Sunday, November 20, 2011

“We’re Conservative”- “So Are We”

The NZ Conservative Blog looks at the Conservative Party

We here at the NZ Conservative blog would like to start out by saying we predate the Conservative Party by many years, indeed it is only 3 months old at this point of time. In no way is the blog associated with the political party.

Over a week ago I went to the Conservative Party BBQ, which passed as their party's campaign launch, and while I was there I got to use my new found press credentials to talk to the candidates including an interview with Colin Craig himself.

The Conservative Party BBQ attracted around 300 people from around the country was heavily attended by party candidates standing in electorates (the party is standing in around 54 of the 63 general electorates).

The Candidates

I got the chance to talk to many of the candidates, so many in fact names and electorates were getting hard to remember.

Frank, standing for East Mangere, highlighted the diversity of the party with people from all ages and ethnic groups. Talking with the candidates we discussed a wide range of political issues which were always brought back to central themes, especially family.

So often we talk about young New Zealanders going overseas for economic reasons, although it was not till I talked with one candidate who told me he became politically active after his two children moved to Australia and had families there. This hit home that such economic migration not only takes young Kiwis away but also splits families. He wanted to help make New Zealand a place to draw back the young who settled overseas.

Another candidate, who use to be a police prosecutor, talked about how the anti-smacking law was damaging to the family as it required spouses to testify against the other and children against their parents. One candidate chillingly pointed out such practices were common in former Soviet countries.

The party had at least 4 Pacific Island candidates, all of whom told me Conservative principles were Pacific Island principles. It was discussed how many Pacific Islanders supported the Labour Party as they still view it as the “Old Labour” who looked after the working class- a view many would say was outdated. They outlined how destructive welfare has been on the Pacific Island community and how it negatively impacts on future generations.

Economic issues were also discussed, I was surprised about how strong all the candidates felt about asset sales. I was impressed talking with one of the candidates about economic issues that aren’t widely talked about: such as the leveraging of Gold, Silver and bank assets, the economic future of China from China’s attempts make their currency a trade currency and what will happen to the Chinese economy after the population crash predicted because of the “One Child Policy”. All things that can change the world as we know it but we don’t hear political candidates talking about it.

I asked everyone I talked to “what drew you to the Conservative Party?” in an attempt to identify the major element of their support: the answer by far and the great unifying factor that drew the candidates and members was simple: integrity.

The Party

Many voters who identify as Conservatives are firm believers in Conservatism, have been burned by political parties they supported. Some support United Future which ended up going into coalition with Labour and help bring in much anti-Conservative policy from Civil Unions to legalised Prostitutions. Some supported New Zealand First and which attacked Labour for things like its “gender bending policies” (as Peters himself put it) and then put the most liberal Labour government into power. I was even surprised how many were ex-Act supporters and even election candidates who left over the privileges scandal.

And if we are being honest it is the only party that really stands on the platform of Conservative issues through and through. Act is economically conservative, although socially liberal. National is centre-right although has no firm Conservative principles. United Future and New Zealand First creditably is spent for many.

Credit were credit is due the Conservative Party has grown phenomenally in 3 months: 2000 members making it the 4th highest political party membership, by a long way, only beaten by the 2 major parties and the Greens. In three months they are fielding around 54 candidates in the 63 electorates in the country. Many would say seeking to launch a political party to contest an election 3 months before an election was madness, that the progress that has been made would have been impossible.

I believe it was great insight by party leader Colin Craig who managed to tap into those who hold conservative values, but who recently did not have a voice. At one stage United Future was this, now it is effectively a support group for Peter Dunn, effectively an independent MP now who is losing support in his electorate.

In a TV political discussion one commentator labelled the Conservative Party “Christian Heritage 2.0” to which another commentator on the same panel pointing out Christian Heritage received 2.4% of the vote in 1999. This support later defected to United Future which might eventually defect to the Conservatives given time.

