|Regardless of Colin Craig's poor showing in the last Auckland mayoral race back in 2010, his Conservative Party wants to contest the next Auckland Council elections in October. But will they get anywhere, and is there any baggage that we should be aware of?
Back in 2010, Craig came a distant third in the Auckland mayoral race. Current Auckland Mayor Len Brown scooped the field, polling 221, 365 votes, with his predecessor (and current Epsom ACT MP) John Banks polling second with 161, 167. As it happened, Colin Craig polled 40, 483, or nine percent of the vote in that contest. In those days, Craig didn't have a formal political party entourage associated with him.
In the October 2013 Auckland Council and local body elections, several Conservative candidates are standing for office. Is this going to be a platform for springboarding into the Conservative's obvious ultimate goal, capturing a constituency seat and sufficient voter share to get one or two MPs into Parliament? Or does it reflect a canny assessment of the leverage that Auckland Council plays as a large, devolved, metropolitan local authority, within the highly centralised and unitary New Zealand governmental structure?
For whatever reason, I decided to analyse the candidates that the Conservatives have on offer. According to their website, these are Callum Blair (Upper Harbour), Robin Caithness (East Coast Bays), Andrew Craig (Howick Papakura Orakei), Ross Craig (Dairy Flat), Deborah Dougherty (Devonport Takapuna), Rick Drayson (Waiuku), Simonne Dyer (Hibiscus Coast), Elaine Ford (Kaipatiki), Darren Gedge (Pakuranga), Stephen Greenfield (Waitemata), Nathaniel Heslop (Warkworth), Stephen Kendall Jones (East Coast Bays), Craig Jensen (Devonport Takapuna), Jeff Johnson (Owairaka), Regan Monahan (Warkworth), Danny Mountain (Hibiscus Coast), Thomas O'Rourke (Henderson Massey Wellesford Whau), Christine Rankin (Upper Harbour), Joseph Rebello (Puketapapa), Kevin Stitt (Papakura Otautahu) and Oliver Vitali (Kumeu).
I was struck by the absence of Maori, Chinese, Korean and Pacific Island candidates on display, although given the Conservatives anti-Treaty populist bandwagon antics, I suspect that isn't surprising when it comes to Maori representation. It also suggests that the Conservatives haven't made much inroad into Auckland's cultural diversity, given that Stephen Rebello seems to be the only minority candidate on display.
So, how many of these candidates are conservative Christian stealth prospects? I decided to see what was disclosed on the Conservative website itself, as well as online and on Facebook. Obviously, Simonne Dyer is a former fundamentalist Kiwi Party candidate, so no surprises there. Callum Blair is a Mormon, and the Church of Latter Day Saints is noted for its opposition to marriage equality in the United States, so that may be taken as a statement of intent. Robin Caithness used to be involved with the defunct "Join Australia Movement." Ross Craig is Colin Craig's father and a former Rodney District Councillor. He stood for Whangarei at the last general election in 2011 as one of his son's candidates. Debbie Dougherty lists one of her Facebook likes as Equippers Church Auckland, a Pentecostal fundamentalist sect and another like is the Auckland Worship Network. On Facebook, Rick Drayson listed one of his likes as Family First's "Protect Marriage New Zealand." Darren Gedge is a fundamentalist Elim College teacher. Stephen Greenfield stated his past affiliation with the Salvation Army in 2011, and is a binding referendum zealot as well, although his stance on alcohol reform is commendable. Nathaniel Heslop made explicit reference to the Marriage Equality Act in a comment on extremist Australian fundamentalist Bill Muehlenberg's website in 2012. Craig Jensen had a seventy seven percent approval rating from Family First's "Value Your Vote" guide for religious social conservative voters at the 2011 New Zealand General Election. Regan Monahan appears to be a conservative Catholic, given that one of his likes is listed as the student anti-abortion group Prolife New Zealand. Danny Mountain listens to Radio Rhema and lists one of his friends as "Jesus."
In other words, most of these characters are conservative Christians, apart from Mormon Callum Blair and Sakka Gakkai Buddhist Christine Rankin. So much for Colin Craig's "assurances" that the Conservatives "aren't" the latest fundamentalist microparty, which they certainly are. So, what are they up to? They claim that more stringent local body alcohol control is one of their primary objectives, but will they also try to impede local body recognition of marriage equality and interfere with the safety, health and welfare of street sex workers in Manukau and Greater Auckland? One suspects so. Even if they manage to elect only a few local body representatives, they could provide further assistance to Auckland Mayor Len Brown and transphobic local body politicians who support the recriminalisation of street sex work in Manukau. Craig Young - 14th August 2013