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Patrick Gower interviews Colin Craig

Patrick Gower interviews Conservative Party Leader Colin Craig


Colin Craig concedes he cannot win an electorate seat against sitting National MPs Murray McCully, Mark Mitchell or Paula Bennett without a deal from National

Says he "can't stop that" if National offers him a seat deal, but is not asking for it and won't talk to National about it

Would be happy to stand against a National candidate if no deal offered and is focused on a party vote campaign to reach five percent

His decision which electorate he'll stand will be "based on where we are going to maximize party vote"

Craig convinced Conservatives will get the extra 40 thousand votes above its 2011 support to reach five percent: "It's not that big a deal... We know we're going to get there".

Patrick Gower: I want to start with this extraordinary political cry for help that you made this week, effectively asking the Prime Minister to pull a candidate out of a seat for you.

Colin Craig: I didn’t do that.

Yes you did.

No, I didn’t.

That is what you said is the gold standard effectively for some sort of electorate arrangement.

No. No. What I was asked is what sort of arrangements did I think might be possible.


National and Labour have both done them. Labour took that approach, National hasn’t.

So let’s put it another way. Would you say no if Prime Minister John Key pulled an MP out of one of those three electorates you’re looking at?

Look it’s not for me to say yes or no. And of course I’m not going to ring him up and say excuse me, leave your candidate there.

No, I know you’re not but you’d be happy wouldn’t you if that happened?

Of course.

So effectively this is a cry for help. You can’t get there by competing against one of those MPs. You can’t beat Paula Bennett. You won’t beat Mark Mitchell, he’s not moving. You won’t beat Murray McCully.

It’s always been for us a 5-percent deal. We’ve been out, our campaign is about a party vote.

You haven’t got anywhere near 5-percent. We wouldn’t even be talking about this if you thought you could get there.

No, I disagree.

The problem for you is you’ve dropped 2.8… you’re at a point a hundred days from election, you’ve dropped 2.8-million bucks and you’re not going to make it without John Key.

No, I disagree. I disagree. Our campaign is about getting 5-percent. A five and a half week campaign last time got us more than half way there. You know that minor parties drop support between elections. We held ours. We’ve only got to get from 87.5-thousand people who wanted to vote for us last time to 120 [thousand]. It’s less than 40-thousand people. It’s not that big a deal. People are making it some great big hurdle. We’re going to get there. We know we’re going to get there. We start our campaign, it’s a three month campaign and we’re really confident.

But you’ll still take a deal won’t you?

No, it’s not about making any deal at all. And I’ve said we won’t talk to National, we haven’t asked them for anything. I’ve made very explicitly clear I am not asking National to do anything.

Yeah, but if they do something you’re happy.

I can’t stop that. I can’t stop that.

You’re talking about it. This is politics. This is the big boy stuff. So if you’re sending messages like that, that’s how they’re picked up. It looks like a cry for help.

Well look, it’s not a cry for anything. All I’m saying is if National choose to do something I don’t control that. But I’m not sitting down and doing an Epsom-style deal and we made it very clear that we wouldn’t.

Yeah you’re going worse than Epsom-style deal. You’re doing a gold-plated cup to tea where there’s no candidate. It’s never been done before in New Zealand politics.

Well we’re not asking for that. I’ve made it very clear we’re not.

Yeah but you’re talking about it. That’s how you do things in politics Colin. This is the-

No look. If National – I’ve been asked what might National do or what could they do and would I say yes or no to it. It’s nothing to do with me. What National want to do is their business.

So you’d be very happy to stand against a National candidate?

Absolutely. We are making our decisions based on where we are going to maximize party vote. We are not asking the question at all of where are National making a space. Because we’re not the National Party.

So which one of those could you beat? Which one of those three candidates could you beat? And tell the truth.

Well look, I don’t think I could beat any of them unless we run a fantastic local campaign and people get behind us. Last time I –

So just – you don’t think you could beat any of them? Any of those three: Paula Bennett, Mark Mitchell, or Murray McCully.

I think being very realistic, um, it’d be a big call to say that you’re going to beat a sitting National MP, and let’s count Paula Bennett as sitting because half the electorate is one she’s... Or a Labour MP.

Alright. So let’s just back up. You can’t win one of those electorates can you without John Key?

No. No. And that’s why I’m saying our campaign has always been to get the party vote. And we’ve been very clear about that.

Sure. This week we saw a moral issue raised by the Green party. Abortion. They effectively want to bring in a policy where it’s open to all women to get an abortion up to about 20 weeks. Do you agree with that?

Nah, it’s a bit of an extreme policy. And I don’t think anybody, other than the Greens, was going there.

What would you do with abortion? What would the Conservatives do with abortion?

Well I think one of the things we could do is do what they do in Europe, which is to improve the advice that’s given around it, it’s called free and informed consent. And I think it would be a good move.

Basically a counsellor talking to the woman before…

Good, independent advice ahead of time. And I think it’s the independence that’s important.

So someone trying to persuade the woman not to have an abortion?

No, somebody presenting… in Europe it’s essentially got to be somebody who’s medically specialised and they have to be independent.

Like in Germany?

And they have to be independent. Oh, most countries, the Netherlands has got a very good system.

Thank you Colin.


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