But why was the Conservative party labelled “Christian Heritage 2.0”? Perhaps because party leader Colin Craig identifies as Christian, although as stated in past interviews does not attend a church. Frank, a Pacific Island candidate, said (and I am paraphrasing): “Colin isn’t trying to Christianise the country, he is promoting Conservative values held by many”. Indeed the New Citizen Party, made up of Chinese immigrants who merged with the Conservatives, can't be labelled as a Christian group. Their candidates I talked to said traditional Chinese values are basically Conservative values. So yes the party might draw a lot of support from Christians, but they might also draw a lot of support from conservative Hindu’s, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, etc as well.

Interview with Colin Craig

I was privileged to get a 7 minute sit down interview with party leader Colin Craig, which was not long but we talked on welfare reform.

“No Freebies” was Craig’s succinctly summary.

He said we were offering the wrong incentives; his example was currently the states funding to put children in day care. Instead the Conservative Party would seek to redirect that day care funding to support mothers who want to stay at home and raise their children, as early childhood research shows this produces better outcomes for kids- a policy based on the facts rather than ideology.

Craig stated a key principle of the parties welfare reform is breaking the cycle of welfare dependency. A prime example Craig points out was the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) and how just as the welfare period is running out they seem to manage to get pregnant again resulting in children from single parent homes, which is not best for the children’s development and with them witnessing their only provider being on welfare adds to the culture of welfare dependency.

Although far from coming across as “beneficiary bashing”, Craig took a position which I have not heard in the welfare reform debate: why throw a woman off the DPB if she finds a working partner as currently happens? As research shows children are raised better with both male and female parent figures and this also gives the children a working role model which could potentially help break the welfare cycle for many.

As we were talking about welfare and family support, this lead me to ask what was the Conservative Parties stance on the ‘Working For Families’ scheme? Very clearly Craig stated the party would seek to do away with it.

Some might ask why this is, but it is pretty clear when around 50% of NZ tax payers effectively receive their tax money back through the ‘Working For Families’ scheme; not only are they not effectively not contributing tax money but the are beneficiaries of welfare themselves.

Time run out, but I was able to get one more question in, as he is running for Rodney:

“Will we see an ‘Orewa speech’?”

(for those who are unaware Rob Muldoon gave a famous speech in Orewa, with a recently past National leader trying to do an “Orewa Speech” to point back to that golden moment).

The answer from Colin smiling was “Oh, no”. Its refreshing that the chance for cynical sensationalism to get attention is not taken by a Politician. Over all he seemed interested in was policy which he cited hard fact to back up.

The Future

I will finish off with some political crystal ball gazing (a hazard of having a Political Studies degree).

Does the Conservative party have a future? The answer is we will see. If Colin Craig wins Rodney he could potentially take two MPs with him. Indeed if many got over the standard New Zealand mindset “I want to vote for them, but don’t think they would get in so will vote for a sure thing” they could probably get 5% of the vote.

But forecasting involves the long view; what about next election? It is true if they fail to get in this election they might fizzle away: but if they could gather such great support in 3 months, think what another 3 years worth of support gathering could bring? The ACT party’s future is looking very dire and perhaps people will go shopping for a future coalition partner for National, or they become a large minor party like the Greens who can survive outside of the ruling government.

Vanguards Voting Advice

My voting advice- every one has their own beliefs, and a conscience they have to answer to. Vote according to your conscience be it what ever political party: as at the end of the day you have to live with yourself. What ever you do, vote!

4 comment(s):

libertyscott said...

By Owera you presumably mean Orewa. It certainly is a better attempt at catering for conservative voters than the Kiwi Party or any others in recent times. I think it will need another three years to get to the potential the Christian Coalition showed in 1996, and it will have the benefit of not having Capill at its head (who was a major turnoff for many, even before we knew about his crimes).

Lucia Maria said...

LibertyScott,

I think he did mean Orewa, so have edited the post accordingly. I'm not sure how much time Vanguard has to spend at his computer - as you can see from his post he does get out and about; so a comment might not be immediately forthcoming.

Vanguard said...

Hello Libertyscott,

You are right I did mean Orewa, a place I know very well.

I am actually dyslexic and normally have someone proof read my work before I post it, but this time my proof reader was not available.

libertyscott said...

Vanguard, it was a good piece, as I hadn't read anything that was a decent review of the party before.

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