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Glasses Half Empty? The Christian Right and the 2014 Election

Thu 6 Nov 2014 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

There are times when I wonder if Family First's Bob McCoskrie inhabits a bizarre parallel world out of synch with mainstream New Zealanders. Yes, it's time for a detailed look at the Christian Right and its desired outcomes for the recent New Zealand General Election on September 20. On the face of it, they didn't achieve much. If the objective was to introduce legislation to render marriage law discriminatory and exclusive of same-sex couples, then that clearly failed. If the objective was to overturn the existing ban on parental corporal punishment, then that also failed. If the objective was to get the Conservative Party into Parliament, that failed. If the objective was to punish the Key administration, that failed. If the objective was to retaliate against the Green Party, then that also failed- they have just as many MPs as they started out the period before the election with. Speaking of which, why is it avoiding the growing US state marriage equality momentum? Thirty-two US states now have access to marriage equality, which leaves nineteen without it, which means sixty percent of the US population now lives in US states that embrace marriage equality. So what does that leave us with? New Zealand First's voter share increased. However, National has enough support to govern without any need of the quixotic and mercurial New Zealand First. Moreover, the party hierarchy ditched loudmouth social conservative MP Asenati Lole-Taylor after questions about alleged financial irregularities supposedly related to her electorate committee and her husband. Although those allegations have yet to be proven, evidently Peters and his party organisation thought otherwise, demoting Lole-Taylor low enough down the party list so that her return to Parliament became impossible, even if New Zealand First itself benefited from Labour's weakness. As for Labour's weakness, that resulted more from that party's internal disorganisation, rather than from any erosion of its voter share directly attributable to marriage equality, given that the Greens and National would also have suffered if that had been such a factor. Maori and Pacific Island voters did not abandon Labour as Family First and Pacific Island social conservatives had warned that they would. As usual, Family First has no substantive truth to validate that claim. And granted, cannabis, euthanasia and abortion probably won't be decriminalised during this parliamentary term. However, neither the cannabis or euthanasia law reform movements are organisationally capable or coherent enough of achieving such a result and Key also seems to have ruled out attacks on abortion access for competent minors either. He is probably aware that would trigger abandonment of his party from centre-right pro-choice female voters and strong opposition from the New Zealand medical profession. In other words, Family First have "won" the status quo before the election- absolutely nothing substantive. Apparently, Family First has enough cash to establish multiple specialist websites against abortion rights, euthanasia law reform, cannabis law reform, and other bete noires, according to its media release webpage. Which begs this question- where is it getting the money from? The World Congress of Families, one of its past sponsors? To what extent? And given the fact that Maryan Street won't be back in Parliament, someone else will have to introduce any euthanasia law reform bill. Nor is cannabis reform a likely starter under the Key administration. Unfortunately, they're still intending to cause mischief on other fronts. Although Ross Robertson retired from Parliament in September 2014, and thankfully that obnoxious transphobe New Zealand First List MP Asenati Lole-Taylor was demoted too far down her party list to launch her obnoxious attacks on New Zealand street sex workers and particularly whakawahine and fa'afafine, Robertson's Manukau City Council (Regulating Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill is still hanging around on the parliamentary schedule, according to its website. Moreover, Joan Allin, a retired Environment Court judge who lives on the Kapiti Coast, is trying to erode the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 still further, by attacking residential brothels. Despite having no research expertise or professional background in this area at all, Family First is pontificating about "residents rights" in this context. In a related setback for the Christian Right, Elizabeth Subritzky, a fundamentalist activist and her "Freedom from Sexual Exploitation" had a petition against Manukau City street sex workers rejected by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee. Family First pontificated about this, but its powerlessness in this context is amusing. Only two months after the election, McCoskrie has lost his bovine smirk. His pressure group had negligible substantive effect on the election results and will have negligible future influence on public policy, as the outcome of this anti-sexworker petition suggests. What about that other arm of the New Zealand Christian Right, the Conservative Party? Despite millionaire financing of its party organisation and election propaganda and gradual opinion poll rise, the Conservatives were hamstrung by outbursts from candidates such as Edward Saafi, Steve Taylor and failed local electorate campaigns that sought to win East Coast Bays, Epsom and Napier for the Conservatives. True, Garth McVicar ran a strong law and order campaign in Napier, but all that did was split the anti-Labour vote, combined with a Napier/Hastings local boundary demarcation dispute which meant that Labour's Stuart Nash won the seat off National. In Epsom, Christine Rankin came fifth, with only 1725 votes- but then, Epsom is an urban liberal electorate. In East Coast Bays, Colin Craig won 4903 votes and came a distant second to incumbent National MP Murray McCully, who has a 15,000 vote majority. In New Lynn, vocal Conservative candidate Steve Taylor came fourth, behind incumbent Labour MP David Cunliffe, National and the Greens. Thus, apart from McVicar and Colin Craig, Conservative election results weren't particularly spectacular. Moreover, the party only managed 3.97% of total voter share, not enough to enter Parliament without winning a constituency. What was at the root of this failure? According to an excellent piece of analysis in the Otago Daily Times (23.09.2014), it was because urban voters rejected the Conservatives. It is most popular in rural areas and north of Auckland, but was damaged by its lack of support in city seats, where its polling slumped to 1.6%. And then there's the Rachel McGregor mystery. Conservative media manager Rachel McGregor abandoned the Conservatives a matter of days before the election, without giving any reason for doing so. Was it purely a matter of personal health? Was it the psychological stress of cognitive dissonance between her personal beliefs, what the Conservatives professed and what they might actually believe? Was it trying to continually insure that no-one within the party was exposed as a flake or oddball with extremist political or social views? Was it personal incompatability with Colin Craig? For whatever reason, the Conservatives appear to have been silent during the aftermath of the election, apart from Rankin's brief personal thanks to party members and voters for delivering the outcome that they did, back on September 24. Since then, almost nothing but silence. Why? The Conservatives polled 3.97% of the total voter share, true- but the fundamentalist Christian Coalition (Christian Heritage/Christian Democrats) polled 4.33% in 1996, when the first New Zealand MMP election was held. In 1997, the party disintegrated into its constituent parts. While Christian Heritage retained a fairly good electorate infrastructure, over time it haemorrhaged, given that it was pigeonholed as an extremist political party. Ex-leader Graham Capill's pedophilia trial and conviction destroyed the party that he had led for so long. In early October, Colin Craig abandoned his threatened defamation lawsuit against Greens co-leader Russell Norman, after the two parties agreed to disagree over the interpretation of what Dr Norman had actually said at Big Gay Out. There were no issues about damages to settle, as Craig had never sought them, and both parties would pay their own legal costs. Unfortunately, Craig is a multimillionaire and can afford to personally bankroll his vanity vehicle for quite some time. In early November, Colin Craig ruminated about the growth in Conservative Party membership and financial strength despite its election setback. However, the party also has no scheduled events and has made no serious media releases for the last two months. In 2014, the New Zealand Christian Right was looking battered and impotent. As usual, it failed to parachute a fundamentalist microparty into Parliament and failed to secure enough support to reverse recent liberal social reforms (ie marriage equality). It "won" nothing. Not Recommended: Family First: Conservative Party: Recommended: Vernon Small: "Colin Craig drops defamation lawsuit" Stuff: 10.10.2014: lawsuit "Craig's crew failed to fire in city seats" Otago Daily Times: 24.09.2014:Craig's crew failed to fire in city seats | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand   

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 6th November 2014 - 8:55am

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