|Colin realised that people weren't convinced by his masquerade... Does anyone really believe that the Conservative Party isn't New Zealand's latest fundamentalist microparty? And why is it trying to convince us that it "isn't"?
After all, it's there for anyone to see. Colin Craig gives interviews to fundamentalist media outlets like (defunct fundamentalist newspaper) Challenge Weekly and Radio Rhema, although he'd probably respond that he uses other media outlets. However, can he explain why several Conservative candidates advertised on Radio Rhema back in 2011 during the party's first election campaign? During that campaign, its election propaganda was published by Crown Publishing, a fundamentalist imprint known for primarily printing Christian devotional literature and the "Affirm" series of Presbyterian fundamentalist monographs, according to its Electoral Commission returns. Perusing Facebook, I couldn't help but notice that many Conservative Auckland Council election candidates acknowledged their fundamentalist (conservative Catholic and Mormon) beliefs on Facebook. Christine Rankin acknowledged Colin Craig's "Christian" beliefs in a recent interview for the Sunday Star Times. "Social conservative" is a euphemism for religious social conservative in New Zealand, given that most of them are either fundamentalist Protestants or conservative Catholics. Family First's Bob McCoskrie was one of the keynote speakers at the September 2013 Conservative Party conference in Christchurch. Political commentator Bryce Edwards isn't fooled.
In the face of the cumulative evidence cited above, how can anyone convincingly deny that the Conservative Party of New Zealand isn't New Zealand's latest fundamentalist microparty? More to the point, why is it denying that it is?
This tactic is called "stealth conservatism." It relies on masking one's actual true religious beliefs and downplaying the influence of fundamentalist religious beliefs on one's political activism- that is, until one has safely achieved public office after the forthcoming election. Right-wing Republican strategist and fundamentalist Christian Coalition organiser Ralph Reed came up with the tactic in 1992. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he declared:
"It's like guerilla warfare. If you reveal your location, all it does is allow your opponent to adjust his artillery bearings. It's better to move quietly, with stealth, under the cover of night."
Evidently, Conservative media manager Rachel MacGregor has concluded that given the past history of conservative Christian political antics over the last twenty years, it would be foolhardy for them to openly acknowledge that the Conservatives are New Zealand's latest fundamentalist microparty. As TV3's Campbell Live has noted, MacGregor has a robust (if not intrusive) media management style. As for the New Zealand Christian Right, it's telling that when the Coalition of Concerned Citizens infiltrated the National Party in 1987, it consequently lost National that year's general election after its militant opposition to homosexual law reform. The Christian Heritage Party never got more of the voter share than the Conservatives are polling now. The short-lived "Christian Coalition" (1995-1997) came undone when it tried to pursue a 'stealth' strategy in 1996, but were unmasked due to a foolhardy candid admission of opportunism and manipulation of the National Party in Challenge Weekly before that general election. It led to centre-right voter share plummeting, at which point Jim Bolger cut the Christian Coalition loose, denouncing Graham Capill and Christian Heritage as "extremists." As a consequence, the Christian Coalition failed to enter Parliament and disintegrated altogether in 1997. Just as well, given Graham Capill's subsequent exposure as a serial pedophile and his conviction in 2005. Stealth did temporarily avail United Future in 2002, but the consequent extremism of Peter Dunne's erstwhile fundamentalist carpetbagger caucus led to their decimation in 2005.
Can the centre-right trust the Conservative Party? When it came to Alliance List MP Frank Grover, he ended up jumping from his fragile "Liberal Party" to Christian Heritage, much to Jim Anderton's anger. Needless to say, Grover didn't survive this waka-jumping act of complete political inversion in 1998. I've already mentioned the prior Christian Coalition antics before the 1996 election, during which it took advantage of the National Party's desperation at the first MMP New Zealand General Election. Then there's the spectacle of United Future-er, Kiwi Party- er, Conservative Party electoral candidate Gordon Copeland, who seceded from United Future over Peter Dunne's decision to follow his own liberal conscience and support the abolition of parental corporal punishment in 2007. Happily, Copeland didn't survive the advent of the Key administration in 2008. I'm sorry, this is supposed to convince people they're capable of "insuring political stability?"
It seems that the National Business Review is also increasingly sceptical. It has noted that the Conservatives are standing firm (for once) on their "opposition to asset sales" (and the Labour/Greens capital gains tax) without articulating an alternative public revenue source strategy to either. It also intends to hold multiple binding citizens referenda, never mind that citizens referenda cost nine million dollars per populist stunt and it isn't even willing to commit to the National Party and centre-right. In fact, it sounds like a replica of the same opportunism that its predecessor, the Christian Coalition, tried in 1996. United Future leader Peter Dunne is warning the National Party not to fall for the seductive spin of the Conservatives as he did with Future New Zealand. Even more problematically, the Conservatives are acting as a cuckoo in the nest. What if National and the Conservatives need to work with the Maori Party after the election...with the foolish Conservative anti-Treaty platform? It also denigrates ACT (perhaps deservedly) and United Future.
Wake up, Prime Minister. Colin Craig is not the new centre-right anointed one. He's a doctrinaire religious social conservative and this may not end well for your side of the political fence, based on previous centre-right political experience.
Recommended: National Business Review: http://www.nbr.co.nz Bryce Edwards: http://liberation.typepad.com Rob Boston: "Stealth Strategy" Monitor: 21.12.1995: http://www.monitor.net/monitor/12-21-95/stealthstrategy.html
Not Recommended: Conservative Party: http://www.conservativeparty.org.nz Craig Young - 28th November 2013