Where to now for Colin and the Conservatives?

It’s (almost*) official – there’s no deal for Colin Craig in East Coast Bays. Murray McCully will not be knifed, thrown under a bus or given concrete shoes to go swimming in. Given that Mr Craig had already accepted he couldn’t win if Mr McCully stood against him, I think we can safely say that the odds of an electoral seat victory for the Conservatives are about nil.

(Mr Craig will undoubtedly have done exhaustive polling in the seat, and his polling has evidently given him nothing to trumpet to the media. Although, given Mr Craig’s polling apparently put him on course to win the Rodney electorate last election, which of course he lost by a landslide, any polling announcements showing him on course to win anything would likely have to be treated with a healthy fistful of salt.)

Matthew Hooton has discussed on several occasions National’s internal polling on the likely impact of the Conservatives, which showed that National will lose at least 2% if it did a deal with Colin Craig in East Coast Bays. Essentially, the Conservatives needed to be polling above 3% to make a deal worthwhile, and the simple fact is that they haven’t come close. They’ve made 2.8% and 2.7% in the last two TV3 Reid Research polls. However, of the last dozen major polls released, the only time they’ve been above 2% is in those two Reid Research polls. The remainder of the polls have had them between 0.9% and 1.7%. In this site’s Poll of Polls they’re currently sitting on 1.5%.

National has looked at the polling and decided that a deal simply isn’t worth it.

With the door closed on an electorate, that leaves just one alternative – to make a desperate last-minute dash for the 5% threshold. Given their current polling, it’s highly unlikely they’ll make it.

For a start, prospective small-c conservative voters who might have considered throwing in their lot with Colin Craig have now been sent a signal by National that their vote will be wasted. Those voters are now far more likely to go to National or NZ First. It’s in National’s best interests to now squash the Conservative Party vote – the lower the Conservatives go, the less wasted vote for National to worry about.

When Matthew Hooton appeared as a guest speaker at the recent Conservative Party conference, he told them they needed to be bolder – to embrace the God vote and to look at more extreme policy platforms such as bringing back the death penalty. Given that Mr Craig has already ruled out supporting the death penalty on TV3s The Nation, going for the God vote is probably the Conservatives’ only hope now. Colin Craig has gone head-to-head with Winston Peters and it’s got him nowhere. Mr Peters is very good at being Mr Peters; Colin Craig comes off as a pale imitation.

Regardless of where Colin Craig tacks, policy- and image-wise, it’s fairly safe to say that Mr Craig can kiss his three years worth of investment in his party goodbye. If the party gets no higher than it did at the last election, or even sinks below its 2011 vote, one wonders whether Mr Craig will bother looking to 2017.

* Although John Key has said he won’t pull Murray McCully from East Coast Bays, technically there’s still room for a reversal on that position right up until 26 August when nominations close. Of course, for Mr Key to perform an about-face, something catastrophically wrong would have had to happen to National’s polling, given how desperate such an about-face would look.

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