Sex, politics and religion. How could any news editor resist? And they couldn't when it all came together in the form of Colin Craig, leader of the Conservative Party. If the controversy over contraception for beneficiaries was a deliberate strategy by the Government to keep John Banks and Kim Dotcom off the front page, then it has worked.
With no further provocative pronouncements over the last few days commentators focused on where Craig and the Conservatives fit into the political spectrum. Andrea Vance has a good background piece on Craig, and says his lack of expediency over policy may limit his political success but the Conservatives willingness to work with anyone makes them the 'quintessential MMP party' - see: The curious case of Colin Craig.
A mixture of John Key and Rob Muldoon is how Tim Watkin categorises Craig's political personality in an insightful analysis of the Conservatives' sometimes contradictory principles - see: Colin Craig explained - a little John, a little Sir Rob.
Craig is 'turning out to be a bit of a slut himself' according to Matthew Hooton, who looks at Craig's recent political campaigns and concludes that he has no chance in Epsom and should stick to Rodney or a provincial seat with a high religious population. If the party vote threshold is reduced from 5% to 4%, however, Hooton thinks that the Conservatives should easily make the grade at the next election - see: Conservatives should share the love around.
While there is debate about the nature of the Conservatives there is no doubt that for many, if not most, Act supporters they are an anathema. Long-time Act supporter and rightwing blogger Cathy Odgers has formally declared herself apolitical at the prospect of National ending up in coalition with either Colin Craig or Winston Peters. And John Banks' 'bizarre' behaviour means she is 'in a Zen-like state of not caring who wins in 2014' - Religion and politics a dangerous mix.
The Government may well feel it's on to a cheap political winner with it's beneficiary contraception policy, with a poll (see Free birth control wins public support) showing 80% of Sunday Star Times readers support the funding and more than half want the Government to go further, presumably agreeing with Michael Laws - see: Government's welfare reforms just too timid. Sure enough, Isaac Davison and Kate Shuttleworth report on a proposal requiring beneficiaries to have their children immunised - see: Benefits may be linked to kids' jabs.
Other good reads on the contraception issue come from John Armstrong, who wonders why the Government is pursuing this policy while ignoring the massive amount of unpaid child support (see: Welfare rejig carries whiff of hypocrisy) and Rob Hosking who calls opponents of the policy '21st century puritans' divided into feminists and fundamentalist Christians. Hosking attacks Colin Craig for both his opposition to the policy and also for opposing gay marriage - see: Sexual politics.
Labour allowed its membership to partly participate in the last leadership selection process, and now it seems they will include the wider party in all future leadership votes - see Claire Trevett's Labour looks to give party faithful power to oust leader. Although a matter of principle and process, it's impossible not to speculate on how that might affect the next leadership vote, whenever that may be. The proposal has certainly put an end to secretly organized and ruthlessly efficient leadership coups (which Labour has never really managed to pull off anyway). So at that level it would appear to make leadership changes less likely.
Meanwhile, leadership contender David Cunliffe has reportedly been forced to withdraw from appearing on TV3's The Nation by Shearer's office. David Farrar claims that Cunliffe's recent well-reported positioning speech didn't go down too well with many of his caucus colleagues - see: Cunliffe muzzled by Shearer. While Labour supporters may again question Farrar's motives, it was TV3's Patrick Gower who first tweeted the claim, and both Robert Winter and Chris Trotter believe that the account rings true - see: The Right to Challenge and Disagree: the contemporary debate in the Labour Party: Part 2. See also: Brian Edwards' On David Cunliffe, the political divide and why I'm still wondering.
While journalists' comments on Twitter may be causing Shearer's office problems, the Queen of Thorns thinks the Labour leader needs to decide what his own Twitter account is actually trying to achieve - see: Shambles III: This time it's Twitter.
Other important or interesting political items today include:
* Meat industry insiders are saying the striking and locked out meatworkers have an uphill battle in their struggle with the Talley family - see Jon Morgan's Talleys immovable in dispute. Meanwhile, a leaked cabinet paper shows the Government is considering further changes to industrial relations legislation further reducing employers obligations for collective bargaining - see Danya Levy's Secret changes to labour rules.
* Palmerston North lawyer Liam Hehir argues we will be selectively breaking international agreements if plain packaging of cigarettes is enforced - see: Packaging debate fires up.
* Each new act of Parliament costs taxpayers $3.5 million according to a detailed University of Otago study just released - see: Dan Satherley's Health legislation good value for money - study.
* We have warmed to the larger than life German internet entrepreneur according to Nicola Russell - see: Dotcom's straight talk wins over Kiwis.
* Despite long running rumours to the contrary, Paul Gorman reports that Dalziel won't run for mayor.
* Finally, amidst the determined fight back by Mfat staff against cost-cutting, Kirsty Johnston looks at the hefty price tag our diplomatic - see: Representation comes at a pretty price.By Bryce Edwards Email Bryce