Friday, June 19, 2015

The Likely Contenders For Conservative Party Leadership - Meet The New Con ... Same As The Old Con?

So yesterday, I marveled at the stupidity of the Conservative Party plotting to roll its own leader/founder/funder/best-shot-at-getting-into-Parliament.

At the time, this was in no small part due to the difficulty I figured they'd have in replacing Craig as leader of their party.

Well, Colin's done the potentially honourable (slash unthinkable) thing and stood down in advance of a Conservative board meeting that was tipped to roll him. They've moved the vote back in light of this to next Saturday according to Jordan Williams on twitter; and at this stage, it's anyone's guess as to who'll step into the ring to contend for the leadership.

So, without further adieu ... let's meet the likely challengers.

First up, there's Colin Craig. The No-Brainer option. Literally. For proof of this, see his political career for much of the last three years, featuring everything from suing our best-known and most-loved satirical website through to the Moonlandings/Chemtrails fiasco and various claims about the hereditary nature of sin expressed in the genes of short employees during compulsory prayer meetings at his company. There was also the time at Auckland University wherein, in a vain attempt to argue against equality of marriage, he quite literally got his balls out on stage. (a rugby ball, and a soccer ball, in a sack, for the record)

Quite literally a laughingstock. Arguably slightly insane. Insufferably earnest. Still probably both the most reasonable-for-the-rest-of-the-population and logical-for-the-party contender. Scary.

Next, the man I love to hate and whom the New Zealand judicial system can't seem to get enough of ... John Archibald Banks. On the face of it, a damn near PERFECT contender and candidate. Has a huge swathe of political experience at both the Parliamentary and local body levels - something Colin definitely lacks. Can preach just about any abjectly silly and spurious creed with an *absolutely straight face* (for example his continuous claims that he was innocent in the donations scandal - and more worryingly, protestations that he intended to stand for Parliament in the 2014 Election; or that ACT's arch-neoliberal creed contained the answers for child poverty). Has a demonstrable track-record and history as a conservative-bigot icon, memorably praying in Parliament against the passage of the Homosexuality Reform bill in 1986 ... and subsequently describing the act of shoving barbed wire up the arse of a gay man as a waste of barbed wire. Is presently short of a party. Would hopefully mean he wouldn't make yet another run at Auckland Mayoralty.

Unfortunately for his prospects in the Conservatives (and much to my pleasant surprise and admiration), he voted for equality of marriage.

Probably an outsider at this stage, but a semi-credible one at that.

Third, Christine Rankin. Otherwise known as the Conservative Party's Buddhist fig-leaf limply plastered on to the front of its massive great honking conservative Christian agenda. On the pro-side, she's easily the second most recognizable political "brand" associated with the Conservatives after Colin Craig. Allegedly smart. Handily counteracts misogyny claims by being .. well .. a woman. In a position of relative power and influence within the Conservatives. Who isn't Rachel MacGregor. Has a personal history and lifestyle that would certainly put the damper on allegations that the Conservative Party are all staid, arch-moralistic types. If Colin's isn't doing that already :P

Might potentially rile some of their more *ahem* conservative base with all of the above and the fact that she's a city-based former bureaucrat.

Probably the most realistic immediate non-Colin option.

Fourth. Maurice Williamson. Probably an outsider-so-far-outside-he's-in-the-outhouse contender due to his Big Gay Rainbow Over Pakuranga speech in Parliament when voting for Marriage Equality ... but then again, as his flirtation with ACT proves - he's looking for another party. Quite possibly ANY other party.

In much the same way as John Banks, brings with him a wealth of Parliamentary political experience - and if he runs for Cons leader, it'll safely keep him away from a stab at the Auckland Mayoralty. Has also recently started taking on the Government (of all people - you know, that thing he's nominally part of) in Parliament over Auckland transport issues. Is clearly cruising for a bruising and might feel he arguably has little to lose by switching horses. Williamson's seat of Pakuranga also represents a potentially strong base of Conservative Party support, with the local Conservative candidate racking up an impressive three and a half thousand votes on Polling Day last year.

If the Cons can look past his earlier and ardent support for equality of marriage, Williamson might make a surprisingly good fit. He'd certainly gel well with their more right-wing economic elements; and he looks set to be on the outer with his own present part for quite some time yet anyway. Would also bring with him something no other contender would be able to match: his own semi-portable electorate seat. It's not entirely inconceivable that Williamson's personal popularity would see him able to take his holding in Pakuranga with him over to the Boys in Lighter Blue - and thus grant them a phenomenally easy vehicle into Parliament via a by-election. This would also be a potentially shrewd move by National if they only put up a token resistance - they'd gain an extra support partner fundamentally well-disposed to their agenda and lead by a semi-pliant former stooge. All for the cost of ... well, nothing in particular, really - a somewhat renegade back-bencher.

A smart choice for both National and Conservative parties, but we'll see what eventuates.

Finally, there's Sensible Sentencing Trust head honcho Garth McVicar. Apparently seen by many ranking Cons as the natural successor to Colin, given they've now approached him as an alternate option AND pushed him in the media for same at every coup attempt they've made since the last Election. Managed a VERY credible 7603 votes in the Napier electorate back in 2014 - about half of winning candidate and provincial Labour man Stuart Nash, and only a little under four thousand behind the second placed National candidate. Brings with him an excellent and virtually tailor-made personal brand that would fill a natural hole in Kiwi politics that's been left somewhat unoccupied since ACT stopped being *quite* so silly about law-and-order-issues-that-apply-to-people-who-aren't-their-own-MPs.

Unfortunately, he appears to have ruled himself out of the running. Not just this time, either - but also the last time it was offered to him on a silver-spooned platter back in March of this year. Probably, therefore, not a goer. Doesn't want to damage the Sensible Sentencing Trust by leaving them in the lurch to take time off to do Parliamentary politics again, by the looks of things.

Then again, things might change between now and next Saturday.

All things considered, this is hardly likely to be a complete list. I would almost bet that I've missed more than a few semi-big names who'd either be interested in putting their hands up for a ready-made political party in the vainglorious hopes of being Mr (or Miss, potentially) Right and managing to finally succeed where Colin's failed in taking it to Parliament.

Will be interesting to see what comes out of the woodwork.

And get ready to laugh accordingly.

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