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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Hello Colin Craig - you have a problem

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Conservative Party leader Colin Craig.
Conservative Party leader Colin Craig.

One wrong step by Colin Craig, one embarrassing and potentially huge step backwards for his Conservative Party.

While Act was yesterday (finally) getting its house in some semblance of order, Craig seemed hell-bent on replacing Rodney Hide's old stomping ground as the laughing stock of New Zealand politics.

John Key, you have a problem. National's willingness to help Craig get a seat in Parliament has been based on the hope he might bring two or three other MPs with him on his coat-tails. Or should that be chem-trails.

However, when someone who conceivably could end up being a minister following next year's election is unsure whether he believes man has walked on the Moon, it is time to press the "whoop-whoop, pull-up" warning button on the dangers of potential coalition with a party which might also believe Paul McCartney is dead and Elvis Presley faked his own death.

Craig was not fully subscribing to one of the great conspiracy theories, but he was not dismissing it out of hand either.

That was breakfast-time. By lunchtime, Craig was shifting away from his ambivalence faster than the Space Shuttle on take-off.

Too late. His lunar-tic observations during an interview with RadioLive's Marcus Lush came close to overshadowing John Banks' press conference at which he announced he would not be standing for Act in Epsom next year as well as stepping down as leader at the party's annual conference in March. Given Banks will be in the High Court dock next year facing charges of electoral fraud, both decisions were inevitable. He correctly described his standing aside as a necessary circuitbreaker for the party. It gives Act one last chance of reviving itself. That is going to be a tall order.

Craig's clanger is the kind of career-defining and sometimes career-destroying own-goal that sticks in the public's mind.

Craig is fast becoming a liability for National to the extent that people may be put off voting for Key's party if the price for remaining in power means pandering to the Conservatives' more extreme tastes.

For Key the current fixation with who will strike a deal with whom must be becoming so tiresome for him to utter that immortal interstellar order: "Beam me up, Bill."

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- NZ Herald

John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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