|Following the infamous Sauna Session with TV3 interviewer on June 8, mystery surrounded the party leader's subsequent eligibility for that position, with various media sources engaged in speculation about his activities.
On Paul Henry's morning show on TV3 (19 June), unnamed party sources stated that Colin Craig's continued presence was an "obstacle" to a closer strategic relationship with the National Party. Craig was not aware of any planned vote to topple him from the party leadership at a forthcoming board meeting, although he had only contacted three board members out of the total ten. He denied that there was any animosity remaining between himself and former Conservative Party media relations person Rachel McGregor and stated that he and Ms. McGregor had resolved their differences amicably.3Newspolitical editor Patrick Gower said about six members opposed Craig and had the numbers to roll him due to his perceived eccentricities, despite attempts to present himself as a credible politician. Gower reiterated that Craig's bizarre behaviour was a problem for the board members in question and Farrier's sauna session was the proverbial straw that broke the back of a particularly long suffering camel. In theNew Zealand Herald,Colin Craig said that he would remain with the party and would continue to fund it, even were he to be dumped as leader.
InStuff,Stacey Kirk noted that the Sensible Sentencing Trust's Garth McVicar might have been asked to take over by opponents of Colin Craig's continued leadership within the party. However, he has denied that he would do so and has since returned to take over his ailing conservative criminal justice advocacy group. When asked, he didn't express confidence in Craig's continued leadership either, however, and questioned its legitimacy. However, another major Conservative Party funder, Laurence Day, expressed confidence in Craig and said that he would continue to do so as long as the Conservatives favoured binding referenda as a core policy. Whether this is regardless or not whether Craig has now resigned is a moot point.
Afternoonon June 19, things became more mysterious still, as New Zealand Herald journalist Isaac Davison reported that Craig was holding a media conference to frontfoot any adversaries within his board. He described questions about his continued Conservative leadership as 'wild speculation' and suggested that the board meeting scheduled for the evening of June 19 might now be rescheduled. However, later on June 19, there was talk that there could be a formal vote at that next committee meeting to decide the party leadership. In the event, it didn't come to that. At4.00 PM, during the media conference, Craig announced his resignation as Conservative Party leader and said that he would 'facilitate' the board's vote for a new party leader. Party Chair Brian Dobbs applauded Craig for his leadership since 2011 and boasted that the party now had 10,000 members. Craig referred to his standing aside or stepping down as an "opportunity for reviewing" the party and said that "all options' would be explored. This is the first time since the days of the Christian Democrats back in the nineties that an established conservative Christian party leader has stepped down- not that it'll make much difference, as Craig is virtually unknown both outside and inside Auckland.
On Friday night, new information and documents emerged about Colin Craig and alleged sexual harassment involving a former employee. According to One News' Katie Bradford later that evening, what seems to have happened is that Craig acted independently of his party board over the whole situation. Many board members were angered when they were informed that there was a Human Rights Commission complaint, which ultimately resulted in a financial settlement. (Apparently, that was what proved hard to tolerate- as was Craig's resignation and cancellation of the party board meeting to be held on Friday, both of which were apparently unilateral). Despite David Farrier's earliersauna session incident, Farrier sitting legs akimbo in shorts during the media conference and his profound apologies, it wasn't the3 Newsjournalists' sauna sojourn alone.
Obviously, this isn't the first time that a conservative Christian political leader has been caught with their pants down. At the more serious end of the spectrum, Christian Heritage leader Graham Capill's serial pedophilia conviction comes to mind, while there are sundry tawdry cases of visits to male and female sex workers, extramarital affairs and divorces, amongst other members of the conservative Christian activist political community both within New Zealand and the United States.
So, what options do the Conservatives have? Retaining Colin Craig as party leader is a nonstarter, obviously, given a board faction reportedly opposes that. Who will replace him? Unless Garth McVicar has changed his mind, Christine Rankin will probably be the most acceptable choice. But is the Conservative brand now too indelibly linked to Colin Craig and now too tainted to survive? Moreover, given that Christine Rankin is a Soka Gokkai Buddhist by faith, will that sit well with more sectarian Conservative rank and file party members? Whether his party can survive this scandal and his resignation remains to be seen.
Isaac Davison: "Colin Craig holding press conference to front foot an alleged coup:New Zealand Herald:19.06.2015:http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1