Conservative leader's ambitious future plans

Colin Craig, believes his party's 2.7 per cent  showing can successfully be built on at the next election. Photo / Richard Robinson
Colin Craig, believes his party's 2.7 per cent showing can successfully be built on at the next election. Photo / Richard Robinson

The millionaire founder of the new Conservative Party Colin Craig says he plans to stay in politics until he has displaced the National Party as the country's major party of the right.

Mr Craig, 43, spent more than $1 million of his own money on his campaign.

At this stage he has won 2.8 per cent of the party vote nationally and 21.4 per cent of the electorate vote in Rodney, a distant second behind new National MP Mark Mitchell.

But the vote was better than expected, almost three times the vote for its right-wing rival Act and more than five times the 0.5 per cent vote at the last election for the Kiwi Party, the Christian party led by former United Future MP Larry Baldock which threw in its lot this time with Mr Craig.

Mr Craig said he was now committed for the long term to his members - 2200 at last count, but now said to be much higher - and to the 55,000 people who gave him their party votes.

"We are going to have to take this whole thing very seriously now. We have members, supporters, volunteers across the country," he said.

"We've gone from zero to 3 [per cent]. The first step is the first step in any journey. To get to 5 you have got to go past 3. It's about building."

He badly over-estimated his chances in the Rodney seat, where he won 20 per cent of the vote when he stood for mayor of the Auckland super-city last year.

His father Ross Craig is a former Rodney district councillor.

He said that was because he only decided to stand in Rodney six weeks ago after considering Epsom and other seats.

He said that "at this stage" he planned to stand again in Rodney at the next election.

"I've got too much support not to. I actually don't believe the National candidate will be able to resist another challenge next time," he said.

"I'll give myself more time. I've had a number of people say, 'I voted early and I voted National, I voted for the wrong guy."'

He said he had put managers in his property management business and planned to hold the Conservative Party's first members' conference next year.

"I think the goal for us next time will be to get into Parliament. The goal this time was to win Rodney and get 5 per cent. They will still be the goals next time," he said.

He has inherited much of the Christian vote which has ranged in recent elections up to 4.3 per cent for a combined Christian coalition in the first MMP election in 1996.

He advertised heavily in church magazines.

But he said he also advertised in farming magazines and in national newspapers such as the Herald, and he refused to be confined to a "Christian party" niche.

"I wouldn't want to be in a Christian party anyway," he said.

A self-described "history buff", he said the National Party prime minister from 1960 to 1972, Keith Holyoake, was "a great leader" and his long-term goal was to displace National, as a businessman had succeeded in doing in Canada.

"The inspiration for me was the Conservative Party in Canada. They are now the Government and have been for some years. Long-term, that's the goal," he said.

"I was asked to stand for the National Party more than once, but I don't agree with what they are doing.

"I just couldn't support some of the National Party policies - selling assets, the referenda thing."

He said he had not seen a good business case for selling strong income-earning assets.
"The reason we are selling assets is that we can't balance our budget," he said.

"Selling income-earning assets is short-term thinking. We will never get them back. Look at the ones we sold last time, to the detriment of our nation - $18 billion has gone off shore to foreigners since then, which we could have had for this country.

"I'm a successful businessman. You make money by having an income stream, not by getting rid of it."

He started in politics by organising a "march for democracy" in 2009 in protest at the Government's rejection of an overwhelming vote in a citizen-initiated referendum to legalise parents smacking their children. He said the issue for him was not smacking itself but democracy.

He said he also rejected joining the Act Party because of its libertarian views on issues such as the alcohol and drug laws. The Conservative Party favours raising the drinking age to 21 and imposing instant fines on anyone found drunk in public.

He also decided not to take the usual route into politics of getting elected to a local council and then an electorate before trying to lead his own party. He has never held any elected office.

"I'm not afraid to do something new. That's the entrepreneur in me," he said.

"If you're just going to do what someone else has always done then you will be limited in what you have achieved."

- NZ Herald

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