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Big News: The Demoralisation Of Christian Heritage

BIG NEWS with Dave Crampton

The Demoralisation Of Christian Heritage


Early last year, Christian Heritage Party leader Graham Capill was at his wits end. Still miffed at his party’s poor 2.4 percent showing at the last election, he was sitting down with his Bible and his strategy director wondering how he could get a CHP presence in Parliament. “Our vote was worse than the 1996 election,” he moaned. “It was nearly cut in half! We must get a seat in Parliament, for God’s sake. That has been our objective since 1989.”

His strategist thought about it. “Well Graham,” he said. “You won’t get into Parliament if you campaign on moral issues. Try promoting broader-based policies on issues such as health, education and defence. Maybe you should select a high profile candidate from outside the party - in fact, I’ve got the perfect person in mind. She is articulate, forthright, and upholds family values. Furthermore, she’s a Christian, a regular churchgoer - and a household name!”

“Great! Who is she? We can invite her to our national conference as a keynote
speaker?” Capill says, excitedly.

“Well, there’s a slight problem, Graham. She opposes smacking, is twice divorced, has a tax conviction, and is…um… gay friendly. You may have heard of Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, you know, the boss of Women’s Refuge.”

Capill knew. He wasn’t so keen on the gay–friendly bit, though. But after a few misgivings and much prayer, fasting and consultation he agreed to invite her to the conference.

So it came to pass that, in August, Raukawa-Tait spoke at the conference about the challenges facing family life in New Zealand. Apparently paying taxes wasn’t one of them. She was impressed when she also heard Capill’s speech on his broader based vision for the party, focussing on real issues rather than morals. “I could be part of that,” she thought.

To cut a long story short, Raukawa-Tait had decided to get in behind the CHP. Then, in a bizarre political decision, she was the first person to be elected as the deputy leader of an existing party after having no formal association with politics.

She agrees with just 80 percent of the CHP policies, many of which she hadn’t read when the announcement was made. What made it the plot spicier was the fact that Raukawa-Tait is contesting a seat with the world’s first transsexual MP, Georgina Beyer. There they are - two gay-friendly Maori women contesting the same seat on behalf of opposing parties with conflicting policies. Mind you, those within the CHP may differ in opinion as to whether Georgina Beyer is a real woman. But the contest is sure to be an impressive political showdown.

What wasn’t so impressive from Capill’s viewpoint was that the woman he had his eye on had her eyes on women at the opening of a strip club a few months back. Capill brushed such comments off last week. “After all, Jesus hung out with taxpayers, prostitutes and sinners,” he said.

Well, what he really meant was tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners, but I`m sure both Raukawa-Tait and Beyer couldn’t resist a smile. After all, both have fitted into at least two, maybe three of the categories at some stage in their lives. Despite their political affiliations, Raukawa-Tait is probably the only Beyer-friendly candidate within the CHP ranks. I guess it’s all part of the gay-friendly attitude some journalists have difficulty fitting into their own perception of the CHP.

That’s because the Christian Heritage Party has rebranded. They are not the party they were at the last election. Candidates are adamant they will convincingly emphasise issues such as education and health, policing, justice and defence, thus shaking off their tag as a morals watchdog. But it’s not just voters they will have to convince - they’ll first have to convince the media. Raukawa-Tait may be just the person to do it.

Who knows, the CHP may yet be a force to be reckoned with. After all, they are the highest polling party outside Parliament. Although Raukawa-Tait will be busy campaigning, she won’t campaign in strip clubs. She has vowed to never enter a strip club again. It’s just not worth the hassle, she’d rather enter Parliament.

- Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at davec@globe.net.nz

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