Opinion: Media junkie Colin Craig may find his condition fatal

Colin Craig
Colin Craig
A mixture of grin quickly swallowed up by grimace swept across John Key's face following Colin Craig's intellectually lazy and politically stupid verbal doodling on the non-question of whether man has actually walked on the moon.

Having participated with verve and wit in Wednesday afternoon's merciless parliamentary lampooning of the leader of the still fledgling Conservative Party, the Prime Minister generously attempted to restore some of Mr Craig's fast-shrinking credibility the following day.

Realising the risk of collateral damage to the wider centre-right, Mr Key was not entirely driven by kindness for Mr Craig, however. Keeping a straight face, Mr Key asserted that Mr Craig's seeming fetish with some of the world's great conspiracy theories was the leader of a minor party securing some hard-to-obtain attention from the media.

There may be more than a grain of truth in Mr Key's claim Mr Craig was ''winding up'' the media for ulterior motives.

But therein lies potential trouble for Mr Key. In the matter of a few short months - a period within which the Conservatives attracted National's affections at the expense of John Banks-plagued Act and Peter Dunne-troubled United Future - Mr Craig has become a media junkie.

He seems to have a habit which must be fed. The condition could yet prove fatal, and not just for Mr Craig's still fledgling Conservative Party.

Mr Key should be afraid, very afraid. National has sought to typecast the Greens as the ultimate definition of wackiness. That is going to be a theme National will hammer relentlessly in election year. National will endeavour to put the fear of God into voters as to what the Greens might do if given the chance in government and question whether Labour will have the wherewithal and gumption to stop them.

As Mr Craig amply demonstrated this week, however, applying the same wackiness-ometer to the Conservatives would see them rating as stark raving bonkers several times over.

That would not have mattered so much had the Conservatives remained marooned in splendid isolation.

On the basis of some still pretty derisory results of some opinion polls, they have been allowed to jump into National's cosy centre-right nest without too much thought about the possible impact on those parties, like Act and United Future, that have long resided there without creating too much hassle for National.

These parties may now bring only limited added value for National in terms of vital extra seats in Parliament. But it is better than nothing.

With Mr Banks insisting in public that he would be standing for Act again in Epsom next year, it looked as if National would have had little choice but to tear up its relatively longstanding electoral accommodation with Act and fight the seat with the firm intention of winning it.

It would have been too big an ask to expect Epsom voters to hold their nose given the mud and the murk - much of it self-inflicted -

Mr Banks has had to wade through since returning to Parliament two years ago.

In reality, Mr Banks was always going to retire from potlatches next year and Act was quietly searching out potential successors.

That Mr Banks is now facing electoral fraud charges in the High Court has simply advanced that process. While one fresh face has put his hand up, pressure is going on Rodney Hide to come out of the wilderness, take over as leader once more and resume his tenure as Epsom's MP.

His may be the only face of Act that still engenders some kind of respect in Epsom. The hypocrisy of the perk-grabbing supposed perk-buster is largely forgotten.

He is one of very few within Act to have the profile, energy and drive to do the near impossible - recast Act's faded and tattered image during what will be at most a nine-month run-up to polling day.

He will take some convincing. But he may well be swayed by the argument that next year's election must necessarily be Act's final making or ultimate breaking. There is a feeling in some quarters of the party that an Act future as a single-MP party reliant on National doing it the big favour every three years is simply no future, especially for a party supposed to uphold the principles of competition.

The party must bring more MPs into Parliament to fulfil its side of the bargain.

That might be easier were National performing poorly in the polls and marching back to the safety of the political centre, and thereby failing to satisfy demand on National's right for the more radical policies which Act espouses.

There is no sign of circumstances manifesting themselves in such fashion this side of the election. Act instead faces a rival in the Conservatives on National's right who have picked up the more populist aspects of Act's agenda - such as as a tougher stance on law and order.

Meanwhile, based on the premise that Act is already finished, there is much debate on the right about establishing a new libertarian party pushing market-orientated policies.

Regardless of whether such a vehicle can get up and running to fight the election, Mr Key will have to reach electoral accommodations in three seats to ensure neither Act, the Conservatives nor United Future cannibalise votes off National only to fail to meet the 5% threshold.

Mr Craig, however, has said he is not looking for such assistance and does not want it. Even if he is persuaded otherwise for the sake of the greater cause, he is going to be a major headache for National.

A National-Conservatives Government may be as just as scary a prospect for moderate voters as a Labour-Greens one.

One thing is for sure, Mr Craig will not have to indulge in any ''winding up'' of the media to get attention. The media will be dogging him throughout the three-to-four week official campaign awaiting the next truly cringe-inducing embarrassment to pass his lips at the expense of his supposed allies.

- John Armstrong is The New Zealand Herald political correspondent.

Centre politics is best

Colin Craig probably does have doubts about the moon landings as well as doubts about climate change. It shows that left and right wingers are equally fruity. I think centre politics is best since left and right wingers tend to think in simplistic black and white terms. A left winger will think all welfare recipients are victims and should always get welfare while a right winger thinks all welfare recipients are bludgers and would like to see welfare banned, while someone in the centre will admit that some welfare recipients rort the system but also acknowledge that many recipients really are struggling and should be getting some help. The centre tends to reflect real life, where life is shades of grey and not simplistic black and white.

Who's doodling: Craig or the media?

Is this ever a case of the pot calling the kettle black?  The media is asking Mr Craig stupid questions.  According to the old adage, when you ask stupid questions, what do you get?  How hypocritical, accusing him of instigating this "verbal doodling"  All we have seen is desperate reporters clutching at straws to try and trap the man on a series of utterly irrelevant topics, that he has refused to be drawn into by merely saying he will not comment on subjects he has not taken the time to look into and that are unrelated to the really important issues facing New Zealanders. 

When it comes to losing credibility, most mainstream NZ "news" providers are way out there in front.  You guys need to get a grip. 

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