in the party and he hasn’t asked for one, so it’s not happening. Colin resigned as a member of the party, so he’s got nothing to do with the party anymore. A lot of people have put that to us in the last couple of days, and as a board we’ll sit down and definitely have a look at that. But at the end of the day New Zealand still needs a conservative voice, and at this stage we’re going to be it.”

But that’s not what Colin Craig thinks, even if the party unravelled amid rumours Mr Craig had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor. He says it’s up to the party if they want him back, but it won’t be any time soon:

“I love the party and I am happy to help the party out of course, but I think we need to be a little bit careful about saying yes or no to hypotheticals. Politics for me is really on hold until I get through the various legal issues I am working through. So any discussions about any role I may play in the Conservative Party, or any other party, is a little bit premature at this stage.”

Meanwhile, his former media manager Rachel MacGregor’s lawyer Hayden Wilson says his client wants to put the “unpleasant” episode behind her.He says the size of the settlement between the pair – which constitutes the largest ever awarded by the Human Rights Review Tribunal for emotional harm – shouldn’t be too surprising:

“She’s relieved that she’s finally able to point to this decision and the way that it indicates her conduct throughout this whole exercise around confidentiality, and she’s quite hopeful this will be the last chapter. Those breaches were extensive, they were calculated and [they were] engineered to happen on occasions of maximum publicity. Ms MacGregor suffered significant humiliation, significant loss of dignity and significant injury to her feelings.”

The agreement was supposed to settle a pay dispute and Ms MacGregor’s sexual harassment claim, which Mr Craig then proceded to breach several times by publically labelling her as a mistress, troublemaker and a liar.

But here’s where it gets confusing, because on the same day, this was the story arc in the New Zealand Herald:

Sourced from Newstalk ZB, an article stated that the Conservative Party still might contest the next election even after a defamation ruling against its founder and former leader Colin Craig. The Herald reported that Conservative Party board member Leighton Baker said “the door was still open to Craig coming back”, but they don’t know what their former leader wants to do right now. Baker then commented:

“If I was in his shoes I probably wouldn’t want to. The guy’s put so much time and effort and his own finances into it and he’s really been hammered, but that’s up to him probably.”

Baker said it had been “difficult for the Party for the last fifteen months probably, since the last election”, and they’re working out what to do next, but don’t want voters to forget them.

“We’re still pretty keen to push for this election, and keep putting our ideas out there,” Baker said. “Whether we get in or whether we just get other people to say ‘Hey that’s not a bad idea’ – either way’s a success. It’s been difficult for the party for the last 15 months probably, since the last election. But I don’t think, it’s going to be difficult, but it’s not impossible.”

Oh yes, it is. Mind you, given Leighton Baker’s former membership of the Kiwi Party, the breakaway former Future New Zealand and Christian Democrat Party, electoral realism probably isn’t his strong point. And the Craig loyalist faction seems to have run into a brick wall, given that their former leader has ruled out a short term return to the party, but hasn’t dispensed with the possibility altogether.

Recommended:

“Conservative Party doesn’t want Colin Craig back” Newshub: 04.10.2016: http://www.newshub.co.nz/politics/conservative-party-doesnt-want-colin-craig-back-2016100407

“Colin Craig might try politics again” Newshub: 04.10.2016: http://www.newshub.co.nz/politics/colin-craig-might-try-politics-again-2016100406

“Conservatives still open to Colin Craig returning” New Zealand Herald: 04.10.2016: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11721738

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