Conservative Party leader Colin Craig in the Octagon
yesterday. Photo by Linda Robertson.
An easier way for Prime Minister John Key to swing a deal
with Conservative Party leader Colin Craig may have opened up
after the shock resignation as a Cabinet minister yesterday of
Mr Williamson (63) resigned after The New Zealand Herald
reported he had called a high-ranking police officer in
connection with Chinese businessman Donghua Liu, who had been
arrested on domestic violence charges.
Mr Williamson had previously lobbied ministerial colleagues
to grant citizenship to Liu, who was behind a $70 million
development in Newmarket, Auckland, the Herald reported. Liu
was also a donor to the National Party.
Mr Craig, who was in Dunedin yesterday, said in an interview
he believed he would do well by standing in Pakuranga.
He grew up in Howick-Pakuranga and his father taught at
While Mr Williamson had not indicated he was retiring from
politics, in fact saying he intended standing again in the
seat he has held since 1987, pressure may be brought to bear
on him to open up the seat for Mr Craig.
Mr Key is short of coalition partners, with Act New Zealand
unlikely to win Epsom without a significant nod from Mr Key,
and while Peter Dunne is expected to win Ohariu, he is not
likely to bring in any extra MPs with him.
Mr Craig said Pakuranga was a strong electorate for the
Conservatives but it was still behind Rodney, Epsom and Upper
Harbour in membership.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has put her name
forward for the newly created Upper Harbour seat, Act MP John
Banks is stepping down from Epsom and Rodney is held by
first-term National MP Mark Mitchell, who is unlikely to give
way to Mr Craig.
''Pakuranga is pretty close to the others in membership,'' Mr
''We have a support base and a team on the ground.''
He had not yet decided where he would stand.
Overall, the Conservative Party had 4000 paid-up members and
2000 supporters. Mr Key said the phone call by Mr Williamson
to the police ''crossed the line''.
Mr Williamson said he had made it clear to Mr Key he was not
trying to influence police processes and was only doing the
job of an MP.
''However, it is clear that a perception of my trying to
influence the outcome has been created and for this reason I
have tendered my resignation as a minister today.''
Speaking later at a press conference at his electoral office,
Mr Williamson said he was not asking for special treatment
for a rich Chinese businessman and financial backers, and
that on numerous occasions he had called the police for his
constituents and other members of the public.
In Liu's case, there was no intention to do anything about
screwing the outcome, but just to work out the focus of it.
''When I hung up, I literally did not see that that was
anything other than what a member of Parliament would
normally do on behalf of somebody who had asked.''
Mr Williamson said he was feeling ''pretty much shattered and
''My family's in a bit of tatters.''
This is not the first time Mr Williamson has been in bother
with the party.
He was suspended from caucus on July 22, 2003, after refusing
to curtail his criticism of former National Party leader Bill
English, whom he blamed for poor performance in the polls.
After Mr English was replaced by Don Brash, Mr Williamson was