Colin Craig must be getting desperate. For months now he’s been holding fast to the line that his Conservative Party is confident of crossing the 5% threshold and is therefore not needing or looking for an electorate deal from National. Yet, suddenly, there he was on Radio NZ’s Morning Report yesterday morning, proclaiming that he believes National will do a deal with him. The polls aren’t looking good for the Conservatives (they’re sitting on just 1.5% in this site’s Poll of Polls) and Mr Craig must surely know by now that if National don’t cut him a deal, he’s toast.
The comic element of it all is Mr Craig’s diffidence. He’s trying desperately to sell himself as a vital coalition partner for National, but he doesn’t want to acknowledge that he needs a deal – it will be something thrust upon him, that he’ll have to politely accept. In dance floor terms, he’s standing shyly in the corner, trying to look desirable and hoping that Key asks for a dance before the night ends, but turning away and blushing each time anyone else in the room asks whether he’s got a thing for Key.
If a deal is indeed to be done, National and the Conservatives had better move fast. If Colin Craig picks a seat, without having a deal in place, only to have the National candidate spit the dummy, things would get extremely messy for both National and the Conservatives.
So which seat will Mr Craig contest? He’s confirmed that he’s intending to make that announcement within a few weeks, and that he’s narrowed his options to Upper Harbour, Rodney or East Coast Bays – he confirmed to Guyon Espiner that those were the only three electorates he was conducting polling in. Epsom and Pakuranga have evidently fallen by the wayside as possible vehicles for Mr Craig’s ambitions…
In Upper Harbour, Paula Bennet has already staked her claim and had that claim supported by John Key. Ms Bennet sets great store in holding an electorate seat, and – given the hammering that Judith Collins’ reputation has taken of late – she’s National’s unofficial top-ranked woman. It would be hard to deny her the safe seat she craves.
In Rodney, incumbent MP Mark Mitchell has this afternoon come out fighting, tweeting, “Colin Craig getting a deal in Rodney – in the famous words of Darryl Kerrigan from the movie The Castle: “Tell him he’s dreamin’.” And Stuff.co.nz are reporting Mr Mitchell as saying, “The prime minister deals with this stuff but as far as I’m concerned there’s no deal in Rodney.” Reading between the lines: Mr Mitchell will roll over and play dead if required, but he’s taking preemptive action in an attempt to get Mr Craig looking elsewhere.
That leaves East Coast Bays and Murray McCully. To me, it’s the most likely target for Colin Craig. McCully must know that his political career doesn’t have too many legs left in it. He seemingly spends more time overseas these days than he does in New Zealand, and he wouldn’t be too surprised to be offered a plum overseas posting in exchange for taking one for the team and dropping onto the list. He’d stick around as a list MP for another term, perhaps continuing in his role as Foreign Affairs Minister, before taking his pick of the overseas postings just before the 2017 election. He’s currently 61. It wouldn’t be too bad a way to drift into retirement…